GlobalGiving Learning Posts

Congrats to our Fail Forward Winners!

Congrats to our Fail Forward Winners!

October was a month of celebrating failure with our third annual Fail Forward Contest! Throughout the month we witnessed the power of reframing failure as an opportunity to make positive change, and we reflected on the benefits of sharing setbacks with donors, internal teams, and local communities. Most importantly, we had the honor of hearing how all of the 2016 Fail Forward Contest participants proudly failed forward. You blew us away!

We were so inspired by all your fail forward stories and by the resilience, perseverance, and teamwork in your organizations.  This year we had a record number of submissions, and we are excited to introduce you to the 2016 winners and finalists! And the winners of $1000, $600, and $400 are…

Why Didn’t The Narrative Project Work For Fundraising?

Why Didn’t The Narrative Project Work For Fundraising?

Alison Carlman, GlobalGiving

This is the third article in a three-part series about GlobalGiving’s experiments testing the findings of The Narrative Project. Read the first article here and the second article here.

When the results of our first test of The Narrative Project email appeal started to appear, I hoped they were just a fluke. But soon the numbers grew to statistical significance: the Narrative Project language was performing significantly worse than our control language in terms of dollars raised per email opened.  I suspected it could just be a matter of the particular cause featured in the email appeal, so then we ran tests with entirely different topics.  When that test copy also underperformed the control, I blamed it on my own writing. So in our final test we pitted language from another major nonprofit against phrases pulled directly from the Narrative Project User Guide. The Narrative Project language still failed compared to the control.

At the same time that we were running A/B tests, my GlobalGiving colleague was running experiments with stories in our database. We have more than 50,000 reports written over the past 8 years by nonprofit leaders detailing their progress for their donors. While these emailed reports don’t usually generate a high volume of repeat funding, it was still possible to detect that reports that were highly correlated with Narrative Project Themes generally underperformed other reports in a statistically significant way.

After all of our testing, we could not prove that stories and reports that contain the themes of independence, shared values, partnership, and progress drove any more funding via email and online donations than stories or reports that don’t. In fact, they performed worse.

Better Storytelling: What ‘Works’ in Global Development?

Better Storytelling: What ‘Works’ in Global Development?

Alison Carlman, GlobalGiving

This is the second article in a three-part series about GlobalGiving’s experiments testing the findings of The Narrative Project. Read the first article here.

When I first learned about The Narrative Project I was very excited (which reveals a lot about the depth of my nerdiness) because it was the first large-scale study that I’d encountered that demonstrated how positive narratives in global development could actually move people to become supporters. I’d seen plenty of evidence that pity-based narratives in fundraising appeals will motivate people to open their wallets. But it’s 2016, and there are many communicators in development who work to promote more respectful, nuanced storytelling that goes beyond the flies-in-the-eyes appeals we’ve all seen. So when I encountered the Narrative Project, you can see why I was so glad there was finally data to show that these alternative narratives might also work, and what’s more, specific tactics might help us improve the empathy-based approach we already use.

The promise of the Narrative Project was that messages and stories carrying certain narrative themes (independence, shared values, partnership and progress) would motivate certain segments of the population (in the US, UK, France, and Germany) to become (theoretical) supporters of global development. The goal was to change attitudes about aid at a very high level, and the data suggests that it can. But very few global development communicators who are employed by NGOs have the luxury of communicating for the sake of attitude change alone. Most of us are hired to tell stories that either move people to give or to take action for a cause. We need to share stories that work in other ways. And many of my peers were eager to start using the recommendations in their communications and fundraising.

I was one of ten nonprofit communicators who received a grant to test the Narrative Project in the wild. We wanted to find out how easy it was for nonprofits to adopt the recommended narratives, and then to find out how the Narrative Project impacted fundraising.

What did we find out? Did the Narrative Project work? Well, no. But also yes. It all depends on what we mean when we ask, “what works?”

Why We Tested the Latest Research on Storytelling for You

Why We Tested the Latest Research on Storytelling for You

This 3-part series reflects on GlobalGiving’s experiments testing the findings of The Narrative Project. The Narrative Project was a wide-scale research effort to improve the public perceptions of global development in donor countries. Part one of our series explains GlobalGiving’s research methods and findings. Image from 

In the summer of 2015, I was one of ten nonprofit communicators who received a grant to test the findings of The Narrative Project. The Narrative Project was a wide-scale research project driven by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, InterAction, and other major NGOs, that aimed to increase public perceptions of global development in the US, UK, France, and Germany. The Narrative Project researchers found that messages and stories carrying certain narrative themes—independence, shared values, partnership, and progress—motivated certain segments of the population to change their perceptions of global development. It also found an increase in the target group’s self-reported likelihood to take action to support global development causes. I was interested in whether or not Narrative Project themes would motivate people not only to change perceptions but also to act: to donate to global development projects.

In my work at GlobalGiving, I facilitate storytelling and fundraising training for thousands of nonprofits of all sizes, all around the world. So I wanted to find out how easy it was for nonprofits to adopt the Narrative Project recommendations, and, more importantly, to find out if nonprofits who used it would raise more money in their online fundraising appeals. 

Introducing GG Rewards!


Notice something different about GlobalGiving? This is a week of big changes! We’ve launched a new look and feel on that will make it easier and faster for donors to find and give to your organization. The improvements made to will allow the site to load much more quickly and will look great on tablets and phones. The new homepage, header and footer are just the beginning of the visual changes you’ll see over the next several months. Stay tuned for more, and please let us know what you think along the way!

Even more exciting for our nonprofit community is the launch of our new GG Rewards Program. GG Rewards is the product of a culmination of feedback we’ve collected from our nonprofit community—folks like you—over the past three years about how you’d like GlobalGiving to better work with and reward your organization.

You told us you wanted:

  • A Rewards system based on more than just your ability to fundraise on GlobalGiving
  • A more flexible way to move from Partner to Leader and Leader to Superstar
  • Better visualizations and an easier way to understand your fundraising and progress
  • GlobalGiving help as you raise more funds for your work, and help to have a greater impact with those funds.

Our Partner Rewards program, launched in 2011, ranked organizations as Partner, Leader, and Superstar. The higher an organization rises through these rankings, the more visibility it receives from donors through corporate recommendations and social media attention. In 2014, we experimented with the Effectiveness Dashboard as a first step in being able to track and reward your organization for not just fundraising on GlobalGiving, but also your efforts to learn and improve. You’ve given us invaluable feedback over the last year on this initial experiment with tracking effectiveness, and that feedback has been used to shape our new program which launched today, called GG Rewards.

This week, we’re proud to announce GG Rewards—a combination of Partner Rewards and the Effectiveness Dashboard—that provides a more streamlined, helpful, and easy way for you to track your organization’s performance and to continue to grow both your fundraising and your organizational effectiveness.


If you liked the old Partner Rewards system and you’re not interested in exploring any of the effectiveness tools we provide, that’s not a problem. You can choose to focus on fundraising and earn points exclusively for fundraising-related activities on GlobalGiving. But, if you’re like many of the organizations that we’ve heard from in the past three years and you want GlobalGiving to provide more flexibility in how you can grow from Partner to Leader to Superstar, the new GG Rewards program provides just that flexibility.

Instead of having to fulfill every requirement in a rigid way, your organization can now earn points in any category it finds the most helpful in order to achieve Superstar status. Earning 18 points from either Effectiveness and/or Engagement activities bumps your organization up to the Leader level. Once your organization earns 36 points in any combination of those two categories, you’ve reached Superstar Status! (Want to know how we came up with these point levels? Check out this blog for all the details.)


Engagement and Effectiveness
Since 2011, GlobalGiving has been rewarding organizations for engagement with the GlobalGiving platform – fundraising, reporting, and attracting new donors, among other activities. Those activities are still being tracked under the “Engagement” section of GG Rewards, but now we’ve added a way for you to get credit for your organization’s commitment to learning and improving as well.

Here at GlobalGiving we believe that in order for a nonprofit (including GlobalGiving itself!) to improve, it needs to listen to the people it serves, act on what it hears by testing new ideas, and learn faster and more efficiently. We call this the Cycle of Progress: Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat. CycleOfProgressThe “Effectiveness” section allows your organization to earn points by demonstrating a commitment to learning and improving the work you do on the ground. You can receive points for using different tools available online and completing the Listen, Act, and Learn components for each tool. If you listen, act, or learn from your community outside of GlobalGiving, you can add a tool using the “Create-Your-Own cycle” to receive credit.


We’ve provided a few options to get you started on your learning journey – options like the Feedback Labs Toolkit to help you listen to feedback from your community and the DIY Toolkit to help spur innovation in your programming.

We recognize you may already be using some amazing tools that help your organization learn. You can easily register those in the Create-Your-Own cycle to get points toward your Superstar status. No one knows your organization better than you do, so we want to empower you to identify the priority areas for your organization, and we want to reward you for doing the things that help you improve the most – whether your priority area is fundraising, listening to your community, strengthening your monitoring and evaluation activities, or anything else that you’ve identified as an area for growth. Don’t know where to start? Our staff is happy to set up a one-on-one consultation to help identify what tools could be the most useful to help your unique organization improve.

Learn more and give us feedback
You can now take a look at your organization’s GG Rewards Status by logging in to GlobalGiving. We are also sending out personalized emails to every organization about their GG Rewards Status, how it may change, and what benefits you can expect, so check your inbox!

Still have questions? Start by checking out the GG Rewards FAQ page. We also put together a video tutorial to help you learn how to navigate your new GG Rewards dashboard. As always, we’d love for you to contact a member of our Program Team at for general questions, and also take advantage of our one-on-one consultations by signing up here for a more in-depth conversation about your GG Rewards status. We will also be holding a webinar on Wednesday, August 5 at 9am EDT (sign up here) and 3pm EDT (sign up here).

We can only improve if you tell us what you want! Your feedback is vital to us at all stages of this process, so please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts. They’ll help us improve! Let us know what you think here. We’ll to continue to listen, act, learn, and repeat with this new tool so we can continue to get closer to driving more dollars to more effective organizations every day.