The following is a conversation between Alix Guerrier, the Chief Executive Officer of Global Giving, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Alix Guerrier, CEO of GlobalGiving

Denver: GlobalGiving is a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits by connecting them to donors and companies. Since 2002, they have helped trusted community-led organizations across the world to access the tools, training and support they need to make our world a better place. It’s an organization that continues to evolve and improve. And here to tell us how and in what ways, it’s a pleasure to have Alix Guerrier, the chief executive officer of GlobalGiving

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Alix!

Alix: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here and a pleasure to talk to you. 

Our mission is to support community-led change. Our focus is on those changemakers who are embedded in their communities, know what is going on, making positive differences in the lives of people around them – sometimes at a small scale, but at a quite important scale.

Denver: Tell us about GlobalGiving, how it got started, and the mission of the organization. 

Alix: So GlobalGiving is about almost 20 years old now. We will be celebrating our 20-year anniversary next year in 2022. And it was founded by–I think I can call them visionaries–former world bankers Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle back in 2002. And I’m emphasizing the year because that was a long time ago in terms of technology. All of the social media platforms that we use today did not exist at that time. Facebook didn’t exist. Twitter, certainly. People were not using smartphones. The iPhone came out in 2007. 

So, in a sense, it was quite a long time ago, and yet they had this vision for a way to use an online platform to connect people around the world, and specifically, others who are leading efforts on causes that are important anywhere in the world. And it was a bit of a response to some of the gaps in a more top-down approach taken by organizations like the World Bank. So, it was meant to fill that gap. 

And so, they started in 2002 as a crowdfunding platform. And we continue to do that work, but we’ve grown into more than that, more than just a crowdfunding platform. Our mission is to support community-led change. So, our focus is on those changemakers who are embedded in their communities, know what is going on, making positive differences in the lives of people around them, sometimes at a small scale, but at a quite important scale, if that makes sense. And so, we have a lot of partners who are often quite small, in 170 countries around the world, and we try to connect them with the resources that they need to be successful. 

Denver: I’m having a hard time getting my brain around a crowdfunding platform in 2002. That is really…like you can’t even imagine that. You had to be among the first, certainly in the nonprofit sector to have done that, I would guess.

Alix: That’s absolutely the case. And these sorts of things are a bit hard to figure out in retrospect. But there’s a strong case that actually what Mari and Dennis came up with was really the first true crowdfunding platform where there were just causes, organizations, and projects that were listed. And literally, anybody could log on, look for a theme – education; look for a location – Mozambique; find something at the intersection of their interests, and then support some really important work.

Denver: It’s not only crowdfunding. It’s almost like the beginning of “on-demand” in terms of looking for, as you say, I want this kind of organization in this part of the world, doing such and such – and bingo!

Alix: Yes. On-demand. I was thinking while Netflix was just coming out with DVDs, I was still going to Blockbuster in 2002. I know that for a fact. So yes, it was a long time ago. So that’s why I think they’ve earned this title – visionary. 

Denver: Absolutely. So how does a nonprofit organization, not only here, but across the world as you say, get themselves listed on the GlobalGiving website? 

Alix: That’s a great question. There are a few ways. One of our corporate values is to be always open. Again, one of the founding principles that good ideas can come from anywhere. And so, as a nonprofit, you can come to the site, and there’s a tab for nonprofits. And there’s a big button – hopefully, it’s nice and highlighted so there isn’t too much confusion – and you click that, and then you’re entered into a process. And the process sort of changes over time. 

But the main responsibility that we have is to vet the organization and make sure we understand enough about it to know that it is a safe and effective way for donors of all kinds – whether it’s a person giving $10 or $25 on the site once, or much larger amounts in some cases – that that organization is going to be a safe and reliable destination, and that folks are going to have the impact that they want. And so, that’s the basic process – that we then vet that organization. That vetting process is designed to be highly, I would use the word maybe “respectful” of our partners. 

Again, we have a wide variety of nonprofit partners that span all sorts of sizes, including some really huge ones. But the median one is pretty small. It’s not uncommon to have an organization that’s really a founder and a partner working hard in some place just to do something important, often in a low-income environment. Obviously, in 170 countries, English is not the majority language. 

And so, our role – and the one that we try to take quite seriously – is to bridge this gap, make sure that donors know that this is safe, this is the right place to put their money, and yet not impose ourselves as a kind of tax and distraction and some kind of distortion on what these folks are doing. And we want to make it accessible. So, we’ll get translators on the phone. We’ll fill out our own forms by talking to folks in case there’s technology or other sorts of limitations. And then you can come in. 

There are other ways that nonprofits also join. For example, we have a large set of partnerships with corporations, and so that can be another way. For example, we have employee giving programs with different corporations. Sometimes employees sort of recommend an organization that’s not yet in our network, and then we’ll go through that same process. 

The power of being connected to other people who have some overlap in interest or expertise but also know things that you don’t know – it can be transformational.

Denver: And beyond just listing them – and as you say, you’re anything other than another brick on the load – you actually help support them with some resources and with some tools, because as you said, a lot of them are just fledgling organizations trying to get started. Tell us about what you try to do to help them get better at what they’re trying to accomplish.

Alix: Absolutely. It’s a core part of what our program team thinks about. Now, to be clear, the number one request– and we do conduct a survey at least every year, often more than once, just to check in on our nonprofit partners and what we could be doing better to be more valuable to them– the number one on the list is always: Help us get more funds. So, we do have that as a priority. I’m certainly not ashamed to say that, and we’re quite proud of our ability to do that. 

But there are a lot of other sources of support. One of the biggest ones in fact is just community building. That may sound a bit abstract, so I’ll give you some concrete examples. But the power of being connected to other people who have some overlap in interest or expertise, but also know things that you don’t know – it can be transformational. 

So, for example, we want to run workshops. I’m using the present tense because hopefully, we’re going back to this. 

Denver: Yes, hopefully.

Alix: Certainly, the last 18 months have been a little different. We have not been traveling internationally. But in more normal situations, historically and certainly in the future, we run local workshops where we go to different locations where we have partners and bring them together, often working with a local organizer to sort of serve as the hub. 

Those workshops can be magical, honestly. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it happen where people just get together. 

Denver: I believe you.

Alix: Often, there’s a strong community there, but we’re bringing in new folks into their own local community. And they’re getting connected with people who then become part of their professional and sometimes personal networks going forward. 

And then we also bridge gaps around the world. We launched a peer learning network where we just allowed different project leaders from around the world to sign up, to either mentor or be mentored, and just connect with each other. And that’s been hugely successful, so we’re building on that. 

And we also do trainings. We do a lot of online crowdfunding, nonprofit practice. Again, I was actually in Shanghai in 2019, and I got a chance to visit with one of our partners, just a husband-and-wife team, and the organization is called Be Your Eyes. And these are two full-time, actually IT professionals, and they’re triathletes. That’s actually how they met and they got married. They kind of saw each other on the course. They’re a great fit. 

Denver: At the finish line.

Alix: They had, at that time, a beautiful two-year-old daughter, the cutest girl you’ve ever seen. And as they were running one of their races, they noticed that a team from Germany had brought some visually-impaired runners and were sort of working with them. And this was completely new to them. They live in a community where visual impairment is stigmatized and quite suppressed. And when you’re visually impaired, you don’t have much of a public, and certainly not outdoor life. 

And so just the two of them were inspired by this and started this amazing program where they train volunteers to run with visually impaired people in the community. I had a chance to be trained and do one of these runs. And they’re doing amazing work and literally changing the lives of people. I could see it. I saw some videos of one young kid who had been so withdrawn two years ago. I saw a video of him, and then he was the one leading the training… so confident. 

So, clearly changing lives, and yet it’s just the two of them, just struggling to figure it out on their own. And so, the ability just to connect them and say, “Hey. You don’t have to figure this out on your own. Let us help you, but also let us connect you with other folks who have done something similar or know the challenges that you’re facing.”

Denver: And I would think, Alix, too, just the mere act of being listed on the website has got to be a psychological boost. And the concept that money could come in from some other place other than my own hands, it’s got to be like – I got a wind at my back. So, there’s got to be a lot of psychological things that come along with it, particularly for these organizations that are just trying to start.

I’ve got a question for you. If I itemize my taxes here, and I make a contribution to one of these organizations in some other part of the world, will that be a tax-deductible donation here in the US? 

Alix: It will, yes. And so, this is another value that we provide in a way that we encourage giving because we ourselves are a 501(c)(3). We’re a nonprofit organization. You get a tax receipt from us in addition to getting the reports and the transparency that you need from this overseas organization. Again, because we’ve taken on the responsibility of doing this vetting in a way that is quite careful. 

Denver: I talked to some people about the changes that they’ve seen, brought about by COVID and everything that’s happened in this past year. And they can always talk about their organization, maybe one or two others. You have a very unique perch. You have observed many, many, many organizations across the world and have looked at how they’ve had to go about fundraising, how they had to go about serving their communities. What were some of the patterns that you saw, Alix?

Alix: In this past year and a half? 

Denver: Yes. Right.

Alix: There were a few patterns, commonalities across all of them. We can almost take it chronologically. Unsurprisingly, I’m sure, that initial shock of the… well, February but then certainly March and April timeframe, when things were shutting down, that macroeconomic uncertainty was really looming large. 

It was quite unclear how anything would turn out. Supply chains, right? I think we clearly remember this. I’m based here in Washington, D.C., in sort of a fancy neighborhood of Washington D.C., working downtown, and we were facing shortages. So just imagine what that was like in the poorest parts of the world.

So, the amount of uncertainty and the impact of that shock was huge. So, there was a sense of panic actually, and just people reaching out just to know that they could be connected, that people were listening, and were going to try to help us all figure out what was going to come next. And then as the situation progressed, a few things happened. 

Just from the perspective of giving as well, we found that there was a huge appetite on the part of donors to support work because it was affecting everybody. And perhaps we can sort of talk about that, about the ways that– we have a disaster program– hurricanes, earthquakes, et cetera. In so many ways, it’s unlike that, and yet some of those same playbooks apply here. But so, we saw that surging willingness to give, which was amazing and inspirational, but first oriented towards direct responders. But the next wave was that we realized, in fact, every organization was becoming a coronavirus relief organization, if that makes sense. 

And this is not to sort of dilute the importance of public health workers or anything like that. But what I mean is, if you’re a homeless shelter, and you’re serving the homeless population, and the pandemic is changing everything about how food supplies and donations are coming in, then the work that you’re doing is critical coronavirus relief work. And we had education centers. Think about how schools shut down. If you’re an education nonprofit, and you’re finding some way for kids to be in a safe place and have some care, then that’s critical work.

And so that that next phase was validating the work that folks were doing and saying, “As you are pivoting what you’re doing” — because, again, everybody was changing what they were doing in that time period. Not only validating it but saying, “You’ve got to tell your story here. We want to help you, but also make sure that you’re telling your story because this is an important story in this context. Your work is making lives better in this tough global situation. So, let’s make sure that that’s out there and that we’re tapping into people’s willingness to give because if we’re going to get through this, obviously, it’s going to be through that kind of generosity.”

Denver: Well, that’s really inspiring in many ways because I always have found that mission drift can have a bad connotation. But this was not mission drift. This was mission morphing. And these organizations realize that the most important thing that we can do, even from an organizational point of view, aside from humanitarian, is that we have to remain relevant. And the only way you can remain relevant is to address the situation as it is. And I think it’s that evolution of an organization has really been a positive thing to see. And I’m so glad to hear you say that. 

Alix: I think your insight is right on point because mission drift, lack of focus, or something like that does have a negative connotation. And we actually saw that… not from everybody, but from several, many of our partners, a kind of unwillingness to talk about the fact that, “Well, we weren’t able to hold the program that we had scheduled. We actually had to cancel it. And instead, we’re working on just stockpiling supplies. Sorry about that,” and a kind of embarrassment I think because of exactly what you just pointed out. 

And it’s really important to validate and say, “No. This is–” exactly what you said “–staying relevant, addressing the needs that are in front of you.”  In fact, isn’t that really the definition of being community-led, which is that you are leading from a position of being close to the needs, and you’re in fact responding to the real needs and not some abstract plan that comes from some other place?

Denver: Yes. Absolutely, which is in your office, on the wall, framed, which nobody can come and see because your office is closed. 

Alix: That’s correct. 

Denver: You’ve said, Alix, “neutrality is, at its best, a failed principle that has proved inadequate in practice, and at worst, is a blunt tool used deliberately by those looking to avoid accountability and controversy.”  And this led to a philosophy called Ethos – to help leaders explore, act on, and manage threats of ethical dilemmas. Tell us a little bit about Ethos, how it came to be and what it means. 

Alix: I did say that. In fact, thanks for reminding me about that, and I was listening, and I think I still believe that that is true. Absolutely. And in fact, I think we have some new examples to illustrate kind of the worst side of neutrality in my opinion. 

The way that it came about was my incompetence. That’s the source of this, just to be frank. And I joined the organization as CEO in 2018, so a little over two and a half years ago, from these visionary leaders who still remain on the board. So, the first non-founder to lead the organization, and also from a different background. I have online experience and social sector experience, but mostly in education. I’m a former teacher, and most of my experience has been in actually K-12 education.

So, there’s a lot about the role that I just did not know,  although I’m learning. And one of the ways that I was unprepared was in my lack of experience with a lot of the global social dynamics in terms of conflicts in ethical standards in different places around the world.

And so, early in my tenure, literally within the first month, one of our nonprofit partners was excoriated by an article that accused them of some really significant abuses of the people in their care. So, we took this very seriously. As I said, a big part of our role is to make sure that when people are giving their hard-earned cash, that it’s going to someplace that is worthy. 

And so, we have a process for this, an investigation process. And so, it’s not frequent that this happens, but we have a way to do it. What was tough about this one was we actually did that investigation and found sort of a surprising finding, at least to me. These allegations are technically true, but they are legal. They are, in fact, part of the standard of care in this location. But viewed from kind of an international set of standards, they clash with ethical standards. 

And so, what to do about that? This partner is actually doing good work. It’s an inspirational leader. I know it. I’ve spoken with this leader. And they’re doing critical work that won’t be good to take it off, but yet there’s this very valid claim, and I did not know how to process that. And I had–

Denver: Oh, that’s very complicated!

Alix: I feel like I had no intuition about it. You know what I mean? And then that was not the only one of these. 

So, when we talk about neutrality and how it fails, it’s that we were sort of approaching these dilemmas about: Well, should we allow this organization on? And other similar questions.

First and foremost, with that principle of always open in mind – we seek to be always open; good ideas can come from anywhere – so doesn’t that mean that we should just actually be a neutral platform and allow the market to figure it out? If people want to give, then they can give. And if people don’t,  then they don’t. But what we realized is: that works a lot of the time, but there are some cases where there is in fact no neutral option, where either way you’re making a statement about what is right, what you think is right. 

We started this, again, in 2018, almost, and then into 2019. Of course, in the times since then, this question of platform neutrality has become only more salient. And certainly in the US, with the political situation and whether a former president should or should not be, and others, and other forms of speech… it highlights how difficult this is. So that’s the origin in a long form of why we started working on this at all.

Denver: An interesting aspect of that, too, is that I think a lot of us would always say, “Well, there’s values. There’s organizational values.” You’ve talked about one – always be open. So, if you look to your values, that will give you the guidance you need to address these or resolve these, but you found out that values alone were not enough. 

Alix: That’s right. I think there are a lot of ways to look at this. One is just that the world is very complex. The world is very complex. We’ve got billions of people doing their own approaches to how to run their life. Often really trying to do great things. And yet the ways in which people are really trying to do good in the world can sometimes clash. 

And what we found was… when we started this work, what we hoped for, what we hoped for was exactly this sort of set of platform values that we would write down and kind of capture and say, “OK. This is going to be…” Literally, I think we were picturing kind of a flowchart where we would say, “OK. If somebody comes in, did they do this? OK. If so, was it illegal or not?” And then kind of have this algorithmic approach. 

Denver: You were actually trying to find a neat solution for a messy world. 

Alix: Yes. A neat solution for a messy world, but the world is just too messy. There are too many things that we—

Denver: Too messy a world. 

Alix: I mean, here’s one way to put it. We don’t know enough to write down all the rules to govern every situation. It’s important to have policies, and we have terms of service. Again, we have this investigation process. And to be clear, most of the time, that is sufficient to really give a pretty clear answer about what to do. So, most of the time that works. 

But there will always be, and here’s I think just the reality of the complexity, no one knows enough. Certainly, I don’t. Not even our team, working hard, knows enough to anticipate every complexity or nuance or different perspective or change in how people think about things or new information that comes to light to set it down in stone. 

If you’re in a world where you’re sort of expecting the algorithm to work or some set in stone to resolve every situation, then you’re really caught on your heels when something comes by and it doesn’t work.

Denver: It’s changing too fast right now, the world, to be able to do that.

Alix: Yes. Exactly. So, we don’t know enough. So instead, what we started to migrate to is: Well, all right. If we can just admit that we’re not going to capture this perfect algorithm for ethical decision, can we at least talk about a process and develop a process for doing this, that we can have some confidence in and make sure to bake in principles?

Because I think what that opened the door for was: If you’re in a world where you’re sort of expecting the algorithm to work or some set in stone to resolve every situation, then you’re really caught on your heels when something comes by and it doesn’t work. It works, again, 95% of the time or 98% of the time, and then that 1% can really throw you for a loop as it did me, as I can attest. 

And then you’re in panic mode and you’re trying to scramble to quickly figure out: Well, what are you going to say before the article comes out tomorrow morning? And that is the worst way to make the toughest decisions, this kind of panic mode and a hurried, high urgency, low facts.

So instead, we said, “Well, can’t we do this more proactively? Build in a process for doing…  Actually, start to take some of these on proactively, look ahead to dilemmas that we know are out there before they turn into a fire, and give it the time that we need?” 

There were several insights that came about, but another important one was: When you’re in that panic mode, you’re in a very defensive stance. Because the articles or the lawsuit just came in, or the letter threatening the lawsuit. Again, these are real things that actually a lot of folks have experienced. Or the article is going to be published the next day. And so, you’re in defensive mode, and so you’re just thinking about: How can we protect ourselves?

But actually, in this other way, it opens you up to being a lot more empathetic. And you can ask a question like: Well. OK. Are adversaries here? What’s driving them? What actually are they trying to achieve? What’s the value that…? In some cases, it gives you a way that actually bring those folks in. And say, “Hey. We’re trying to figure out the right thing to do. We are finding this tough. It’s really important for us to understand what you’re doing.” 

Denver: What the motivation is. Well, it really informs your actions because as you say, in a crisis, we get completely self-absorbed and not purposely, but we’re always thinking: what’s going to happen to us, or something like that, and we lose our peripheral vision entirely. 

And I guess to the extent that you can codify this process, you have done that in the Ethos Playbook. And for that emergency or urgency, you will also have an Ethos Lite Playbook. Would that be correct?

Alix: That’s exactly right. Because the full process takes a long time. It takes weeks, kind of, and it involves a lot of stakeholders. And so, what we found was: Well, what about those times when really you do need an answer sort of by the end of the week? Is there a way to still kind of capture some of the benefit here? And so that was the Lite process. 

Denver: You mentioned it a second ago, Alix – empathy. Would you say that’s about the biggest challenge we have in a digital civil society right now? Because there doesn’t seem to be a heck of a lot of empathy online. 

Alix: It certainly seems like it to me. 

Denver: Me too, because I tell you, I would write you things that I would never say to your face.

Alix: Yes. We started off this conversation talking about the amount of change that’s happened since GlobalGiving was founded sort of technologically. You can almost count sort of three or four, literally, generations of technology that have come and gone in that short time. And it really is a short time. Not even one person’s professional lifetime here. Just 19 or 20 years. 

Certainly, that seems to be one of the challenges that we’re facing, which is the modes that are available to us… and their power is ever increasing… are coming at a rate that’s faster than apparently our ability to really evolve good, solid norms about how to interact with each other. Especially the scale of communication and the scale at which either I can have insight into somebody, or I become visible to the world. That scale has been magnified hugely in the last 15 years. 

Denver: It’s hard to get your mind around, Alix, that this is the fastest it has ever been, and it will never be this slow again. You know what I mean?

Alix: That’s exactly right. Yes, I do know. It just wasn’t true 15 years ago that one person’s tweet, just a normal citizen, just a normal everyday citizen living out their lives… That one tweet could either what – bring down a politician or even a corporation, or the other way around? That sort of one errant communication would be scrutinized by the globe.

Denver: Instantaneously. 

Alix: Exactly. So, it’s a real challenge for our ability to have empathy at that scale, I think.

Denver: Let me get your take on this. You believe that the narrative around impact could stand to be refreshed, if not altogether discarded and started anew. Give us your thinking behind that statement. 

Alix: That’s a good question. I would link this to the I think very promising, growing awareness of injustices in the world. We have had a huge amount of focus on racial injustice. Obviously, with events from last year where the nation’s eyes and the world’s actually was drawn to the issue of violence against black individuals in different forms. So certainly, a form of injustice. 

And what I’ve been heartened by is that initially, I feared that we were going to spend a month sort of pulling our hair out about this, and then the news cycle is going to move on. And I actually don’t think that that exactly has happened. That instead, what I’ve seen is a conversation evolving from that, still inclusive of racial justice in particular, but then also just inclusive of justice and equity more broadly. 

And I’m starting there because I think that the way that we talk about impact in the social sector– so that is the sector of organizations of all kinds that are trying to do good, including for-profits, including nonprofits, foundations, etc.– that we’re ready for an evolution, just the next step in how we talk about impact. 

To say it quite specifically, I think that the way that we have been talking about impact and impact metrics and measuring and sort of a turnability to outcomes draws its form from inherently oppressive structures – just to use some strong words. And that it was an evolution, a positive step to just start talking about impact in the first place. And now, we’re ready for the next step, which is: Well, how do we do this in a way that is not a bunch of us in Washington, D.C. or New York… And I’ve been this person by the way. I was in the social sector at McKinsey. So, a bunch of us in a conference room wearing white shirts or suits or whatever, talking at a whiteboard and figuring the whole thing out, for us to then go and impose on the people who’d be so lucky as to what – get our support or our funds. So that’s the dynamic.  

Denver: Absolutely. And their lives are going to be dependent upon this because they won’t be able to get funding unless they match what you put up on that whiteboard.

Alix: Exactly. And there’s a thing about power, which is when you have power, then you wield it. And you either wield it with a lot of thought or often you wield it without that much thought. 

And I think that it’s important for us in power…for example, GlobalGiving. We are a source of sustaining funding, existential funding for some of our partners. And that’s true. So that means that we have this privilege of an immense amount of power, whether we ask for it or not, and whether we thought we were doing that or not. If you control the purse strings, if you control this sort of community, et cetera… which we do… then you have that power. 

So, I think we have to be very, very careful about doing something like: Well, here’s what I think impact looks like. And then wielding that because it’s easy for us to be wrong, and it’s easy for us to really impose that on others. 

Denver: Excellent point. I’ve always believed when you look at a person’s character, people say you can really tell a person’s character when they’re facing adversity. And I’ve never believed that. I think you can tell a person’s character when they’re wielding power. That is a much better insight as to the person and who they are.

Alix: It is indeed.

Denver: I was speaking to a CEO the other day of another nonprofit organization, and she said to me, Alix, that she has made more decisions in the last year than they had for their organization in the past 15 years taken together. What would you say was the most difficult decision that you’ve had to make during this crisis, and how did you approach it? 

Alix: Well, first, can I just empathize with that statement… because so many of the things that could just be on autopilot were no longer on autopilot. We were talking before the recording about wardrobe choices and trying to minimize the number of decisions. Well, one of the kinds of decisions that we took for granted is getting up and just going to work and being able to do that even if you have kids because the kids are going to school. But every basic assumption was changed such that it became a deliberation and a challenge to figure out what the right thing to do is. So, I just want to empathize with that. 

In terms of the toughest decision or really the series of decisions, and maybe that turned out to be, in retrospect, some of the most important ones, were every time that we decided that that aspiration that we had, we’re not going to get there. And so, let’s just admit this now, and we’re not going to do it. We made that decision a lot of times over and over again. And the reason for that almost always was capacity and sustainability of the staff.

We have a staff that spans ages and family types and actually, geography, et cetera. And the amount of personal challenge… obviously, parents of kids who are having really tough years. Or individuals who are living on their own and suddenly completely isolated. I remember doing check-ins at the beginning of this period and getting on the video just to have a one-on-one with a member of my team, and then learning that they hadn’t been outside their apartment building for several days… or even their apartment. Because that was when the masks weren’t quite yet figured out. Certainly, no one was vaccinated at that time, and cases were on the rise. So, people, especially if they were living in crowded places, were kind of cooped up and that was incredibly tough. 

And also personal loss. This was a health-related pandemic. We lost family members… I did, and others did. And that was a huge cost as well. In a time when you couldn’t also gather with family to… in a way that felt …

Denver: It really was unimaginable. But it does sound like it got the organization to prioritize, that you realize that we don’t have the capacity, and we have to decide what the two or three most important things are and make sure we do those things, and not be too expansive because there just isn’t that kind of energy to go around… and focus can be really important.

Alix: That’s exactly right. Yes. Absolutely.

We are an intermediary. We sit between donors and our recipient nonprofits. And we really view our role as a bridge on both sides – taking on the work of understanding what that set of stakeholder needs, sort of molding ourselves to it, and then doing the same on the other side to empower this community.

Denver: Finally, Alix, speak about the role of intermediaries in the sector and the way they can be leveraged to help make the entire philanthropic enterprise more effective and more accountable.

Alix: So, we are an intermediary. We sit between donors and our recipient nonprofits. And we really view our role as a bridge on both sides, taking on the work of understanding what that set of stakeholder needs, sort of molding ourselves to it. And then doing the same on the other side to empower this community. 

So, a very simple story is if you’re a donor, and you want to support… let’s say that you see news about a crisis or this coronavirus, and you’re seeing news about how it’s really taking a toll on India, for example. You’re a caring individual. You may not be an expert in health, or India, or that part of the world, or the communities or anything like that, but you want to help. 

Our role on this side is to make it as accessible as possible. Allow you a way to safely and effectively act on this and know that you’re really making a difference, even without giving you a bunch of homework to do – and here, study up on this and read these 17 magazines. Here’s something that you can do right now. And we’ll give you a pathway into them, learning about it if you want. 

And then on the other side, for those organizations that are responding on the ground, make it as easy as possible. They’re doing the important work. Think about a disaster situation when a hurricane strikes. You’re literally doing rescue and shelter and triage. And so, every minute of time that you don’t have to spend filling out a form, talking to a donor, convincing… has impact. So that’s our work – to go out and do that work for you.

So that’s how I see it as a bridge. And different intermediaries have different goals. Ours is to specifically create a bridge to community-led organizations to create access to resources that they don’t otherwise have. Hopefully, then creating just more possibility for good in the world.

Denver: Well, there is a newfound appreciation, I think, for smaller local organizations on the frontlines. And it’s going to be interesting to see how that is reflected in the coming year or years through the GlobalGiving website, which I want to ask you about. 

Tell us about your website, some of the information visitors will find there, and how they can help or become involved.

Alix: Thank you very much for the invitation. We are at And so, if you go there, one of the first things you’ll be able to do is just search for something that interests you, any kind of theme – arts, education, climate, gender equality; or a part of the world. As I said, we’re in 170 countries.

And so, the main invitation when you first come to the site is to browse, search through projects that address those themes, or that operate in those parts of the world. And please come and search around and find something, and experiment with giving. 

If you’re interested, even beyond that, then you’ll see pages on how we approach disaster relief. You’ll see pages about Ethos. You’ll see some of the other work that we do. But probably the number one call to action is just come on, stop by. Donate to a project that speaks to your heart, and then you’ll be a part of our community. 

Denver: That’s what you say – donate first and then start learning. It works for me.

Well, thanks, Alix, for being here today. It was such a pleasure to have you on the show. 

Alix: Well, thank you for this chance. It’s really been an enjoyable conversation.


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