What makes a great NGO?

I have just completed the second training weekend with GlobalGiving for the Evaluation Programme. This summer I will be travelling to Uganda to visit small charities that are partnered with GlobalGiving to provide an evaluation of their organisation and offer in-person practical support. Myself and the other volunteers receive 5 days of extensive training in preparation and I can quite easily say that after our second training weekend I have come away feeling as though i learnt so much. So much so that I do not know where to begin with this blog post.

Let me start at the beginning. One task that stood out to me the most from the training weekend was when we were asked to ‘draw the ideal nonprofit’ and label key features of what makes a great NGO. Now I’ll be honest, this is something that would have struck me with fear and panic before. Having little practical experience in the charity sector, combined with an awful memory, at the most I would have been able to think of 4-5 points max. But not today…

As we will be representing GlobalGiving and must do so in a professional and compassionate manner, part of the training covers soft skills. When visiting GlobalGiving parter organisations we will most likely be mainly interacting with the CEOs as well as staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. For this reason, we discussed empathy and how important it is to view yourself in someone else’s shoes. I think this is important not only for conducting an evaluation on someone’s organisation, but also for personal situations. It is inevitable that in life I will face conflicts and encounter people that I cannot relate to (although I do often run and hide at the first sight of a disagreement) and the short exercise that we did in the training really helped me to reflect on what is important in those situations and what is not.

When visiting charities in Uganda, we will not only be evaluating an organisation we will be providing practical support. One of the areas we will be offering in-person support on are the GlobalGiving systems. As GlobalGiving is a digital platform, a lot of the interactions are done online, this means that the visits we will be doing are so important to build the offline relationship and fill any gaps in knowledge.

In the training we looked in-depth at the GlobalGiving online systems  and how project leaders can make the most effective use of them to raise more funds. We covered everything from how a project leader can add a new project, amend their details and measure their effectiveness through GlobalGiving Rewards. I was also reminded of the awesomeness that if charities do not have a website that is mobile optimised they can direct donors to their GlobalGiving page which will automatically be mobile friendly! With so many people using mobile phones and tablets to browse online this is such a great benefit I had not thought of before!

There are more and more people giving online and donating on phones. This can change how people give if the charity’s website is set up effectively. In the training we covered the donor market in 2017. This is something that is constantly evolving and shifting. It is currently seen that there is a lack of trust in the charity sector. This is due to many reasons, but one way to combat this is for charities to be completely transparent. One of the great things about platforms like GlobalGiving is that it enables people to give with confidence online and know where their money is going.

To help rebuild trust in the charity sector it is important that charities do not only communicate with people when there is a fundraising ask, but if you are- you should donate! It may sound silly, but if you are a charity or an individual trying to fundraise or crowdfund for a cause you are passionate about, don’t let the campaign launch on £0. If it is a cause you truly believe your friends and relatives should contribute towards, why shouldn’t you donate some of your own money to kick it off?


This is just a tiny portion of what was covered and discussed in the GlobalGiving Evaluation training. I also learnt a lot about network mapping, traditional fundraising, finance jargon busters, charity administration costs, crowdfunding and more! There was even a section on digital communications- partly presented by MOI!


I began my journey as a volunteer on the GlobalGiving Field Evaluation Programme as the coordinator of the programme. When I started in the office in September one of my main tasks was helping review and provide feedback on audit reports written by the volunteers who were then out in the field. Just from reading the audit reports I gained a sense of what challenges organisations face and what areas are seen as a strength.

When we were tasked to draw an ideal NGO on the first day of the training, instead of panicking and trying to sneakily look at someone else’s drawing (!), I was able to successfully list a number of features that make an NGO great! This is something that I would not have been able to do as well before and proved to myself how much I was able to learn from reading the audit reports and being at GlobalGiving.

I can only imagine how much more I will be able to learn from the rest of the training days and of course getting to write an audit report myself!

Excuse my horrendous drawing skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit further afield than London…

As I have now completed the first training day for the GlobalGiving Evaluation Programme, let me tell you a little bit more about what I will actually be doing this summer! This will be an introduction to the beginning of my second journey! Moving to London was a big step, but I will be going somewhere a bit further a field this summer…

I have been at GlobalGiving since September as part of my university placement year, my role is to coordinate the Field Evaluation Programme.  I am delighted that I will actually be taking part in the programme myself too. I am so pleased that after my time at GlobalGiving in the UK office, I will be able to meet some of the partner organisations in-person and see the amazing work that they do on the ground.

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GlobalGiving is a digital crowdfunding platform that provides tools, resources, training, access to match funding and grant management (and much more!) for nonprofits in over 165 countries. GlobalGiving runs an Evaluation Programme each year. There is a group of 12 of us that are taking part in the programme this year. The evaluation programme is just one of the ways in which GlobalGiving is able to provide in-person training and practical support to small grassroots organisations across the world, at the same time, allowing donors to give with confidence to small nonprofits. And this is where I come in!

I will be travelling to Uganda in June to visit GlobalGiving project partners with Marina. We will also be hosting a workshop in-country with current and prospective GlobalGiving partners. Each visit will involve us carrying out an organisational assessment whilst providing practical support on the GlobalGiving systems, crowdfunding and communications and writing up an external report at the end of the visit.

In effect, the visits enable small nonprofits, that often have low capacity but an immense passion and drive for their mission, to access an external organisational audit free of charge. training day 1 photo 2

For the programme, we receive 5 days of training from GlobalGiving. At the first training day it was great to meet with all the volunteers together. As I will be both coordinating and taking part in the programme I am really excited that I’ll be involved in not only my own trip but the planning and support of the others as well. At the training we heard of how GlobalGiving is all about supporting local solutions to local needs and always ensuring that this is driven by the community they seek to serve.

The training was run by the CEO of GlobalGiving UK, Eleanor Harrison, who gave an insightful and critical perspective of International Development and the current charity, fundraising and donor climate. Eleanor’s unique approach to International Development was so different to that of what is covered in my course at University and has given me a more practical understanding of International Development in action. The first day of training really gave me a better understanding of the key challenges for local actors and some of the negative trends within the charity sector today. We also heard from a guest speaker, Ben Jackson. Ben is the former Chief Executive of Bond and is now Global Director of Global innovation & Partnerships at United Purpose.

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I am excited for the next training weekend in April where we will begin to look into more details about what projects we could visit.

Should you do a placement year?

I’ll be honest. When I first ticked that box on UCAS for the four year (Sandwich) degree option, I was certain it was the right decision to make at the time. The year abroad option was actually what appealed to me most about International Development Studies at the University of Portsmouth, something that not many universities seemed to offer. However, as it got towards the middle of second year, approaching my placement year, I was becoming less and less sure. I had met so many people who I loved being around and many of them were not taking a placement year. I began to question, is this the right decision for me? You don’t actually get any university credits for it, can’t I just do a placement once I graduate? I had concocted a whole list of pros and cons in my head. Especially as I had come out of second year with a good mark, I worried that that work ethic I had in second year would go after taking a whole year out from studying.

I took a risk, leaving behind most of my really close friends I had made in first and second year, after a lot of persuasion from my parents telling me the usual ‘You’re not there to make friends, you’re there to get a degree’. I finalised my work place agreements, and sent off all the right documents, and that was it. I was doing a placement year. I am now going to tell you why it was one of the best decisions I have made.

dsc04494Taking a placement year is not for everybody and it is not relevant for every course. You need to consider your individual circumstances, learning style and finances. It is not cheap to do a placement year. As you will probably know, you get a reduced student loan, I was aware of this and began putting aside savings from the bursary I received in first and second year to help fund my placement year and worked a part-time job every time I was home for holidays. It also takes a lot of time and preparation. Yes, there is a student placements centre, however, they are not there to hold your hand and tell you where to go. You are given the responsibility for researching and finding your own placement, this process, in itself, acts as a good learning experience for seeking opportunities once you graduate. But it does take time and dedication, especially if you are going overseas.

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What I have found to be most valuable since starting my placement is my increased understanding of the sector. University is great for the theoretical side of things, but you are kind of in a bubble. I feel like during my placement I have been able to learn a lot about key trends within the sector, what works and the challenges that are faced by charities in today’s world. I went a bit crazy during my first few months and really took advantage of London by going to as many relevant debates and seminars as possible.

Being in London and at GlobalGiving has also enabled me to meet many different people and charities working within the third sector and beyond. This has allowed me to get a deepened understanding of the sort of work that is being done around the world. There are often GlobalGiving project partners who come into the office to tell us more about their work. I really enjoy and learn a lot from these visits and in a couple of cases it has bought to my attention issues that I was not even aware of. Such as the ‘Jogini’ practice that takes place in India.

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Volunteering in a small charity means that I have been given a lot of responsibility and independence. I have really been able to get involved as much as possible and feel like a valuable member of the team. This means that I have been able to immerse myself in the programme management, planning, implementation, and evaluation and see it through the different stages. I have gained an increased understanding of how charities operate and how impact is measured.

From my time at GlobalGiving so far I have been able to improve upon  areas that will be valuable further in my studies and career. Such as task/time management, this is something that you begin to pick up on during university but it is a different kind of workload and pace in a job. Doing a placement has allowed me to further my professional development and improve my communication, report writing and technical skills. This is all thanks to the support, guidance and opportunities I have been given.

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I was recently given the opportunity to do a (very) short presentation about the programme that I am coordinating at the GlobalGiving AGM. The presentation was in front of project partners, staff and volunteers in person and online. The thought of this was so daunting to me but I embraced the opportunity and am proud to say I made it through alive!

All joking aside, this kind of opportunity is something I would of shied away from and not have been able to do at the beginning of my placement. As I have previously mentioned, presentation skills have always been one of my weaknesses and I feel that I have progressed a lot in this area. I even had project partners come up to me after and tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation and many registered their interest in taking part in the programme as a result!

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I am glad that I took the leap and decided to do a placement year. Yes, gaining experience through a placement is something that you can do once you graduate. But it is also something that can bring you so many opportunities that will enable you to grow as a person and gain skills that will prepare and motivate you to complete your final year of studies. Lastly, I feel a lot more prepared to graduate and delve into the world of work with a clearer view of the kind of roles and areas an International Development graduate can go into. As I said, doing a placement year is not for everybody and everyone works in different ways. You just need to make an informed decision whether it is the right thing for you or not.

10 truths about taking the tubes

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Now that I have been in London since September, I feel that I have experienced enough of the tubes to make a post about them. I am far off being able to classify myself as a Londoner, yet I am past the point of tourist. I am still hopelessly clueless if I am not on my regular everyday route.

I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to do my placement in central London at such an amazing organisation and experience a bit of the big L. Here are just a few things I have noticed and observed while on my commute to and from placement on the city below the city, the underground.

1. You must prove your innocence

Firstly, there seems to be one unspoken rule I have observed that if somebody’s zip is partially open you MUST give them forewarning. God forbid they would accuse you of opening their zip.

2. You will gain arm muscles

As well as strong balancing skills and core strength, travelling on the tubes also gives you strong arm strength. When the train is so packed you can often end up with a dead arm. You could be holding your bag in one arm to make the most room possible, you then find yourself stuck in that position unable to move until the next stop.

3. Holborn Station

Do not even go there. Just don’t. It’s only taken me about 3 months to realise that it takes  the same amount of time to walk 20 minutes to Kings Cross as it does to stand in the crowd of people passive aggressively attempting to get into Holborn station at 5:30pm. The central line should also be avoided at all costs.

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4. You will face reduced escalators

Whilst we’re on the topic of Holborn station, there are currently reduced escalators due to  repair works taking place. This means that if you arrive during morning peak you will be relentlessly encouraged to defy the laws of the underground and stand on both sides of the escalators. A study showed that it would get people out quicker to stand on both sides. They clearly did not take into account the angry sighs and tuts you would get if you do stand on the left.

5. Walking UP the escalator

Let’s be honest, unless you are extremely late for a meeting or an olympic athlete, who is actually fit enough that they can walk all the way UP the escalator without collapsing at the top? Maybe I’ll try it one day. What’s more… those that opt to take the stairs, I just do not understand this insanity.

6. Suitcases

There is a time and a place.

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7. You’re not Hulk

The inevitable exchange of eye rolls and tuts when someone attempts to shatter through the 95% closed doors, causing them to reopen. Seriously, that 10 second delay is just unbearable. What’s worse is the ones that get on a carriage that is already packed to the brims and politely announce ‘Can you please move down’ as if there is any room to actually move down into. (I fully accept this is acceptable if there is actually space in the carriage!)

8. Armpits

Lot’s of armpits!

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9. The shock horror of 12 minutes

The absolute disbelief when you see anything above 3 minutes in orange LED on the departures board. Travelling predominantly on the Victoria and Piccadilly line with a good level of service at peak times, seeing the unseen of ’12 minutes’ to wait is devastating. On that note, having to wait more that 5 minutes for a bus now seems like a lifetime.

10. Finally, there is no better way!

I have indeed spent the majority of this post complaining about aspects of the tube. However, there is no doubt that it is one of the most convenient and quickest modes of transport and we would be lost without it! Having grown up in a village that barely has a train service I certainly do not take the tube for granted.

Tomato face

So far, this month has been all about improving my presentation skills! Presentations are something that many of us do not enjoy. It is something that from the beginning of my university course I was determined to combat. When I say combat, I mean the realistic goal is to not go tomato face. It is definitely something that comes with practice and something that I have always avoided when possible. At the beginning of my placement I was asked to identify one of my areas of weakness that I wished to improve upon. Presentation skills was top on my list. Subsequently, me and the other coordinator were given the task to present a mock pitch to corporations about the Field Evaluation Programme. We presented this to the staff and volunteers in the office. It was a really valuable exercise as we were provided with on the spot questions and feedback on ways we could improve and what went well. I think it actually went better than expected!

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Last Friday me and my co-coordinator had an individual debrief with one of the volunteers. We conducted the debrief and it went smoothly, it was interesting to hear about their experience doing the programme. Following this, on the weekend we had the final group debrief with the volunteers. This was also a great event to learn more about the value that each volunteer got from the Programme and what challenges were faced to further improve for next year’s programme. Each volunteer did a short presentation about their visits to GlobalGiving partners. Me and the other coordinator also gave a brief presentation about our reflections on the coordination from the office. We discussed what we have learnt as individuals during the time coordinating the programme. This included skills such as:

  • Task management skills
  • Interview skills
  • Management of people
  • Writing skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Digital communications

The list goes on! It is often not until you sit down and compose a presentation that you reflect on how much you have actually acquired in such a short amount of time.

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Finally, I am ashamed to admit that yesterday I got lost trying to locate Westminster Abbey. I ended up having to ask a guard, who rather blatantly pointed out that I was at the houses of parliament when I asked how to get into Westminster abbey. To be fair, I had never been before and it was dark. I blame Googlemaps. I was at Westminster Abbey to attend an oration by Lord Evans of Weardale, the former Head of MI5. The oration was entitled ‘Secret Service? National Security in an Age of Open Information’ and the main topic discussed was the relationship between intelligence services and the media.

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Don’t be scared of negative feedback

A couple of weeks ago I attended an event about tech and the modern refugee hosted by The General Assembly and International Rescue Committee (IRC). I did not have a ticket in advance as they had sold out, so I turned up hoping for the best. Luckily, after walking round in circles around Liverpool Street station for a while (I think my satnav is broken, however, there’s a strong likelihood it’s my poor sense of direction)  I found the building and there was space for me to attend. The panel included a variety of passionate experts. Topics covered blockchain technology, aid effectiveness, the use of tech and the misrepresentation/stigma of people seeking refuge. IMG_0878.jpg

This week I have been working on creating a training matrix for the scores gathered in the Audit Reports. The Audit Reports cover eleven different topics such as governance, finance, fundraising, communications and impact. Each organisation is provided with an indicator score to signal what progress has been made. In addition to creating the matrix ranking for these scores I have been continuing to read through the other Audit Reports and provide feedback and am about to start on the next one! My week has also involved sending lots of emails.

On Thursday we had an office halloween pumpkin carving competition! Both teams pumpkins were very impressive. Over the weekend I headed out of London and back down to Portsmouth for a Halloween party. Luckily, I got to Waterloo station so spent about half an hour listening to an amazing busker singing musical songs.

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Today me and a few of the other volunteers assisted at the Feedback Labs Summit. GlobalGiving is one of the founders of FeedbackLabs and one of the hosts for the event. FeedbackLabs is passionate about driving feedback loops in aid and philanthropy to foster better relationships with those they aim to help.

Our role there was to front the information stall that GlobalGiving had with interactive demonstrations of the GlobalGivingTIME  platform. We were also available to help with any logistical aspects and got to attend the breakout workshops that took place also.
IMG_0974 (1).jpgOne of the workshops I attended was about closed feedback loops in International Development. It was very interactive and involved four different organisations and we moved round the room in small groups every 10 minutes. The session included representatives from organisations World Vision, Ground Truth Solutions, Health Poverty Action, and Anna Densham the governance advisor for DFID. The whole event was particularly well organised and thought provoking.

Feedback is something that is not only important in International Development, it can be applied to all varieties of organisations. A point that was picked up on is that negative feedback is one of the most valuable things and should be welcomed openly and acted upon. Negative feedback is a bit like bad experiences in life. It is one of those things that will make you grow, thrive and improve as an organisation and an individual. img_0975

On the other side of the table

On Monday 10th I went to my first discussion panel event with the CEO, Eleanor. The discussion, ‘Tech, Society and Politics’ was organised by PS21, a global think tank. The event was held in an apartment opposite the Tate Modern. There was a variety of extremely interesting people from within the third sector and beyond.  Eleanor was one of the panelists and topics that were discussed included; Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to Nigeria, the future of technology, mobile money, and online crowdfunding. Now I have discovered EventBrite, I am sure there will be many more events to come.

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The next morning me and a few of the other volunteers headed to Imperial College London Volunteering Fair. The volunteer fair is targeted at students who are looking to engage in voluntary positions in the UK or overseas. We had a stall there whereby we exhibited the various roles available in GlobalGiving UK’s office and encouraged those who were interested to put their names and contact details down. This was also a great opportunity for us to promote the work that GlobalGiving does and the Evaluation Programme to potential volunteers.

In terms of coordinating said Evaluation Programme, this week we have been scheduling the returned volunteers individual debriefs. Eleanor and I had one via phone with one of the volunteers last Friday and two the following Friday, one was by phone and one in the office. Yesterday me and Jess, the other coordinator, conducted one of the debriefs which went well. This was an excellent chance to be able to practice interview skills- as an interviewer rather than an interviewee. Even though it was more of an informal feedback chat, you may not believe me when I say it was just as nerve-wracking conducting my very first exit interview as it is being interviewed. However, I am sure this is something which will become easier with time. It is valuable to have the experience to be on the other side of the table for a change.  img_0876

As well as the debrief last Friday, I also got to meet one of the volunteers who came into the office to meet the UK operations director of one of the non-profits they visited in Sierra Leone. This was useful to sit through this meeting with the volunteer and the Director as it enabled me to get a better understanding of the organisation and the types of conversations needed to write up the audit report. On this same day there was also another Crowdfunding workshop being held upstairs so I popped into this for a bit at lunchtime and it was interesting to speak to a few different charities who were attending this and hear about the work that they do.

I have finally remembered the door code and I feel like the coordination of the programme is progressing well. It will be interesting to have our check-in meeting with Eleanor next week to review the Evaluation Programme and begin planning for next years programme!

Starting my internship in central London

Note to self. Never take a giant suitcase across London on the tubes again.

What seems like ages ago now,  Monday 12th September I set off from my little Somerset village to start my Internship with GlobalGiving UK in London, and who knew it would take me nearly  5 hours.

To begin with, the journey began with half of Victoria station being barricaded off. This resulted in me having to find an alternative entrance, I followed a man who looked like he knew where he was going. Of course, the escalator was broken, so I took on the challenge and attempted to carry this massive suitcase with practically my whole life for the next few months in it down the 100000 steps. This was clearly a pathetic attempt, the man who led me into oblivion took pity on me struggling so turned back to help carry my case down.

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Setting off to a glorious start, I managed the get on the correct Tube, success. Then got on a bus towards where I was staying, only to realise it was going in the complete opposite direction. Anywho, I made it, eventually. The place I’m staying is a bit of a trek into central London, but that’s the reality of house prices in London and wanting the cheapest possible option! (Thank you, Airbnb). After settling in I headed out to the shops to get some food of course, I then began to prepare for my first day of placement!

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The role I am doing is Field Evaluation Programme Coordinator at GlobalGiving UK. GlobalGiving UK is a UK registered charity and is an online crowdfunding platform that is seeking to democratise aid and philanthropy. One of the programmes that is run involves training skilled volunteers to visit non-profit organisations overseas. This is the Field Evaluation Programme. The volunteers evaluate and provide practical support to the non-profits who are all partners of GlobalGiving. I am essentially coordinating the programme and volunteers currently taking part. There is also another coordinator, who I work closely with.

I began my first day at GlobalGiving UK by arriving an hour early of course, as I massively overestimated the time it would take to travel into central. The first day was very much about meeting the team and introductions. My first week was a blur of trying to remember everyone’s names, gathering various different usernames and log in details for different systems, and sussing out the best places to go for lunch. There was a monthly strategic meeting on Thursday, whereby the monthly performance is reviewed and updates and appreciations are given. I even managed to get an appreciation after only being there two days!

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On Thursday I went for lunch with Eleanor, the CEO, this was an opportunity for her to gain an understanding of what I was hoping to get out of the placement, what areas I seek to improve on and the upcoming work schedule. On the Friday I attended a Crowdfunding workshop that was being run by GlobalGiving for small charities. This was very interesting and gave me a better overview of how closely GlobalGiving works with it’s partners.

If there is one thing that I have learnt from my first week, it is the realisation of the things that you can not learn from University. There are certain things that University cannot teach you as every organisation is unique. I went into the role expecting to be able to apply what I had learnt in some of the units from first and second year. This was not the case, and it really emphasised to me that as well as the theoretical knowledge you gain from lectures and seminars, there are so many other soft skills that you acquire from university.