Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why we do projects

People ask us often why we focus on projects on GlobalGiving, instead of just letting people give to organizations, which is the traditional way that fundraising and giving is done to nonprofits worldwide. We also recognize that it can sometimes be a hassle, and there are many NGOs that don’t join our community because their strategy is to seek funding for their organization, not for discrete projects.

We insist on projects for two reasons. One, we’re asking people to consider giving beyond their boundaries—by far the majority of donations on our site involve resources being moved from one country to another. In that context, providing a clear statement of what the money will be used for is, I think, an important way for people to become comfortable about going “out of the box.” So that’s on the donor side. But even if it didn’t necessarily make people more comfortable giving beyond their boundaries, I still think it would be worth doing. And I believe it would be worth doing because at the end of the day, GlobalGiving is dedicated to increasing transparency and accountability. And although projects can strike people as being an awkward construct, in some ways (perhaps in not the most sophisticated ways) it is a way for organizations to put a stake in the ground about their own theory of change. By outlining a specific activity, they are putting the organization on the line that “this” is what they believe will make a difference, and when the funding is provided and the activities carried out, we can 1) ascertain whether the activities were carried out, yes or no; and 2) in the longer run, see if it lead to the outcomes the organization set out to affect. We’re so young we still are focused on 1—were the activities carried out, yes or no, and if not, why. And crude as that is, it DOES reflect on the organization’s and project leader’s accountability. We wouldn’t even be able to capture that measure of accountability if we didn’t insist on projects. It's not perfect, but it’s measurable. And that’s integral to the way we think of GlobalGiving.

1 comment:

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

I have received the Global Giving email for a while and I'm pleased to find your blog and this description of why you support "projects" vis organizations.

I'd like to invite you to consider an expansion of this concept. If you're building a building, such as the Trump Tower in Chicago, you follow a set of blueprints. On each page, there are many projects that need to be done well, by many different sub contractors. If one fails to do his/her job, the building may fall down, or the entire effort may be put on hold until the work is completed in the right way.

I don't see many "blueprints" that show all of the projects needed in any neighborhood that would end poverty for the people in that neighborhood. Such blueprints would have many pages, just like the blueprints for the Trump Tower have many pages. If well intention sub contractors decided to do a project for the 45th floor before the 39th floor had been completed, this project probably would have been a waste of money.

I feel that project based thinking has some of the same impact if its not done within context of an overall blueprint.

I'm trying to stimulate this type of thinking in my work with the Tutor/Mentor Connection. In web site I have maps showing where poverty is, and where tutor/mentor programs are located. I also have ppt essays showing that the act of tutoring/mentoring needs to be repeated over and over for many years, and supported by many forms of learning, coaching, advocacy, etc., if the end result is that a youth is holding a job/starting a career by age 25.

This is not a focus on organizations, as much as on how people from many places work together to create blueprings that link many projects, often repeated for many years, into a collective effort.

Finding donors to sustain the work of many sub contractors in many projects will be extremely challenging. However, as my example with the Trump Tower illustrates, if just one sub contractor does not do his role the project does not stand.