Danielle Matsumoto's Blog

Givology at Penn: Social Impact Events and Case Competition!

The past few weeks have been extremely busy for the Penn Givology team!

1. Penn Undergrad Social Impact Conference: On March 26, the Social Impact Task Force, a coalition group of social impact oriented student organizations on Penn's campus, collaborated to host the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Social Impact Conference. As the Givology representatives on SITF, Catherine Gao and I were involved in securing speakers and panelists on topics such as corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, the effectiveness of international aid, and disaster relief. Most Givology team members attended some part of the conference. Keynote speakers included Chris Anderson, founder and curator of Ted.com, Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable, and Iqbal Qadir, director of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT.

Ankit Shah, Givology’s campaign coordinator and a freshman at Penn, gave a brief presentation on Givology in between keynote speakers. At the end of the day, Givology team members were chatting with one of the panelists when she gave us some very direct feedback:

“Your hearts are obviously in the right place, but if you want my honest opinion, I think your model is wrong. Think about the effect you are having on the kids you sponsor – do they feel like they’ve earned the financial aid they are receiving? What are they supposed to think – ‘Thank God for the kindness of Americans?’…I’d have a completely different opinion if you were providing scholarships with defined criteria that the kids had to apply for.”

As translation coordinator, I handle communication between Givology’s field partners, students, and donors on a regular basis, and these objections had definitely crossed my mind before. I had also begun to wonder whether Givology’s requirement that partners provide four updates per year for every student and project was too burdensome, especially if students are already busy with schoolwork and are confused as to why they are receiving so many messages from so many different people. It’s easy to get swept up in the day-to-day demands of running a startup nonprofit – taking care of last minute details for an upcoming fundraiser, reminding partner organizations to send updates, planning for on campus awareness events – and sometimes the more philosophical and strategic questions get brushed aside in light of more immediate concerns. In reflecting on the panelist’s words, I became very glad she had voiced her skepticism, as it was a reminder to consider the implications of one’s efforts to “do good.” I think we can all agree that it’s not enough to have good intentions and want to “save the world” – it’s extremely important to constantly reevaluate whether our efforts are having the intended effects.

2. Givology Case Competition and Social Impact Week: I left the Social Impact Conference even more excited about the event Givology had planned for Social Impact Week– Givology’s first ever nonprofit management case competition. We invited teams of 2-4 Penn undergraduates to present to us their thoughts on strategic questions Givology is facing right now. As the primary author of the case background, I included the quote from the skeptical panelist, as well as snippets of emails I had received from partners explaining the difficulties they were having in struggling to provide us with quarterly updates from their students. I also added the latest version of our business plan so participants could understand our ideal vision of Givology and compare that to the status quo. We also included an excerpt from a Council on Foreign Relations , report on girls’ education, which we hoped would jumpstart the teams’ thinking about what types of students Givology might want to aim to benefit.

The case competition, which took place this past Thursday, was a GREAT success, thanks to the hard work of the case teams, the combined efforts of the Penn Givology team and the generous help of Professor Diana Robertson, Wharton MBAs Neil Blumenthal and Jem Veljic, and Masters’ students Sara Taveras and Cecilia Ramirez, who served on our judging panel. It was so inspiring to see other students so enthusiastic about brainstorming ways to improve Givology.

Below are some pictures from the event.

The members of the winning teams (there were two, representing the Social Impact Consulting Group and the AIESEC Penn chapter) will receive $500 to allocate to Givology students and projects of their choice, along with copies of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, the inspiring story of the founding of the education nonprofit Room to Read.

Since we found it so incredibly useful to hear new perspectives on Givology’s strategy, the Penn team intends to follow up with each case team to exchange feedback and discuss ways some of their proposed strategies may be further researched and implemented.

Please check back – videos of the team presentations will be posted soon!


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