In 2002 we began to build an online funding bridge between passionate individual donors—people whose gifts are often seen as too small to be meaningful—and smaller organizations whose impact has been all too easy to ignore because of their size or remoteness of their work.
Today that funding bridge has turned into a global marketplace where anyone in the world can support projects and organizations that they otherwise would never have known.
But democratizing fundraising was only the beginning.
Soon after we started GlobalGiving, we began providing feedback tools. The very same platform that revolutionized access to crowdfunding has also made it possible for us to collect and share information with our nonprofit partners. We soon found we could offer nonprofits the kind of feedback tools that would dramatically improve the quality of their fundraising.
For example, every nonprofit on GlobalGiving has a personalized dashboard that they see when they log in to the website. From the dashboard they can access details about their project page and fundraising progress:
We saw that our partners were hungry for this type of feedback, and they were eager to respond rapidly to new information if it helped them improve their work. Today, more than 2,000 of our nonprofit partners use our feedback tools to improve their fundraising.
The Next Step: Introducing Incentives
In 2011 we introduced the Partner Rewards system. Similar to an airline’s frequent flyer program, we give our nonprofit partners points for increasing their engagement with our platform and our feedback tools. Higher Rewards status (partner, leader, and superstar) translates to more visibility on the site (like being featured on our homepage, or our social media), and makes us more likely to refer an organization to our corporate partners. That extra visibility translates to more donations for projects.
In the same way that you might be motivated to purchase your next ticket from United because you’re only 1,000 miles away from Gold Status, we found that Partner Rewards levels motivated nonprofit partners to write that extra project update, or to rally a little harder for a campaign, because it would take them to the next level, ultimately driving more funds to their project.
Our Partner Rewards Bonus Days are a great example of this. In June 2012 we introduced our first Partner Rewards Bonus Day where we offered different matching percentages for different rewards levels (donations to Partners were matched at 30%, Leaders at 40%, Superstars at 50%). One way for organizations to bump up their status is to submit a project report to fulfil the quarterly requirement. We saw a great increase in the number of partners submitting reports that month in order to qualify for the higher statuses. Clearly, the Partner Rewards System was a compelling incentive to drive behavior.
The Cycle of Progress: Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat.
As we began to study the links between feedback, learning, incentives and effectiveness, it became clear that our nonprofit partners informally follow the kind of Listen, Act, Learn and Repeat behavior that defines the most successful entrepreneurial businesses. Which made us realize we can do even more to help our partners:
- Listen: we can help nonprofits access feedback from the people they serve, share best practices, and discover new ways to improve performance.
- Act: we can provide training and one-to-one consulting to help each partner experiment and try new ways of working.
- Learn: as they try new ideas we can offer them feedback on how well it is working for the people and causes they serve.
- Repeat: once they achieve the results they are hoping for, we can help them integrate the new way of working into their operations, so the improvement is sustainable.
While many of our nonprofit partners join GlobalGiving for the access to financial resources, they stay and thrive because we provide something that is just as vital to their mission: access to knowledge. We can use our web platform and powerful incentives (money!) to drive learning, and ultimately, higher performance.
That’s why we’ve created the Effectiveness Dashboard, a way to track the listening, acting, learning, and repeating that our nonprofits engage in both on and off the GlobalGiving platform. We give our partner organizations points for listening to their stakeholders, testing out new ideas, learning from the results of their experiments, and for integrating learning into their daily work:
This dashboard is in MVP (minimum viable product) stage of the build-measure-learn product development cycle. Initially the majority of the opportunities to earn points have focused on fundraising effectiveness, but in 2014 we integrated several external feedback tools into the dashboard, allowing our partners to earn points for listening, acting, learning, and repeating that cycle on the ground.
In 2015 we’re focused on integrating the elements of the Effectiveness Dashboard into our main Partner Rewards ranking and search algorithms on GlobalGiving. Our partners are motivated to improve their Partner Rewards status, because it translates to more funding for their work. We believe that it will also translate to higher performance on the ground that is informed by feedback and data about what works in their communities.
This is how the Effectiveness Dashboard is a powerful tool to help us align fundraising with performance, by channeling more funds to the nonprofits that demonstrate the greatest commitment to improvement, and have the highest potential to do the most good.