Given that this blog is a window to my life in Washington, DC, today’s post is an attempt to highlight some of the words which are common as NGO-speak in this part of the world.
Some of you know, I work for GlobalGiving, a an organization that is lauded world over for giving International development a new definition through its concept of ‘online marketplace’. Simply put, we are a web platform, referred as Ebay of Charities in our initial days, that hosts projects from around the world making it possible for grass-roots non-profits to raise funds for their projects and for donors to support projects as per their interests (both personal and business) – thus virtually creating the concept of buyer and seller and a win-win for all. “Sellers” in this case are the project leaders while “buyers” are the donors. What does that make us? The intermediary that makes this marriage between buyer and seller possible.
I work as part of the Project Team that vets non-profits and also devises the strategy for getting more such social entrepreneurs on board. We call this process “Open Access” to refer to how this is accessible to anybody with a powerful idea for social change. From “online marketplace”, I move on to more generic concepts that any and every non-profit professional witnesses today. However, my examples will be from the organization making this a practical concept instead of being an esoteric allusion.
Sharing controls: Its interesting how “sharing of controls” keeps coming up whether during presentations on web2.0 or real life networking. I first heard about the concept when I attended Beth Kanter’s webinar on networked nonprofit. I did a little more research and came across the same concept being iterated and reiterated by Habitat For Humanity Egypt and Guide Dogs for the Blind, where the founders and the senior management no longer believe in top down approach and are going lateral allowing ownership at each level and reminding me of the term, “decentralize”.
Embedded giving: All this while in India I have been using the word cause related marketing. After coming to U.S. I first heard of the term ’embedded’ giving. However, when you call it embedded giving somewhere the concept gets lost when you are not conscious of the impact being created by you. You are participating in the concept but not really aware of it. So how can we engage our stakeholders better. At the same time if embedded giving is not smart, donors can be lost. For example, New York Marathon has charity section. But it also asks for details like SSN. At the other end of the justification is, you are not that salesy since you are subtle in marketing as you camouflage giving to “when you buy a product you help someone somewhere.” It helps in powerful behavioural changes. Imagine a campaign, for “every switch you turn off, you turn on light in the life of a poor villager in Chattisgarh in India where energy is scarce.
Story Telling: GlobalGiving’s storytelling project is a big hit. One of the most powerful tools to evaluate the impact of our work on ground, this process empowers the community and asks its people for feedback on their needs. Gone are the days when Aid agency would decide what is beneficial. Read more to learn about how people from Kisumu in Kenya shaped their destiny.
Empathy: In the NGO speak, one can no more ‘sympathize’. One needs to empathize, step into the beneficiary’s shoes to better understand their situation. That also serves as the underlying premise for the story-telling project discussed before this. The Peace Corps program that places young Americans to work with underprivileged and under-served communities and make real differences by being part of that community for a stipulated period of time.
Transparency: Again, this is a very important trait and technically, the buck stops with us. To me GlobalGiving is a front-runner in upholding this as a virtue; they have all the donations mapped out and also the % being given out. A project leader recently commented how we are so much more approachable than our so called competitors who are hidden behind an iron curtain.
I feel great to be part of such great work and do hope to master some of these and take the learning back to my country to further my work.