How can listening to community voices save the forest?

Posted by Marc Maxson on December 15th, 2014

This week GlobalGiving will be posting stories and insights from organizations that tried out a story-centered learning approach in 2014.

La Reserva Forest Foundation

The La Reserva Forest Foundation (LRFF) is dedicated to replanting, restoring and protecting tropical forests in Costa Rica. Through native-tree nurseries, tree planting, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), eco-tourism and educational initiatives, LRFF works closely with the local community to achieve both environmentally and socially desirable outcomes.

Even though our projects regularly bring LRFF into contact with the communities we seek to serve, running a small volunteer-based not-for-profit organization often prevents us from formally collecting feedback and better assessing local needs. This made the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project – with ready-made questionnaires, funding for implementation, analytical tools and a team of experts ready to answer questions – an incredible opportunity for LRFF to listen, learn and respond to community input.

This summer we launched storytelling in two communities where we work. We trained students from local high schools to deliver the questionnaires and conduct interviews. After collecting over 120 stories, we translated, uploaded and began to process the information. While we continue to interact with the information at and between monthly board meetings, here are three key lessons learned and next steps for LRFF:

(1) They say it better than we do.

Why speak for a community when they can speak for themselves? At best, even paraphrasing can be less powerful, and at worst it can be downright misleading. So while context is important, translations may be inexact and no individual story is representative of the whole, extracting quotes from the stories and using them in marketing, media and informational materials for LRFF is still one of the quickest and easiest ways for us to use the information. Quotes can help us paint a more accurate and compelling picture of our work to potential donors, volunteers or participants in our planting projects. Examples:

The Rubber Farmers

A long time ago before the town of Malecu spoke Spanish, there’s a story that tells of a time when the Malecu lived united, and took their food from the forest but with moderation. One day, soldiers from Nicaragua came to the Malecu territory and saw that the land was rich with many trees. These individuals began cutting down the trees, which were the home to both the animals and the Malecu. The Malecu did not know whether to leave their territory or to defend the land that gave them their subsistence. The Nicaraguans had an advantage given that they had firearms, while the Malecu only had bows, arrows, and spears. The Nicaraguans killed our men, stole our children, and raped our women. The Malecu fought for their home, but the river was filled with blood due to the massacre. The Malecu’s loved and continue loving nature. Although deforestation is still a problem, there are individuals who are now planting trees and we are now winning the fight. This is how our town chooses to protect the environment and our food.

Creating our future

When I was at school seven years ago, our teachers asked for a tree to seed on the riverside. All our classmates wondered why they wanted those trees and the benefit of it for the future. Now I understand the trees have their own purpose and that purpose was that as years pass by, companies want to cut trees down for their business and some trees species are not seen anymore. Some time ago my grandfather told me that he wanted to reforest a piece of land with a lot of weeds and all of the grandchildren, about 8, helped to plant different species of trees like Manú, ojechee etc. The trees keep growing until today and our family has its own attraction.

We’re thus integrating key quotes from the stories into our marketing materials, website, holiday fundraising campaigns and social media.

(2) It challenges our assumptions.

Even though our results are preliminary and our data is disseminated from a relatively small sample size (e.g. approximately 120 stories), one thing is clear: high-quality community feedback will surprise you, challenge your assumptions and remind you to think twice when you make a decision as a non-profit organization. We tend to promote our projects to local landowners by emphasizing the financial incentive that they will get for reforesting their land. However, when our sample was asked about the needs that their stories addressed, they tended to focus more on security, respect and fun compared to other stories in the database. It’s not just about putting food on the table for our communities, so in future projects we’ll be more careful to ask about, rather than assume, motivations for involvement and design projects to address community’s needs, rather than our perception of them.

A deeper analysis from GlobalGiving revealed that four of the many questions we asked were most important for modeling how peoples’ experiences differed. Based on BigML’s model, these four were:

#1 – Tell me a story about a time when a person or organization tried to help someone or change something in your community.

#2 – Scale: Events like these happen often/rarely.

#3 – Multiple choice: Who would you go to if you wanted to solve this problem?

#4 – Events in your story affect me/community/world.

(3) It’s the beginning, not the end.

We believe that this is not a one-time conversation for us or the communities we work with. For us, adding the storytelling project as a line item to each monthly board meeting helps serve as a reminder that this is an ongoing conversation for the organization. In addition, by undertaking feedback collection again in a year we can grow our sample size and build better quality data. We can also better track impact/changes in communities if we continue this exercise and improve our data collection process over time. For example, one third of our “baseline” storytelling were not stories about positive outcomes. GlobalGiving tells us this is normal, even healthy, because it means the community is sharing what they really think. Furthermore, the prevalence of tentative, question and discrepancy words in our data set also suggest that there are still some taboo topics that need to be tackled.

See for yourself: 

Increase your fundraising footprint with this year’s #GivingTuesday tips from GlobalGiving

Posted by Jacqueline Lee on November 24th, 2014

#GivingTuesday is coming up on December 2, 2014. Do you have your fundraising strategy planned and ready to go?



“GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back…charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.” -


GlobalGiving recently hosted 2 webinars for YouthSpark projects participating in Microsoft’s “Everyone Starts Somewhere” campaign. These webinars included #GivingTuesday tips for fundraising on the big day. Our team would love to share these tips and case studies with you. If you missed the webinar, don’t worry, please find the recording here: Microsoft YouthSpark #GivingTuesday webinar

Getting Ready – Last Minute Tips & Tricks

Follow the steps below to get you and your team ready for the big fundraising day!

1. Set Goals

Think about how many people do you want to reach? Ask yourself how much funding does your organization want to raise? This will help you to stay focused, align your actions with the end goal, and in the end evaluate what you did well and what you can do better next year.

  • #GivingTuesday Funding Goal (excluding matching funds and bonus prizes): ­____________
  • How many donors do you need to reach your funding goal?: ________________



2. Understand the Terms and Conditions & Set Donors’ Expectations

Make sure you have read and reread the terms and conditions of #GivingTuesday. If you have questions about any of the terms or need clarity, please do not hesitate to contact us! Are you involved in a matching campaign that has specific terms and conditions? Make sure you share these terms and conditions with your donors. Remind them how they can help you meet your goals and impact. Setting clear expectations will create a better experience for your donors which will increase the chance in their future participation – they might even invite their friends and family to give.

2014_Microsoft YouthSpark GivingTuesday Campaign Times

2014_Microsoft YouthSpark GivingTuesday_Campaign Times in EST time

3. Plan your Communication Strategy

Create a calendar including steps leading up to and on the day of. Devise a schedule for reaching out to your advocates, volunteers, donors, and social media supporters. Think about which platforms and methods of communication your donors, volunteers, and advocates use most. Through their preferred modes of communication, think about when and how often you will reach out to them. Assign staff to monitor customer service and response to these different platforms. Be prepared to re-post your supporters’ Facebook posts, retweet your advocates’ tweets, and respond to emails immediately. Get creative!

StayClassy shared an experience about an organization that planned their communication strategy months ahead utilizing social media, email and phone calls. By the end of #GivingTuesday, the organization “had blown their $25,000 goal out of the water and raised $97,148.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 6.42.53 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 6.47.04 PM

4. Join the Conversation.

Use #GivingTuesday and other popular hashtags in Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness of your campaign by joining existing conversations. By joining larger existing conversations, your organization can tap into an audience not already familiar with your cause and work.

5. Prep Your Content.

Prep campaign messaging not just for your organization, but create easily sharable and customizable email templates, Twitter posts, Instagrams, and Facebook posts that your networks can share with their networks.

  • Write a project report for GlobalGiving. Submit your project report to GlobalGiving before Bonus Day,and request that it be sent out on December 2nd. In your project report include an update about your project, a quote from a beneficiary, and/or story of one of your beneficiaries. Also, don’t forget to include a call to action for donors to give on Bonus Day. Your project report should inspire them to give.
  • Write and send messaging for your fundraisers to use on #GivingTuesday. You want to make sure that assisting your organization is easy for them, and that they are sharing the correct information. Include a template email, sample tweets, and sample Facebook posts, if relevant.
  • Put together your social social media plan and have Facebook posts and tweets ready to send for the big day.

6. Mobilize Your Current Network.

Turn your donors in to  fundraisers. Instead of asking donors to give this year, why don’t you ask them to share your message this year? Ask them to invite their networks.

  • Identify potential donors, such as board members, former volunteers and interns, and friends/family
  • Identify donor captains. Donor captains are responsible for raising a funding goal on the day of #GivingTuesday… for example, a donor captain may be a former intern that is excited about your work and pledges to raise $300 from 20 donors for your project. Donor captains help your organization grow its network of supporters.
  • Contact donor captains. Let them know why you are asking for their help and tell them how they can help. Remember your donor captains are individuals that care about your organization, the work you are doing, and most importantly they care about you (the number one reason why people give is because someone they know and trust asked them too).

7. Don’t Forget to Thank your Donors!

gift card

Engage with your donors positively and proactively. GlobalGiving makes it easy for nonprofits to thank their donors through the donation manager. Click here to learn more about the thank you note feature

Success Story shared a great success story about an organization who combined the above tips (joining the conversation, engaging community, using social media, and getting creative) to create a successful 24-hour fundraising campaign. For #GivingTuesday, an organization created a photo campaign that included the organization’s specific hashtag and #GivingTuesday. The nonprofit asked local students, volunteers, and community members to give back by participating (not giving), and this resulted in not only more than 1,000 photos with the organization’s messaging being shared on social media, it amplified their organization’s message to the larger #GivingTuesday community, and the organization raised approximately $10,000 in donations.

We hope these tips help you create a solid and effective campaign strategy for this year’s 24-hour day of giving back. Best of luck this #GivingTuesday!

Microsoft YouthSpark #GivingTuesday

Check out these additional great resources that were sourced for this article and provide additional fundraising tips and strategies:

Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat.

We know your time and resources are valuable. We want to help you be as effective as possible with those resources, and we’ve seen that effectiveness is driven by a cycle of progress that involves listening, acting, and learning (and repeating — doing it all again). Think about the questions below in order to test how your strategy worked.

  • LISTEN: You just read tips for a creating a successful #GivingTuesday.
  • ACT: What is one way you are going to fundraise for #GivingTuesday?
  • LEARN: How will you know whether your fundraising strategy worked? What results will you look for in order to measure success?

Ebola Care app helps aid workers combat Ebola

Posted by blake on November 12th, 2014

We are happy to announce an exciting opportunity for GlobalGiving organizations!  If your organization is on the front lines fighting Ebola then we can help. The Ebola Care project is an initiative by Journey and GlobalGiving to provide aid organizations with the tools they need to make data collection easy and simple.

The following post was written by Philip Joubert from Journey.

The problem with paper forms
Soon after starting the Ebola Care project, we connected with Sam Herring, the data manager at a nonprofit combating Ebola in Liberia called More Than Me. He said that his “biggest priority is getting data from the field faster,” and asked us to help. Like Sam’s team, your staff is likely using paper forms to collect data. Unfortunately, working with paper forms can be very frustrating – it’s a time-consuming process to enter data into a computer and by the time you get access to the data it’s already old.


It can take days or weeks for data to become available

The Ebola Care App

Sam worked with us to develop the Ebola Care app, which runs on Android phones and completely replaces paper forms. Results from the two pilots run in Liberia have been extremely positive, and we are now in the process of deploying more than 1,000 phones to aid organizations in West Africa.


Sam Herring is using the app to manage Ebola efforts in Liberia

How it works
The Ebola Care app consists of five modules:  contact tracing, ambulance pickups, case files for orphans, quarantine monitoring, and tracking outreach events. Aid workers use the app to collect data, which is immediately available online to decision makers.


The Ebola Care app gives organizations real-time access to data

The data is accessed on Google Spreadsheets, and can be imported into different reporting tools like Excel. Ebola Care has an API which allows you to integrate with almost any reporting tool.

Joining the Ebola Care project
Getting access to Ebola Care is completely free for aid organisations fighting Ebola. If your organization signs up you’ll receive the following:

  • The Ebola Care app
  • Android phones for your team
  • Reporting through Google Spreadsheets
  • Technical Support

We also hope to supply SIM cards and airtime for the phones, however the details are still being finalized.
GlobalGiving partners can complete this form to secure your place in the Ebola Care project.

Frequently Asked Questions
Will my organization need training?
The app has been designed to be extremely simple to use, and it guides users through the entire processes. Your organization will also receive training materials.

When will I receive the phones?
The phones will be delivered starting early December.

One of my forms is not listed as a module. Can I still use the app?
Yes! You can request a module and we’ll add it. All you need to do is send us an example of the paper form and tell us a bit about your process. It will only take a few days for the new module to become available in the app.

How do I apply for the phones and app support?
Fill out this form and let us know what you need!

Have the Last Word: Develop an Effective Year-End Communications Plan

Posted by Alexis Nadin on November 4th, 2014

give hope smallThis holiday season, your organization will be competing with thousands of others for coveted space in email inboxes all over the world. It is estimated that nonprofit organizations send an average of SEVEN email fundraising appeals per subscriber during December. So how can your organization stand out? Will Frechette, GlobalGiving’s Digital Marketing Specialist, joined us for a webinar on October 29th to share share his experiences and some best practices. A recording of the webinar can be found here.

By using GlobalGiving’s very own core values of Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat (LALR), your organization can craft a story that sticks to people and stands out from the crowd.

First off, what makes a good story?

  1. Characters
    • Who is your protagonist? A staff member, a beneficiary or a donor?
    • Who or what is the antagonist? A global problem that your organization is tackling?
    • Who is your narrator? A staff member, a beneficiary or a donor? A unique perspective might be all your need to capture the attention of your donors!
  2. Plot
    • Create a storyline by sending multiple emails out over the course of the month
    • Start with an exposition. (An introduction to your characters, themes and what you want to accomplish with the donations).
    • Create rising action and build up to a climax. (Highlight the problem that your organization is facing).
    • Falling action and Resolution. (How have your donors helped to solve the problem and what will future donations do to help?). Their involvement will help solve the tension that you are building!

Listen to your:

  1. Audience – What are your donors telling you?
    1. Use email analytics to measure the success of each email. GlobalGiving’s web analytics is a helpful tool. You can measure the open rate, conversion rate, click-through rate, and average donation size.
  2. Peers – What are some of the successful practices of other nonprofits?

Best Practice #1 – Subject Lines

  • Be short & direct
  • 34 characters or less (emails on mobile phone browsers wrap after 34 characters)
  • Your subject line starts the story so make it attention grabbing!

Best Practice #2 – Bold, high-resolution images

  • Our studies show that bold, high-resolution images increase click-through rates by 44%!
  • A few examples of great photos here, here, and here!

Best Practice #3 – Calls to action!

  • Have a single call to action in each email!
  • This focuses your audience on taking a specific action.

Best Practice #4 – Send multiple messages

  • Although message volume increases in December, open and click-through rates don’t.
  • Plan to send many emails over the course of the month to build up support.
  • However, beware of email fatigue and donors unsubscribing.

Will 1Best Practice #5 – Incentives

  • Whenever possible, provide additional incentives for your audience to give.
  • GlobalGiving has our Year-End Campaign and a #GivingTuesday campaign for Microsoft YouthSpark eligible organizations only.

Act: Plan your story and plan your tests!

  • Plan your email storytelling campaign in advance. Use individual stories of staff on the ground, donors or beneficiaries, and make it part of a larger storytelling campaign!

Learn: Test what works and use past emails and campaigns as benchmarks!

  • Plan your tests and see what works best!
    • Test subject lines (measures open rates)
    • Protagonists (click-through & conversion rates)
    • Narrator (potentially all rates)
    • Call to action (click-through & conversion rate)
    • Images (click-through & conversion rate)

Will 2

Repeat: Remember what was successful and repeat in 2015!

  • Take notes of what works for your organization and repeat in 2015!
  • Join us for a webinar on Wednesday, January 21 reflect on lessons learned from 2014 year-end fundraising. Use data-driven techniques to analyze the results of your efforts and to make smart decisions about your communications and fundraising in 2015. Sign up here.

Final Parting words from Will:

  • The best stories are the ones you already tell
  • Subscribe to other nonprofit newsletters to learn best practices.
  • Be consistent over all media of communication!

Remember, GlobalGiving is offering two promotions to help you drive donation activity this December. Learn more about our Year-End Campaign and Microsoft YouthSpark #GivingTuesday to decide which campaign is right for your organization!


This post was written by Lucius Lee, Program Team Intern. 

Effectiveness Tools on GlobalGiving

Posted by Alexis Nadin on November 3rd, 2014

diy toolkitIn September, GlobalGiving announced some exciting improvements to GlobalGiving’s Effectiveness Dashboard, which was launched in early 2014. We began to offer points for taking advantage of other learning tools that are available on the web—including Nesta’s DIY Toolkit and Feedback Store.  Last month, we hosted a webinar in collaboration with our friends at Nesta to introduce the changes to the Effectiveness Dashboard.

Listen to the full recording of the webinar here and check out the summary below.

GlobalGiving is not just committed to providing fundraising tools for our partners, but in supporting a robust exchange of money, information, and ideas. In 2002, we took the first step by creating the GG funding platform, and in 2010, we began exploring how to fulfill the goals of information and ideas exchange. We added feedback tools such as the Storytelling Tool and new trainings for project leaders, and we received really positive feedback from you, our partners! We found that these tools were really useful in helping our partners increase their online funding capabilities.

So, we wondered if we could provide access to a similar set of tools for feedback to help partners not only increase fundraising capabilities but also effectiveness, and therefore impact. We think of this effectiveness as emerging from cycles of Listen, Act, and Learn:

  1. Listen to the community you serve, what’s working for others, and the best research out there
  2. Act: trying something new, see what happens, and measuring results
  3. Learn: what works, what fails, and what to do differently

Effectiveness Dashboard

We released the beta version of the Effectiveness Dashboard in April 2014, and after getting lots of feedback from the Leadership Council, surveys of PLs, and one-on-one meetings, we released the Effectiveness Dashboard 2.0 in July 2014. Some specific changes we made based on your feedback include:

  • Thank you notes- recurring donors counted only once
    • Overall % thanked and how quickly donors are thanked
  • New ways to get points
    • Creating and entering video and photo contests
    • Applying to be GG Ambassador
  • Movement between categories
    • Demonstrated learning (ex. Listen points for listening to webinar)
  • External Tools!
    • Example: Nesta DIY Toolkit
    • Feedback Store- access to 200 tools that provide advice and resources for collecting feedback, analyzing data, and returning info back to the community
    • Charting Impact: series of 5 questions developed by Independent Sector that takes organizations through a thought process to better understand why and how you are doing your work

Nesta DIY Toolkit

One of our new external tools that you can get points for using is the Nesta DIY Toolkit.  Theo Keane joined the webinar to tell us more about how to best use the toolkit to amplify innovative thinking in your organization. Developed in partnership with the Rockefeller foundation, the Development, Impact, and You Practical Toolkit contains tools to trigger and support social innovation. Nesta realizes that social sector problems are complex, and that effective organizations need to be agile and adaptable in their thinking, in order to be most innovative. This results in a greater capacity to solve problems more effectively and generate innovations that improve lives of communities.

The DIY toolkit is therefore collection of best and most practical social innovation tools out there.  In curating the toolkit, the creators asked themselves the following questions of the potential tools:

  • Is it practical?
  • Would you use it?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is there evidence of impact?

The result is a suite of 30 tools, each with an explanation, case study, and worksheet that can be used by your organization to tackle a variety of innovation, design, and business challenges. The online toolkit has gotten nearly 250,000 visits from 85 countries since its launch in March 2014, and the tools have been downloaded more than 70,000 times.

Some important features of the toolkit include:

  • Tools can be found based on user need statements (i.e. “I want to collect inputs from others”)
  • Practical worksheets to easily understand what to do with a tool and put it into action, so that better results can be delivered more quickly
  • Share, rate, and feedback of each tool (online)
    • Build a community of practice
    • Learn from people actually using the tools
    • Downloadable PDF, with different sizes, which are conducive to individual and/or collaborative working
  • Case studies from innovators in the field, generated during user testing
  • How to’s for each tool: diagrams, video tutorials, case studies

Effectiveness Dashboard and the DIY Toolkit:

You can earn points on GG Effectiveness Dashboard for using different tools from the Nesa DIY Toolkit. The steps are below!

  1. Log onto the Effectiveness Dashboard
  2. Check the “How to improve your score” box on the right side of the screen
  3. Click the DIY Toolkit link (and all of the external tools!)
  4. Once you use a tool, click the “Earn Points” link
  5. You can get Listen, Act, and Learn points for each tool used:
    1. Listen: 1 pt for telling which tool you used- simply enter the URL of the tool from the DIY Toolkit
    2. Act: 5 points for uploading a file of the worksheet (scan, PDF, smartphone pic), and the content is not factored into the points
    3. Learn: 5 points for telling what you learned!

It is probably easiest to submit all that you plan to do at once, but not necessary. Right now, ED points don’t count on GG. Rather, they should be used to help you see how you are doing compared to other organizations, and discover what tools are most useful for you. These points will start to count toward your overall rating in early 2015- don’t worry, we notify you with plenty of lead time.

We’re still collecting feedback! Please send a message with your thoughts and questions to: or for feedback on the DIY Toolkit.


  • Is a higher or lower score on dashboard better?
    • Higher- you want to earn as many points as possible! More points demonstrates greater interaction in LAL
  • What if we do some of these activities, but not through DIY?
    • Unfortunately, right now we can only give points trough this system. On our side, if you have filled out worksheets (such as a SWAT analysis), you can submit copies of those, as long as it is the same tool. For other tools/business docs, please email us. You could think about adapting what you already have to the DIY templates.
  • Three most popular tools?
    • Fast Idea Generator
    • Innovation Flowchart
    • Business Model Canvas
    • Theory of Change
    • Blueprint, Personas tools
  • Are the templates adaptable to orgs working in different areas?
    • Yes! We conceived of tools to support specific project tasks, no matter the sector. Problem solving and innovation applied to a variety of traditionally accepted tasks.
    • Please remake and reuse as is useful! Please share them with us ( if you do, so we can learn too.