Monthly Archives: August 2009

Forgive the Tree: Online Giving vs. Traditional Giving (Which is Better?)

I have to say, I love online giving. There is nothing like it for the holidays.  Sometimes you want to express your sincere care for people, and to do it in a way that is meaningful. And to be frank, quickly. That’s where you can use Quick Gifts that allow you to give several donations in one fell swoop. It’s great for team members, neighbors, community groups, graduations, and you can give a gift as small as $15 to buy eyeglasses for children, or as large as $500 to build a home in Nambia.  It’s also efficient for the nonprofit. They can receive hundreds of donations in their paypal account that would have taken hours to open by mail.

 Equally so, I have to say I love offline giving.  To me this is personalized, one-on-one giving that is heartfelt. There is nothing like writing a check and a kind note to someone. When they open that letter it is personal.  Someone cared to take the time to write how they believe in you, and want to make an investment in you.

 I am not so enamoured of direct mail giving; it is less personalized and wastes trees. Somehow, I can “forgive the tree” when it’s a personal, handwritten letter.  Sometimes we have to use trees to express our love for and give gifts to others.

 There isn’t any disadvantage to each type of giving. Each has their merit, and right timing, positive meaning, and profound influence.  All giving is good.  It is the ‘love of humankind’ which the root of the word philanthropy intends.  We give and receive and the positive cycle of goodness continues.

This post was inspired by Microgiving, which you can read here:

Rotten? Or Right? Internships that Rule

I’m a social entrepreneur, and I believe in interns.  Interns provide great new ideas, strong operational support, and positive contributing attitudes to the team.  They are an essential part of our culture.  Our vision would not be the same without them.

Recently, Michael Skapinker of The Financial Times spoke about ‘Rotten Internships.’  He pointed out weaknesses such as filling internships by hiring the sons and daughters of the well-connected; interns not being compensated; and having little structure or meaningful work.  But there are numerous highlights that can be mutually valuable for both the intern and the organization. Here’s my response to Michael:


I’m a social entrepreneur and I’m a believer.  A believer in interns.

We have more than 10 interns at UniversalGiving (http://www.universalgiving.org0, and we’ve found it to be a very productive experience.  It’s our goal to provide them a great work environment, ownership, management guidance and a positive atmosphere.  We also do achieve many of our goals through them.  It turns out to be very honest, productive and pleasing to both parties.

To be honest, often people are soul-searching. Some are not sure what they want to do and would like to try out a new skill.  Others are ‘trying out’ the nonprofit realm.   Many simply need a kind, structured, productive environment while seeking employment.  Some just need a break.

Our solution: We give them all great experience and put them right to work!  Even if they decide it is not for them, they have still learned a lot, and we have benefited. We’ve organized the tasks so that they build to our goals. Those who move past “Level 1” of marketing research, for example, might be advanced to handling marketing partnerships. In essence, whether it is employees, interns or volunteers, good management and proper delegation per each skill level is essential.

Here are some of the highlights we’ve found in effective Internship Management:

  • We provide a Manager who is willing to guide them.
  • We have specific Business Units, such as Corporate, Development, Marketing, NGO Services, which provides focus. It allows them to gain news skills and for us to execute on priorities.
  • We have a WorkPlan, which allows us to track progress, set deadlines as a team, and achieve goals.
  • We have Job Descriptions. We give them a template; we agree on the responsibilities. They write it so we are sure we are on the same page.
  • We provide free, catered lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with free coffee, pretzels and snacks. *
  • With solid work, we provide recommendations and references from the CEO.

Often our interns are a feeder to employment: They might “graduate” to consultant and then to employee. We see this often. It allows both parties the opportunities to see not only if the skills fit, but also if the values fit.  All good team relationships are built step-by-step, working day by day, with mutual goals and aspirations.  Internships allow us to get to know the interns and vice versa.  Rather than try to determine a good fit by interviews (and some people are great at interviewing, but not necessarily great for the job), we both get practical experience.

My view is that UniversalGiving ( wouldn’t be the same without our interns. They bring joy, enthusiasm, good work ethics, positive attitudes and new ideas. Our culture wouldn’t be the same without them.


*This post was from 2009 when we were housed at Mitch Kapor’s office. He offered lovely benefits such as catered lunches every Tuesday and Thursday. We now have potlucks with the team, where we enjoy our international team’s contributions!

Social Entrepreneurs: What’s In a Revenue Stream?

For any social entrepreneur, I’d like to address the distinction between funding sources and revenue streams. I have a pretty high standard on what I call a revenue stream. As social entrepreneurs, especially if you are nonprofit, we can demand the same high standards as for-profits. If a new for-profit venture got off the ground, they would identify start-up capital (funding) and sales from product/service (revenue). They wouldn’t count #1 as a revenue stream. It’s support, but not revenue, even though both are, indeed, valuable financial resources.

As an investor, I would want to know that you are thinking about your social business/or nonprofit in these terms. I know then you have the foresight to realize you need both, and, that you will not always rely on funding/donations. That’s exactly what for-profits must do: They have to get off the vc and angel funding, and eventually, stand on their own two legs, 100%.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still fundraise or hold future venture rounds to support our organization, planning and goals. With UniversalGiving, I plan to always have this investment in place; it’s just that our eventual goal is 100% support of our operations from revenue.  Funding can then help scale the UniversalGiving service further (ie expand into more international markets, adopt more NGO partners in a certain region, attain more corporate clients, institute more robust marketing plans.)  Of course, surplus revenue can do that as well.

Revenue reigns in operating your current service; funding furthers continued expansion.  Both are needed and diverse financial channels, which build your social entrepreneurship organization for the longterm.