How to Donate Your Time and Money to the Right Cause [Q&A]

UniversalGiving showcases vetted opportunities all across the world.

Aug 2, 2016


One of UniversalGiving's NGO partners, Greenheart Travel

One of UniversalGiving's NGO partners, Greenheart Travel, coordinates volunteering abroad (UniversalGiving) 

So you want to pitch in and make the world a better place, but you’re not quite sure where to start? With thousands of volunteer organizations around the world working on various projects, and just as many charities taking donations, it’s really no wonder. How are we meant to know where our hours or our dollars would be best spent?

Enter UniversalGiving, the award-winning nonprofit that allows people to donate and volunteer with top performing, vetted organizations all over the world. In this week’s 10 Good Questions, the organization’s founder and CEO Pamela Hawley tells Goodnet about how UniversalGiving guarantees social impact, what makes their model different, and her biggest good doer inspiration - her mom.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

At UniversalGiving, we connect people to quality giving and volunteer opportunities worldwide. Our web-based platform allows donors and volunteers to connect with nonprofit organizations working all over the world! To date we have matched more than a $31 million dollars worth of volunteer hours. All projects are vetted through UniversalGiving’s proprietary Quality Model™.

UniversalGiving CEO Pamela Hawley

CEO Pamela Hawley talks giving with a UniversalGiving board member 

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

We’re unique in that 100% of every donation made through UniversalGiving goes directly to the cause. We’re financially sustainable through UniversalGiving Corporate, which assists Fortune 500 companies in scaling their global CSR programs worldwide. Some of our key clients include Cisco, Gap, BHP Billiton, and RSF Social Finance.

3. What three words describe your organization?

At UniversalGiving, we constantly work towards and emphasize our core values: Listening, Measurable Results, and Inspiration. We take time to listen sincerely to each person whether they be a team member, client, NGO partner, corporation, or board member. We consistently measure our results to ensure we are meeting all goals and objectives. And perhaps most importantly, we believe in being inspired and inspiring others through joy, graciousness, and goodness in our daily work.

The UniversalGiving Team takes a break from doing good

The UniversalGiving Team takes a break from doing good

4. What inspires you?

Every day I’m inspired by stories of individuals’ and communities’ incredible resilience in the face of adversity. Two things especially inspire me. First, I’m “causeless.” Someone goes without a meal.  A little girl doesn’t have a roof over her head. Maybe there’s a natural disaster. Whatever the situation, we want people to live happy, peaceful, “whole” lives, in every meaning of that word. They should have homes, food, education, and health… the ability to choose the jobs they want, their partners in life, and essentially to be loved and have love in their lives. Therefore we care about every cause.

Secondly, I really believe in local leaders on the ground. That’s why we know that the work that UniversalGiving’s partner organizations do to serve communities is invaluable. The Rural Development Center aims to improve food security in rural households in Cameroon by developing and teaching an environmentally-friendly approach to agriculture and health.BiblioWorks builds and maintains libraries in communities in Bolivia in order to develop long-term literacy among children. By really listening to the people of the community,   they are able to make a meaningful impact.

5. Who's your favorite good doer figure?

I have to give an honest answer - it’s my mom.  She’s just a tireless figure for good. I don’t mean in all the time she spends volunteering. It’s simply in being a kind, giving person; it’s in her gracious demeanor, her kind heart, and her presence.  Almost every time I call, she picks up.  You know she is there for you!

Another woman with an incredible story is Olga Murray, founder and CEO of the Nepal Youth Foundation. Olga founded the organization in 1990, she experienced first-hand the poverty facing Nepali youth. Each year she expanded the organization’s services until they were providing a full range of services: housing for impoverished children and orphans, educational scholarships, medical care, and daily meals. Now the organization even intervenes to help young girls from being sold into bonded servitude by their impoverished families. That’s a great, on-the-ground leader.

6. What is the best part about your job?

Every day I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people I have the opportunity to work with. That’s really it. You have to have a great team, board, and clients. Our people truly believe in and live our mission. One of my favorites is staying in touch with our UniversalGiving Ambassadors. These are people who have “graduated” from UniversalGiving - they worked for us, interned, or volunteered - and still want to stay in touch and help. What a community we have.

Another UniversalGiving partner, GVN Foundation

Another UniversalGiving partner, GVN Foundation, inspires learning, innovation and action in international communities (UniversalGiving)

7. How do you measure success within your organization?

First, we set “hard” goals and objectives in order to quantify our impact. These goals include: the number of donors and volunteers working with our NGO partners, aggregated annual volunteer hours, the number of corporate clients we work with, and our client retention rate. The more data we have on our work, the more we can continue to enhance our services moving forward. Second, we truly believe in setting and achieving “soft” goals. These include creating a positive team culture, encouraging UniversalGiving’s core values in everything we do, and developing a sense of leadership in our team members. We believe that all of these quantitative and qualitative objectives are critical for running a successful organization, especially in social entrepreneurship.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

Both Facebook and Twitter are so useful in getting the word out about exciting opportunities with our NGO partners, new UniversalGiving initiatives, highlighting our marketing partnerships, and connecting with our supporters. If I had to choose one, I would use Facebook for the greater diversity in content that you can feature, event invites - and certainly photos! A photo can move your heart more than the letter of an alphabet. Get people’s hearts moving, and their giving, will too. I also see so much value in unique social media platforms like Snapchat and Pinterest. Do something different, test it out, and find out what works!  

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

Goodnet users should know that at UniversalGiving we are always innovating. We’re stretching the boundaries of what’s possible in the social impact sphere. We do this through our website innovations, and also ensuring we are a model of sustainability through our corporate service. UniversalGiving Corporate helps manage global Corporate Social Responsibility for companies, including the strategy, operations and NGO Vetting. Showing you can bring in revenue and providing financial sustainability for your organization is important for social entrepreneurs everywhere.

10. How can people get involved?

You can get involved by giving $25 to provide a month of meals to a child in Haiti or volunteering with migrant children in Beijing for a month. Both of these opportunities will have an enormous impact on the people you’re serving - and on yourself.  We’re not just changing other people’s lives - we’re being changed into more compassionate people, too.

Please remember, we are all “philanthropists" every day. Philanthropy isn’t just about giving money or doing a service project overseas, it’s about the love of people. You can start at home. Find someone who needs your help and begin.

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