Friday, August 15, 2008

GiveMeaning Voting System

When someone wants to start fundraising at, the first step is to submit a proposal at the site, outlining a specific goal that they want to accomplish.

It's then up to the person who submitted the proposal to gather 100 votes in support of the proposal. This system of collecting the votes is meant for two reasons:

First, it puts the onus on the person to recruit a sufficient mass of support within their social network because if the person submitting the proposal can't collect 100 votes, they are not likely going to be able to recruit sufficient donors to fund their proposal. Second, it helps eliminate proposals with vague or questionable objectives.

A number of proposals at GiveMeaning are for micro-philanthropy initiatives in Africa. Up until recently, most all of these proposals have come from people in North America who have returned home from travels with a promise to fundraise for a project that benefits a community they recently returned from. But we're now seeing a significant increase in proposals submitted directly from African NGO's.

Based on the content of their proposals, many of these organizations seem to think that by posting a proposal, they are submitting a grant proposal to be considered for funding.

Given that our site is fundraiser-centric (meaning that it's up to the person who submitted the proposal to gather funds within their social network to fund the initiative they are supporting), I think it unlikely that most rural African NGO's are going to succeed with micro-philanthropy campaigns but it's got me to thinking.

My question is this: Is there something that can be done to better leverage the proposals being submitted directly by African NGO's? Could we create a new system which focuses first on a more crowd-sourced approach to approving proposals?

For example, a more elaborate discussion system on each proposal could see greater clarification/detail emerge for each proposal. Instead of each vote being equal, people who have volunteered or traveled in the region could "vouch" for the local NGO, thus increasing its credibility to potential donors. A pledge-based system where funds are released only after a critical threshold has been raised could ensure that no project goes underfunded.

It's a real shame to see so many great proposals go unserved by our current process and I'm not sure that what I'm describing above is something we could do but if someone isn't doing this already, I think someone should be looking into this.

What are your thoughts?

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