I blogged recently about Global Giving Green, but wanted to dig a bit deeper to find out more about this ‘greenness.’

The original announcement from GG said, “GlobalGiving Green is a brand new way for you to help solve that dilemma. Using a unique scientific evaluation system, we’ve carefully pre-screened initiatives that offer win-win solutions — helping people while protecting the planet.”  But, I wanted to find out what green projects looked like, how users would know if a project was green or not, and how the ‘green-ness’ of the site/projects effected me as a possible-donor.  So, I investigated…

How Green projects are identified:
When you are looking at a list of projects, like Green Technology, you will notice a green leaf above the project title.  Clicking on the leaf shows you attributes of the project that qualified it as a green effort.  Additionally, you can click for more details and see the numbers/grades for each green category to help further inform your donation choices.

How do you know if the project is green?
If you are on the Global Giving Green website, then you know the projects are all green.  If you are on the standard Global Giving site, though, I can’t figure out how to find projects that are green—making me think the sites are not talking to each other, meaning the ‘green’ information can only be found by visiting the GGG site.

Effect of green-ness:
I am a very green-aware consumer, community member, and supporter, so it isn’t surprising to me that when I visit the GGG site I am happy to browse through the information on the leaf icons and compare projects based on the areas I think are most important.  What I think Global Giving did right, was to offer as much information as people like me would want, but hide it a bit so every visitors can decide if they want to learn more or not.  The icon appear for everyone, but you can use it access much more if you are ready for it.  All in all, the openness and awareness of green information really encourages me to support more projects that I may have otherwise because I really do feel that I get to help out a project and help save the planet!

What are your thoughts when you visit the Global Giving Green site?  Do you feel more inclined to donate to a project knowing that it is “green” and having access to the green information?

Digging Deeper in Global Giving’s Green-ness
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  • Hey Amy – thanks for taking a closer look at GG Green and for your thoughts and observations. On the main
    GlobalGiving site you can get to the green “micro site” a variety of ways (like at the top of the home page), and all the “Green” projects have a GG Green icon on their project page…But you are right that the two sites are not yet talking to each other too well, and we are working on ways to rectify that and make it easier to find the Green project no matter where you are.

    Donna @ GG

  • Donna – Thanks so much for your sharing your input with me and other readers! I think GG Green is really something to watch as it grows and how it effects other micro lending and peer-to-peer sites. Thanks!
    a

  • Gabe Roberts

    Going green is great but have you checked out globalgiving.org… one look at their 990 gave me a scare: $3.9M in revenue but only $1.6M was passed through to the grass root organizations and they show $511K in program expenses for tools, analysis, and evaluation of the projects before disseminating the $1.6M? After giving out the $1.6M and paying overhead, they still show a profit of $1.2M which was then loaned to a for-profit sister company (Many Futures Inc) which shares key executives with the nonprofit? They are sitting on $4.4M in reserves, all of which appears to have been loaned to Many Futures Inc … why not just give the money to the grass root organizations? Why does a nonprofit loan money to a for-profit?

    I’m no financial expert but something appears puzzling at globalgiving.org and I’m not certain they qualify as a “lean” organization.

    Here’s their 990 from last year; tell me if I’m wrong: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2007/300/108/2007-300108263-038cfd51-9.pdf

  • Hi Gabe-

    Thanks for voicing your concern. I wanted to let you know that I forwarded your message to someone at Global Giving in hopes to get a response.

  • Gabe

    Amy:
    Thanks, let’s see what you get. I made one inquiry and received a dissertation on restricted vs. unrestricted gifts. Apparently a good portion of their funds come from foundations and are classified as unrestricted therefore are not required to be given to the grass roots organizations. I understand the mechanics, just not the motivations and the convoluted nonprofit/for-profit/lending arrangement.

  • Hi Amy and Gabe,
    First, Gabe, I’m sorry our response to your email didn’t satisfy you…we’ll be happy to answer more fully here in the blogosphere…

    To your point, the relationship between MFI and GGF is a little complicated. That’s why we have lengthy notes to the 990 to try to clarify the relationships, and we are working to simplify things.

    Let me try to address the concern at the root of your comment, though.

    First, when people give through our website they choose a specific project/program run by one of over 300 unique organizations, all of which we have vetted individually. 85-90% of the donor’s contribution goes to the project THEY have specified, for a specific purpose. For almost all other contributions “average donors” make to other organizations, funds can be used for anything the receiving organization chooses. Not so with GlobalGiving.

    Second, we are supported by many foundations that provide operating funds – what my colleague described in her email to Gabe as “unrestricted” grants. These funders are making these grants more in the spirit of “investment in” GlobalGiving, to cover the cost of developing and maintaining the web platform, sourcing projects and staying in communication with hundreds of organizations worldwide, and our outreach to donors. They are essentially investing in the building of our platform, so that the vast majority of funds provided by the individual donor can go to the project he/she selects. We report regularly to these funders on the work we are accomplishing to make GlobalGiving more robust, so that one day the small fee we retain will cover all our costs. To reiterate, they are specifically requesting that the funds they provide be used to cover our expenses, so that our promise to the individual donor can be met. Sometimes they provide these funds in one fiscal year, but we don’t have plans to spend them yet, so they do remain on the books. And yes, there are two entities, so how these funds are allocated is a bit convoluted, as Gabe suggests.

    This uniqueness of our business model is hard to capture in traditional approaches to evaluating non profits. We view ourselves as a social enterprise, and we are excited about new efforts in the sector to make evaluation of organizations’ effectiveness more robust, an example of which is described in this Washington Post article from earlier this week: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/23/AR2008112302024.html?sub=AR

    Now, on to peeling and chopping. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Donna-

    THANK YOU! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your meal prep to respond! Very wonderful to have a full, honest, and human response – and one timely, too! I hope your information helps Gabe and the other readers but understand the financial workings of GG and helps reiterate the goal to do as much as possible with individuals’ gifts.

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  • Gabe Roberts

    Thanks as well for the timely response.

    Happy to hear 85-90% of individual contributions do in fact go to the grass root organizations. This accounts for 41% of your total revenues with the remainder (59%) going toward “investment” in the “platform” and overhead. When do you foresee this investment will be complete and more of the funds passing through to the organizations? As a benchmark, United Way operates a similar fundraising aggregation model and they pass through 91.5% of the total funds.

    PS: I’m no fan of United Way, just using them as an example of a similar business model.

  • Thanks Gabe.
    We hope that within three more years we will reach a point where the 10% we retain covers our costs. At that point we won’t be doing much in the way of raising funds for capital. We might, from time to time, receive a grant that will be used for product development, a particular platform initiative, or other “non-project” effort, so it’s unlikely that ALL the money will ever be project-specific and pass through…but the vast majority will.

    Hope this makes sense.
    Donna @
    GlobalGiving

  • Very wary

    I am even more wary now after reading this. The basic point was not addressed: how can you call yourself a nonprofit when there is essentially another for-profit company that is owned by the same executives? The not for profit has loaned the for profit over $5 million and pays the for profit over $500,000 in fees over and above the loan. The for profit is obviously siphoning off the money and the executives are taking it home without telling the public how much they are making. How can the IRS allow this to happen? And how can GG think that some talk about restricted donations could fool us into not paying attention to the real issue! Unbelievable. Answer that, GG – how much do the execs get paid and how much equitydo they have? Then all donors should realize this is coming from the percents carved off of well-meaning people trying to help alleviate poverty. We don’t mind you making money but don’t hide it and then pretend it isn’t happening. How insulting. You aren’t fooling anyone. You stand behind the buzzword of social enterprise? Try this buzzword – transparency. I welcome your response and if you prove me wrong I will apologize. I just have not seen what is behind the curtain so prove me wrong. Tax returns of the execs or any other real proof will suffice. Or, just say they are indeed minting money on this and I will be satisfied.