So apparently there’s a online platform that’s funded education for more than 200 students and partnered with 60 organizations? And they’ve raised more than $400,000 in 5 years? And donors get to choose where their money goes and keep up with the student after their donation? And they were featured in Forbes 30 under 30 for education?
And anyone can help by donating, whether it be with time, money, or resources?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. It’s called Givology, and I’m excited to be working with them this summer. I first heard Givology mentioned at the end of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof, a book about women’s rights in the developing world. (Definitely recommend.) Reading about all the atrocities that women faced in places that weren’t first world countries gave me an obligation to do something about the cause. My guilt lasted for perhaps half a day, and then I moved on with my middle school life. I mean, I had no money or resources, and I was still depending on my parents for stuff. I would make an impact when I had all those things.
Now, a few years later, I’m still living at home, and I still don’t have an income, but I do have an Internet connection, 10 hours a week to give, and the willingness to help. Which was all I needed to get an internship with Givology.
I want to start making my mark on the organization as soon as possible, but as part of their onboarding program, I first have to read a book written by the team, #GiveInspiration: How to Give Effectively. No complaints, since it’s a fascinating book.
The book is split into two parts, the first sharing advice on how to start a successful social enterprise and how to evaluate impact, and the second featuring 28 stories of Givology partners and sharing their successes (and failures). I’m still working my way through the second half, but throughout what I’ve read, I’ve noticed some distinguishing features of Givology.
1) Everyone is treated equally.
“Volunteering” has cynically been described as “doing the work that no one wants to get paid to do.” However, at Givology, no one gets paid, not even the founders. How does this dynamic play out then? That’s right. It doesn’t.
Being driven by 100% volunteer efforts creates a completely different (virtual) culture where everyone genuinely wants to contribute, and everyone’s ideas are considered, regardless of age or educational level. Givology is made up of high school students, college students, and professionals working in their free time to keep Givology running. Since no one works at Givology full time, everyone understands that life sometimes gets in the way, and I think it’s remarkable that they’ve made it this far.
2) Good intentions are not enough!
This is literally the title of the first chapter of How to Give Effectively. And I love it. As an organization that has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars pass through its hands, Givology rigorously selects and evaluates its partner organizations on a regular basis. The process isn’t always glamorous and it often involves rejecting potential partners, but it’s necessary in order to maximize their impact. Givology emphasizes that even with good intentions, our actions can often have a negative impact, which is something important to admit.
3) Money is not the (only) problem.
Students can’t be sent to school and projects can’t be completed without the proper funds, but there are many more aspects of a philanthropic venture to consider to ensure that the expected outcome is reached.
For instance, students dropping out of school is a real issue, even in third world countries and even when their tuition is paid:
“[N]early half of rural children and youth in China drop out of formal education not because they cannot afford to attend school but because they feel that schooling is a hopeless and painful experience. Factors such as test-centered teaching, lack of exposure to the real world outside of a few textbooks, and crowded, prison-like school environments stifle individuality, independent thinking, and well-rounded development. This leaves many intelligent and curiosity-filled children directionless and under-educated during or after middle school.”
I’ve heard American schools described the exact same way and also leading to high dropout rates. Making learning interesting and engaging isn’t only a first world problem. It’s an entire world problem. Givology also has an emphasis on microphilanthropy, harnessing the power of small donations to collectively make a big difference.
“We always ask the question, “What’s the difference between one one-million dollar donation compared to one-million one dollar donations?” We recognize that the latter is much more difficult to manage as a process, but we believe in the idealistic value of democratized philanthropy- that every dollar counts and no matter the size of your contribution, that you deserve equal rights to choice and transparent reporting about project details and update –#GiveInspiration: How to Give Effectively, Givology
Speaking of money, Givology somehow manages to run with only $400 in operational costs each year, most of which is spend on website hosting. This is insane. With social media accounting for most of their publicity and running the entire organization virtually, they have cut overhead costs to the bare minimum, focusing on the donations that actually make an impact instead.
4) Transparency and open communication.
Even as an intern, I see the messages going on within the group via a listserve, and I can access all of Givology’s organizational documents on an intranet. The group communicates every week during a conference call, where members share their progress on their projects. Even though the volunteers are from all around the world and Givology has no physical office, everyone still feels connected to the organization.
Givology also updates donors on the students they supported after their donation via their website and through emails , so donors can see exactly where their money is going and the impact of their donation, unlike with more traditional models, where one writes a check to an organization and the charity decides how to allocate the money.
Having this level of transparency and allowing donors to choose where their money goes is a relatively new concept, also exemplified with other microlending platforms like Kiva and Global Giving. All made possible because of the lovely Internet.
This is all stuff I noticed about Givology before I’ve officially started. Let’s see what the rest of the summer will bring.