fundraising, technology

Will Kiva Kill Your Nonprofit? Donations 2.0 SXSW Panel

0 Comments 16 March 2010

Donations 2.0 Panel: Michael Cervino, Skylar Woodward, Katie Bisbee, Ruth-Anne Renaud, Milo Sybrant

I’m in the session at SXSW Interactive “Will Kiva Kill Your Nonprofit? Donations 2.0” panel discussion, moderated by Michael Cervino of Beaconfire Consulting, capturing the discussion through live blogging.  In this discussion, each panelist offered his/her definition of “donation 2.0,” which I’ve highlighted in orange. The discussion centered around each nonprofit explaining how they have incorporated the “donations 2.0” model into their platform, and the best type of design architecture. I’ve summarized my thoughts about the panel, and the backdoor twitter discussion at the end of this post.

Panelist Milo Sybrant (@milosybrant) is the online fundraising manager for Amnesty International. My definition of donations 2.0 =  the tactics and strategies NGOs are using in response to changing environment, especially these three trends: 1. Nonprofits don’t have the institutional monopoly on doing good. 2. Donors are more than ever shopping for impact. 3. Online donors have rising expectations about organizations’ transparency.

Amnesty International’s “America I Believe In” campaign highlighted our concerns about human rights to members of Congress. We put ads up in bus shelters around Capital Hill, and said we’d send the physical ads to all sponsors. Several people who sponsored the ads were actually student groups, who then sent us photos of them posing with the ads. What made it donations 2.0? Knowing that contributions would make a direct difference, the initial outcome was really tangible, we were really transparent, direct sponsors had a real relationship with it, and sending physical ads to sponsors incentivized the sponsors.

Panelist Katie Bisbee (@katiebisbee and @donorschoose) from DonorsChoose has about 15,000 classroom projects in schools that donors can choose from, and each project has a cost report and shows what actions that have been taken. The impact to date of donations, in total, is $49 million. My definition of donations 2.0 is from our model’s perspective: using the web as choice, accountability, and transparency. Why it’s donations 2.0: There is a direct connection between the donor and the individual or group that the are supporting. This is really “true philanthropy,” as there is a direct connection between the donor and the recipient (peer to peer) and there is a feedback loop that goes back to the donor.

Panelist Ruth-Anne Renaud, Vice President of Philanthropy at (@rarenaud and @optinnow). Opportunity International has been in microfinance, internationally, for almost 40 years. We provide loans to entrepreneurs, but also savings, insurance and insurance programs. It is an end-to-end full-service microfinance provider.

OptINnow was launched over a year ago to help people contribute directly. Our definition of donations 2.0: Providing a connection for donors to beneficiaries through timely stories, photos and video in order to create a more relevant and tangible giving experience. Why it’s donations 2.0: OptINnow gives donors the ability to choose an individual (by country, by industry) to be be able to fuel their business’ growth. Through the website, you can see how the donation impacts the entrepreneur specifically. OptINnow platform also shows the entire range of impact on lives. OptINnow also allows donors to pass on a gift card to empower an entrepreneur. There is a new (as of this week) OptINnow feature: the individual platform for individual pages to track individual fundraising.

Panelist Skylar Woodward (@skylar and @kiva): in charge of launching Kiva’s API. (The API application programming interface allows two computers to talk.) The Kiva API allows Kiva to talk to other computers and apps. Our definition of donations 2.0: Decentralizing from a donor-charity system to a person-need model. It is facilitated by technology and a general cultural shift to interact in social communities (digital or physical) It prioritizes the needs of the community.

Why it’s donations 2.0: puts all of the donation needs out there and donors choose. It prioritizes the community needs, and is extremely transparent. You loan the money, the loan goes out into your profile, and you see the progress of the loans being paid back monthly. You can then relend the money again.

Michael: How do you manage the quality of the applicants to make sure the needs are valid?

Katie: We verify that the teacher is a public school teacher before they can post. Once a project has been posted, we screen it and verify it to make sure that what is in the shopping cart is what they are asking for. Our staff reads every classroom project to make sure it is compelling and gives feedback to the teachers as to how to make it more compelling.

Skylar: Kiva works with a microfinance institution and we spend a lot of time vetting our microfinance institutional partners to make sure we can trust them. This includes a 2-month evaluation pilot period, and then we look at how they respond to posts, etc. There is a growing phase of trust. we work with 110 partners right now. After the partners have gained our trust, we are more hands-off.

Ruth-Anne: We are a fundraising organization and we deliver funds to our partners in-country. We are end-to-end. We have staff in other countries as well. Our loan officers are responsible for building relationships, gathering reports, and feeding that back into the banking system and reporting. Kiva is an aggregator, and we are end-to-end and within our own organization. Complimentary models are a good thing.

Michael: User experience – tell me about it and how you built the system.

Ruth-Anne: Our system is completely custom-built. We were the first to use Facebook Connect to make it as easy as possible for people to use the platform. Katie: Our system was entirely custom-built, also. And for improvements, we have an email distribution list on called “new feature list” and ask people to just send a new feature idea to us. Skylar: We built our system entirely from scratch. We are very tech-centric. The CEO wanted to built a new social network within two weeks and made it happen within 48 hours and created “Kiva social networking.” Now, this defines us, and loans are public and people are social. With the Kiva API, we have a whole other codeland that is exterior to us for anyone to play with.

Michael: Is it possible to build a donation system with a classic donation system that can be modified?

DonorsChoose (answered by the systems architect): I don’t think you can do this without building a custom system. We put a lot of effort into thinking about the donation relationship and the whole life cycle first and then build the technology to support that. Skylar: By using a framework with an existing code, you’re locked into the code that is already out there. I don’t advise choosing an existing content management system and building a product off of it because it’s not the experience that you want – you want to really include the user experience and customize. Ruth Ann: There is a lot of value in having coding expertise in-house to gain efficiency as you scale, become more responsive to user-feedback, etc.

Michael: Whatever you do needs to be transparent, authentic, and focused on the culture of your stakeholders with messaging. You have to be authentic so you won’t lose numbers.

Editorial summary:

There seems to be general agreement that “Donations 2.0” means direct connection between the donor (and donor’s needs) and the funder. Each platform enables choice, transparency, efficacy, and authenticity, and prioritizes the needs of the community. System architecture of the donation platform has to be unique and custom-built to meet the needs of the donors, the recipients, and the organization and pre-fab platforms won’t serve these needs.

The back-channel hashtag on twitter, #donate2, generated a secondary discussion about whether these platforms are controlling the clients’ stories for the organizations’ benefits (asked by @aspenbaker) and how do we allow clients to have more voice (credit to @skylar for asking that last part). Myself and @nolandhoshino think donations 2.0 is more about mobile-based fundrasing and widgets as secondary platforms. @skylar says “disagree! 🙂 ‘2.0’ model will evolve to mobile. One day, Bump-a-Loan via @kiva to an entrep in your ‘hood.”

I think Kiva’s API is the future and really embraces donations 2.0 in philosophy: it gives donors more control and choice (you don’t like something about the platform, add to it!) and crowdsources the best innovations for the platforms that will provide the best services to funders and recipients (you want a new feature, then create it and see which add-ons the stakeholders most utilize). The API also gives a feedback loop to Kiva – pointing out where the stakeholders want added features. I also give kudos to Kiva for relinquishing control over the platform and allowing users to own more of it through the API.

Further resources and discussion:

Skylar Woodward’s blog post: Panel-Picking Killer Tweet of Your Fundraising Can Haz Non-Profit Electrodance

Twitter hashtage: #donate2



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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