In 1997, as executives of the World Bank, Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle created an event, known as the Development Marketplace, at which social entrepreneurs from around the world seeking funds from the bank pitched their ideas for fighting poverty.
Inspired by participants who suggested the need for an online marketplace operating continuously to connect social entrepreneurs with philanthropic investors, Kuraishi and Whittle left the World Bank and created the GlobalGiving Foundation.
Launched in 2003 and located at globalgiving.org, the online marketplace has handled over $28 million in giving from nearly 101,000 donors to over 2,600 projects, including 700 currently posted on the site, with annual giving through the site doubling each year, on average.
"Giving is inherently social," says Kuraishi. "Technology opens up very new ways of teasing out the connection between giving and social relations."
GlobalGiving, which has roughly 25 full-time employees and an annual operating budget of $3.5 million, lets visitors give online to nonprofits it has screened.
The site is one of a handful of large online philanthropic marketplaces such as donorschoose.org, kiva.org, networkforgood.org and socialactions.org that connect donors with causes.
With roughly half the giving through the site coming from corporations and their employees, GlobalGiving generates 75 percent of its operating costs from earned revenue, including a fee equal to 15 percent of each transaction, including credit-card fees.
It also generates revenue from cause-related marketing and other services it provides to corporations.
GlobalGiving, for example, handles giving to all the projects featured on The Girl Effect at www.girleffect.org, a cause-marketing initiative created by The Nike Foundation.
"Our work with corporations is one of the ways we reach individuals," Kuraishi says.
Ginger Sall, a long-time supporter and key adviser to GlobalGiving, says the organization serves as a philanthropic marketplace for a growing segment of donors who "feel more comfortable meeting and shopping and choosing online."
She says she and her husband John, co-founder and executive vice president at SAS in Cary, N.C., the world's largest privately held software company, largely are involved as individual donors and through their family foundation in causes outside the U.S. involving international development, conservation and global health.
"We trust Dennis and Mari and their systems for authenticating projects and donors in places we're not going to be able to go," she says. "They embody many of the ideas of global giving. They're about learning and sharing and collaborating."
Kuraishi says roughly half the nonprofits featured on GlobalGiving are based in the U.S., and the groups it features typically have annual budgets totaling $50,000 or less.
A new initiative for GlobalGiving, which owns 98 percent of ManyFutures, a for-profit company that formerly operated the site, is to do a better job integrating feedback from its beneficiary nonprofits into the site.
In a pilot feedback effort, GlobalGiving is using mobile technology to find out whether funds that groups in Kenya have received through the site have made a difference and what other improvements their communities need.
GlobalGiving will include the responses in information about nonprofits featured on its site.
"It has the potential for changing the way organizations learn and we learn," Kuraishi says, "and donors can get even more transparency with what's happening on the ground."
And with donors becoming more comfortable with sharing information about their giving, she says, "the potential for giving to be much more a part of everyday life is just beginning."