Givology

Givology is a online giving marketplace that connects donors to high-impact grassroots education projects and student scholarships around the world. As a 100% volunteer driven organization, we aggregate small dollars and small hours into a power force of change for education, with emphasis on transparency and personal engagement. You can visit our site directly to learn more and also contribute and volunteer. You can also read our book for more information about our partners and the impact model we’ve created.

I’m going to use this section on my personal website, however, to answer some common questions that I get asked about Givology as well as share some of my insights.

What inspired you to start Givology? How did you come up with the name?

I started Givology with my co-founder Jenn back in 2008 with the idea that small dollars and small hours can make a difference collectively, even if individually, it may seem inconsequential. Education really changed my life. I wanted to create a platform for donors (including myself) to give back effectively to high impact causes. The name Givology reflects our mission of making giving more effective – ‘ology’ means the study of. Our aim is for Givology to become a movement in which philanthropy is democratized, where small donors can get high levels of transparency, not just the big foundations and donors. We envisioned a network in which donors can connect to high-impact, grassroots organizations that have strong community relations and an effective impact model. These organizations may not have large marketing budgets and may not be common household names, but we screen them on the basis of the strong qualitative and quantitative outcomes they achieve for their students. We want our donors to maximize their impact per dollar and for our community to make giving (whether in dollars or hours) part of their daily lives. In addition, we want to push the boundary for how far a volunteer-driven organization can scale. If I can mobilize hundreds of people to just give a few hours per week, then we can create a movement.

Have you ever experienced any obstacles developing Givology? How did you overcome it? What are some of your key challenges today?

We started Givology when crowd funding was a new concept, and launched our site when there were very few pre-made web tools. Executing on our idea from building the site and finding our initial donors and partners required a lot of hard work. At the time, especially as a new organization, we had to prove our credibility to convince donors to give to us as well as partners to trust us to consistently support them.

Today, our biggest challenge is in our technological infrastructure. Givology is nearly a decade old. When we launched, we build our own wallet, messaging, and blogging systems. Sometimes we feel ‘stuck’ with the choices that we’ve made in the past and it’s not particularly easy to switch over to the very many wonderful alternatives we have today. To put into perspective, we started with Django 1.3 and today the version is 1.11! With our volunteer model, we don’t pay salaries so we have to work with a technology team comprised of dedicated volunteers. Technology talent willing to stick through the difficult ramp process is certainly a challenge for us today.

Some people are wondering about how the money donated online reaches the students from the grassroots partners, can you tell us a little about that?

Transparency is core to the Givology mission. We screen every partner and project that is posted – while it’s not uncommon for us to get two dozen applications a week for potential partnerships, we approve at most one or two per quarter based on track record. We do interviews with former staff members and volunteers, assess their cost efficiency, study program quality, analyze program selection criteria, and evaluate the exit opportunities the students achieve. As a requisite for funding and support, we require regular updates from our partners and we post all of these online for our donors to see, including letters from students, videos, photo updates, and detailed write-ups. In addition, we welcome all inquiries by our donors and encourage engagement with us. Anyone can send a letter to a student or project on our platform. We translate and deliver the messages to our students and schools.

We believe that if everyone scrutinized their giving the same way that they evaluate their financial investments, charitable dollars can stretch so much farther! The focus on impact and maximizing impact per dollar is a core tenet of Givology.

Out of all the social causes, why do you think education is important?

While poverty is a multi-dimensional issue, there are so many causal studies that show how education fundamentally changes the opportunity set available to a person and creates the stepping stones for socioeconomic enhancement and human dignity. According to the World Bank, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in lifetime wages. Educated girls also have fewer, healthier, and better educated children. I’ve given you some statistics for girls’ education since it’s a very salient topic today, but the benefits of education span across gender and society. The UNESCO education commission estimated that absolute poverty could be reduced by 30% from learning improvements and that for every $1 invested in additional schooling, earnings increase by $5 in low income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle income countries. Education attainment itself explains about half of the difference in growth rates between East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa between 1965-2010. Education also is critical to social mobility and fighting income inequality.

From a personal perspective, I believe education is a critical foundation for success. My parents immigrated to the US from Taiwan (and my grandparents immigrated from China). Growing up as a first generation American born here in the US, we didn’t have a lot of material wealth. But my parents emphasized education and struggled to give me as much opportunity as they could. Education opens doors and enables the ability to convert dreams into reality through a foundation of hard and soft skills.

There are many people who claim that donation is the responsibility of the rich, what is your response?

We think that this completely untrue! Everyone has something to give – it doesn’t have to money but it can also be your skills and time. As global citizens, we have a responsibility to help the 3bn people (nearly 50% of the global population) who live on less than $2.50 a day, many who live in states that don’t have the financial capability to provide basic social safety nets. And even among the poor, we’ve seen so many inspiring stories of communities coming together to protect and support their most vulnerable. Giving is universal and fundamental to human nature and our existence as social beings. We always ask – “what is the difference between one one-million dollar donation and one million one dollar donations?” We much prefer the latter since we think that philanthropy is fundamentally democratized and participatory.

If you could only use one sentence to promote Givology on a billboard, what would you use?

Ahh…hard to choose between our two favorite lines so I’ll include both here
Give to Learn, Learn to Give
Small dollars and small hours aggregating into a powerful force of change

What message would you like to leave?

Consider thinking about the impact that you can create by taking action today. Whether time, skills, or dollars, small acts of giving are the start of large movements. While your day to day can be really busy (trust us, we understand as we have a 100% volunteer run organization and our work is carried out by busy professionals or students), there is so much happiness and meaning in giving. If you’re interested in joining Givology or learning more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.