Getting Started, social organization

Born Transparently Digital and Networked: The LittleBigFund

3 Comments 28 January 2013

LittleBigFund home page

There’s a way to build a movement, and it begins with personal engagement. Carter Gibson, one of the most personal, transparent, and popular Google Plus users, announced the founding of his new nonprofit The LittleBigFund January 22nd.  The LittleBigFund is Carter Gibson’s nonprofit entry into the field of crowdsourced fundraising, mixed with a donor-voting element. It’s not a brand new idea, but one that has legs because it is deeply rooted in community development, transparency, and responsiveness. It also caters to a marketplace that desires responsiveness, transparency, a relationship with an organization, and the desire to make a genuine difference ASAP. Carter created The LittleBigFund because “I was frustrated with donating to projects with questionable reliability, especially while not always receiving what was promised (such as through IndieGoGo and Kickstarter projects).”

It’s the type of organizations that could only be founded by a community manager and digital native.

He realizes that the idea of direct involvement between donor and organization isn’t new – think and any Kickstarter project – but he’s putting his organization on the line to show how The LittleBigFund is different.

The Details: The LittelBigFund will select a different cause every month and ask fans to nominate organizations for funding. The organizations must meet these criteria: small, scrappy, nonprofit tax status, community-based (not national), and shows a demonstrated commitment to community engagement. The Board will approve three organizations each month, and The LittleBigFund will highlight the organizations’ stories and their needs.  Donors may donate between $5 and $100, enabling them to vote on which of the three organizations will receive the entire donation pool each month. As The LittelBigFund scales, the donors will be able vote on the percentages of total donations to be allocated to each organization. There is a contractual agreement between the selected organization and The LittleBigFund to publicly show how the money has been spent.

Transparent and Networked

This organization was born networked. It embraces all of the seven critical qualities of a networked nonprofit: transparency, value networks, comfort with tools, networked ecosystem, courageous, trusting, and athletic. The LittleBigFund taps the power of the network: stakeholders nominate causes close to their hearts, donors vote on the organizations, and anyone can promote the organizations they believe in. As for transparency, Carter Gibson told me “the LittleBigFund will disclose all expenses and demand a high level of transparency for where all donations end up.”

The LittleBigFund isn’t dong it alone – it’s working within its ecosystem of incredible individuals who are all resources to be trusted and cultivated. There’s respect and value for stakeholders baked into the way The LittleBigFund operates, communicates, and navigates decisions. By merely being and acting according to networked nonprofit and transparent principles, The LittleBigFund offers value to its fans. This isn’t the first organization to do so (think Epic Change, Help Attack!,, and the Surfrider Foundation), but it is one of the few that I know of that are born this with a networked DNA.

LBFund FB Post collective impact

The Power of Carter Gibson: When There Is No Line Between Personal/Professional

Carter Gibson joined Google Plus the month it launched, in July 2011. Then a college student at American University, he was an early Google Plus user and evangelist of the platform. Search his posts, and you’ll see he takes the time to talk to everyone who talks with him, and in a very real way. He cares deeply about making a difference in the world, and especially LGBTQ rights. He connects people, and leverages Google Plus for good, whether raising money for the American Red Cross or launching the highly successful GPlus Santa. He is now circled by close to 773,000 Google Plus users and on the Google Plus Suggested User List.

What I’ve seen Carter do is embrace the melding of his personal interests (LGBT, things he loves, all things San Francisco) with his professional interests (community management, places he’s worked) to push what he believes in. He *gets* that the personal and professional are not artificially divided.  As the CEO of The LittleBigFund, I’m sure that he’ll continue to do the same.

If Carter takes one-tenth of this fan base with him, The LittleBigFund is off to a solid start.

Caarter's G+ post about LBF with tons of shares

This is Personal: Offering Value for Community Engagement

I firmly believe that organizations have to tap into and connect deeply with the personal motivations of its fans. The LittleBigFund has been crafted from the start to connect deeply with personal motivations and reward stakeholders with engagement, conversation and helping their favorite organization grow. I’d love to see The LittleBigFund become a generator of new fans for these scrappy organizations, as well as become an incubator of new ideas.

The LittleBigFund has a Facebook Page, Twitter profile, and blog. The LittleBigFund intends to use the power of social media to crowdsource ideas, promote online engagement of nonprofit organizations by making that a selection criteria, promote its selected nonprofits of the month, and really listen to what donors want. Throughout the Spring, the organization will take the time to build its email list, encourage community conversations about its five principles (charity, empowerment, transparency, education, and humanity), and develop its online communities.

FB transparency announcement

I’m really excited to follow The LittleBigFund and check out how they cultivate a deeply committed community, and move them to action. And in a year, what that might do to the world of crowdfunding.


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  • Melinda Lewis

    The LittleBigFund sounds really exciting, Debra, but what I appreciate even more is how you’ve highlighted the potential for real cultural changes within organizations and the sector, as generations that instinctively ‘get’ social ways of operating take the helm of major initiatives. In my consulting practice, I see a fair amount of generational tension around organizational culture and change, including comfort with transparency and need for hierarchy…not to oversimplify, because certainly these things don’t always break along neat generational lines, but I do think that there are shifts that may create some significant changes in a lot of our institutions. I certainly see it in education, where my students today are much more comfortable with ‘soft’ divisions between elements of their lives and a 24/7 engagement with me and the course than even a decade ago. Thanks for giving me another example to prod my thinking about this.


  • Pingback: Generations, transparency, social approaches…organizational culture change is coming | Classroom to Capitol()


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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