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The Power of Crowdfunding to Fight Ebola

January 10, 2015

Globalgiving_ebolaIn December, TIME magazine named Ebola Fighters — doctors, nurses, caregivers, scientists, and medical directors "who answered the call," often putting their own lives on the line — as its "Person of the Year." We couldn't agree more: local West Africans and long-time residents like our friend and partner Katie Meyler and her colleague Iris are courageous, vital, and worthy of support.

While much of the emergency funding from private donors and companies has been channeled to U.S. government partnerships and programs, we've been focused on helping donors reach the "last mile" with their donations. Aaron Debah is familiar with that last mile. Aaron, a Liberian nurse, has rallied his neighbors to go house-to-house to combat rumors and misinformation in a culturally relevant way. He's also producing a local radio show about Ebola to spread the message more widely in the community. Through Internews, GlobalGiving donors are funding motorbikes for community activists, a scanner/copier/printer, and mobile phones, among other items. Through their actions, people like Aaron are making an enormous difference in the fight against the virus at a hyper-local level.

$3 Million and Counting for Locally Driven Ebola Solutions

At the end of 2014, we announced that we had helped raise more than $3 million for Ebola relief from donors in sixty-eight countries through the GlobalGiving community. We're currently crowdfunding for twenty-nine community organizations that are preventing and fighting the spread of the virus in West Africa. By giving to local nonprofits that are deeply rooted in the affected areas, donors are supporting organizations that were creating change in their own communities long before this Ebola outbreak — and will be there to drive the recovery of the region over the long term.

More than 3,800 individuals have given to over thirty Ebola relief projects on GlobalGiving.org and GlobalGiving.co.uk, including GlobalGiving's Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. In November, a $200 donation to the fund came from a community of concerned people in Mozambique: "Though it may not seem like much, this is equivalent to two months minimum wage here. Thank you for connecting our hearts with fellow Africans who are suffering!" said Brian, the man whose family collected and sent the donations to GlobalGiving.

Private foundations have joined the thousands of individual donors to support locally driven organizations combating Ebola in West Africa through GlobalGiving. In August, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation gave $100,000 to the GlobalGiving Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund in the form of a matching grant, motivating more than seven hundred individual donors to give $100,000 over a span of just four days. In September, the Sall Family Foundation also gave $100,000 and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation contributed $400,000. And in November the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust gave $2.2 million to the fund.

Transparency around this funding is important to us. Each of the nonprofits on GlobalGiving has been vetted and has committed to providing donors regular updates about how donations are put to work. We're also publishing donation data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) on a daily basis.

A Marketplace That Creates Local Resilience

As 2014 was coming to a close, Jennifer Lentfer, a leading blogger on aid effectiveness, made this comment: "Grassroots groups fighting Ebola have formidable challenge. They must continually seek out and compete for new resources in a funding environment that favors short-term grants to larger, higher-profile groups and that is often led by global trends rather than persistent, ongoing challenges."

Jennifer is right, and that's exactly the reason the GlobalGiving marketplace exists. We work not only to connect small groups to major funding, but to help those organizations build their own capacity and funding networks so that their communities will be stronger and more resilient in the face of ongoing challenges and future crises.

For us at GlobalGiving, it's about even more than just access to funding. We're also making sure that local organizations have access to the information and ideas they need to be as effective as possible with the money they do have. We're connecting organizations of all sizes to technology and information that would have otherwise only been available to major international NGOs.

More Than Just Funding: Access to Technology That Could Help Stop Ebola

In November, several of our nonprofit partners in West Africa highlighted a major challenge: they needed faster access to data from the field. We connected those nonprofits with Journey, a South African technology company with a history of success developing mobile health solutions in Africa. Journey is now working with GlobalGiving partners to create and distribute the Ebola Care app, helping health workers track individual patients, coordinate education events, follow up with at-risk children and orphans, and log data about survivors.

"In order to be effective during any crisis, being able to access real-time data is critical, as time is of the essence," Sam Herring, data manager for More Than Me, one of our partners that is using the app in the slum of West Point, Liberia, explains. "Thanks to the Ebola Care app, data that once took weeks to get to us is now rolling in by the minute. This allows us to identify hot zones, have our ambulance transport suspected Ebola patients to Ebola treatment units immediately, send in our social mobilization team to provide psychosocial support, food, and cleaning items to affected homes, and enable our nursing team to educate residents about prevention."

Together with Journey, we've mobilized smartphone donations for nonprofits that have the desire and capacity to use the app. And after developing it with input from some of our with local partners in Liberia, Journey is distributing the app on smartphones to other GlobalGiving partners who have expressed interest. Journey also continues to gather feedback and improve the app based on feedback from the field so that it will become even more effective in meeting the needs of health workers on the ground.

Our co-founder, Mari, gave a TEDx talk earlier this year in which she noted that "the power of crowdfunding isn't in the funding, it's in the crowd." We've seen that idea come to life over the past several months as we invest in organizations networking to support the fight against Ebola. As long as there are unmet needs in local communities from Monrovia to Mumbai, Mexico to Minneapolis, GlobalGiving will continue to mobilize crowds to level the playing field for local change-makers.

Headshot_Alison Carlman

You can learn more about the GlobalGiving partners responding to the Ebola outbreak here: globalgiving.org/ebola

Alison Carlman is the senior manager of marketing and communications at GlobalGiving, the world's first and largest online crowdfunding community for nonprofits.

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