Today I had a chat with Olivia Cosgrove, who is the inspirational founder of Donor2Deed, an advanced application that uses geolocation services like Google Earth and Maps to show donors how their money is being put to good work in projects around the world. Donor2Deed is currently mapping the Pakistan relief effort and providing this service free to charities who want to raise money for the victims of the floods.
What is Donor2Deed all about?
Donor2Deed (D2D) is an integrated online fundraising and communications tool that uses Google Earth and Maps to connect donors directly to projects and automatically feedback progress updates to those donors giving them a unique giving experience. Donor2Deed has a FaceBook and iPhone application and can link to a non-profit’s Twitter account.
What is special about this application?
Donor2Deed is special in the following ways:
1. It gives donors more choice as they can contribute to the project, a cost heading within a project, for example, materials, staff or transport costs, or they can buy a unit, for example a malaria net for a beneficiary. This enhances the transparency of the donation and gives the donor more ownership on how his money is spent.
2. D2D gives the donor an understanding of the impact of his/her donation. It automatically feeds information back to the donor on the progress of the project in a format (SMS, Email etc) and in a timeframe that the donor chooses. We make it easy for the charity to give their donor a personal experience of the difference that they are making.
3. The staff on the ground can upload updates, pictures and videos. This gives the donor an ‘on-the-ground’ real time feel for what is going on and the impact that he is making.
4. Maps and earth are at the core of the giving process – it is a unique way to encourage people to give, D2D has a patent pending on the process.
What features are new?
• Maps is at the core of the giving process. It is location driven.
• Donating to a certain part of the project – being an accountant and having worked in lots of overseas projects I understand that it is not hard to break your project costs into 3 or 4 headings (Materials, staff, admin etc). It a unique way to inform the donor of the real costs of a project and enhance their understanding of what it takes to actually deliver a project – e.g. there is no point having a 4×4 20 tonne truck in the rainy season in Africa – you need a lot of ox and cart – they can navigate the slippery roads.
• Enabling a charity to automatically push project updates to the donors of a specific project. Before D2D some charities gave big donors special privaleges by connecting them to a project and updating them on the progress. D2D makes it easy for charities to connect with the youngest and smallest donor. Transparency should not be reserved for the big donors. Everybody deserves it.
• All the charities have video, pictures and narrative on what happens in projects and in particular an emergency response. Donor2Deed takes that information and assembles it in an interactive way on maps. People get a real sense of what is happening in that location.
How will it help the people on the ground?
People on the ground can access the system to see who is doing what projects where, i.e. who has delivered Food to a village.
We are working on enabling people on the ground to upload data via SMS. 2G is the main service in developing countries and the mobile network is much bigger than the landline network.
How did you think of this?
I have worked overseas a lot and on my return people always had two questions: Where does my money go and did I make a difference?
I have 2 stories that inspired Donor2Deed:
Tsunami 04/05 - My Granny stuffed £200 into my pocket when I was leaving for Indonesia – to help the people. I ended up buying crayons and paper for the kids and ladies underwear to give women back some dignity – they lost everything. The kids drew pictures of that fateful day when the 4 waves came (26.12.04). I went to great lengths to bring some of those pictures home and to tell my Granny the difference that she had made. I realized that I wanted to tell everyone the difference that they made.
Kosovo 99 - I led a shelter team that became the no. 1 shelter team to respond to the emergency in 1999 after the war. We were the only team to complete its target of 700 homes prior to the Balkan winter setting in –one of the reasons we achieved this was because the public gave generously – €2 million – this allowed us to get out and buy wood ahead of other agencies – we could respond quicker as we did not have to wait for large international donors to sign contracts that covered the cost of wood.
The impact of their donations was immense and I had no way to communicate that to them. Imagine if I could have told them – I had no way to communicate with those who gave and the admin burden on the charity I worked for would have been enormous. I wanted to simplify the process and make it fast, as close to real time as possible.
What’s your background Olivia?
For my sins I am a chartered accountant and tax consultant. I trained as an auditor with KPMG and have worked with some of the largest entrepreneurs in Ireland, for example, setting up a life assurance business.
What I realised was – as an auditor I was very good at systems – emergencies are all about systems, creating, implementing, evaluating and improving. In addition, as an auditor I had to become a good communicator – as I had to get information out of people who did not want to give it to me.
KPMG gave me 6 months unpaid leave to work as an accountant with an aid organistaion called Concern Worldwide (who was an audit client) in the Rwandan refugee camps after the genocide.
What is your experience of relief efforts?
Indonesia, Tsunami, 05: Developed and implemented logistics system for international medical agency operating in Banda Aceh, the worst hit area of the Tsunami.
Malawi Famine, 02: Set up Logistics operation to support nutrition and food security programme procuring 3,000 tons of food and coordinating with the World Food Programme (WFP).
Afghanistan/Pakistan (Post 9/11), 01/02: Developed inexperienced management team into effective unit that could plan, prioritize and delegate tasks to facilitate the construction and management of four refugee camps to accommodate 60,000 Afghan refugees on the border of Pakistan with a specific emphasis on preventing outbreaks of diarrheal diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
Mozambique Floods, 00: Conducted interim review of logistics operation in Mozambique Floods. Liaised closely with WFP to ensure that transportation of commodities to Extended Distribution Points occurred as required.
Kosovo, 99: Publicly recognized by UNHCR as the leader of the only project to successfully complete target to rehabilitate the homes of 700 families before Balkan winter set in. At the request of UNHCR, coordinated the activities of over thirty NGOs to rehabilitate the homes of over 80,000 people in the worst affected area of Kosovo immediately after the war ended.
Haiti 98: Implemented financial accounting system in the region. This included training staff and testing the system fully prior to it going live.
Malawi, 97-98: Worked with the World Bank as a Senior lecturer in Accounting responsible for teaching and development of core subjects.
Rwanda Genocide, 95-96: Head of Finance in Refugee camps in Tanzania: Annual budget $15 million. She managed several projects within Rwanda in 96 including, Child reunification and malnutrition projects, transit centers and displaced camps.
Northern Ireland 85-94: Worked with disadvantaged children across of a range of projects from cross community work to training local youth basketball teams.
How are you spreading the message about Donor2Deed at the moment?
Emailing, social media, blogging and interviewing. Currently hoping to link with the BBC, still working on it.
Hoping to get linked onto the DEC appeal page to encourage people to donate to the Pakistan relief effort.
What’s the one thing people can do to help you?
Donor2Deed has developed this tool and is giving it to charities for free to help them raise money for the Pakistan Relief effort. People can help by spreading the website:
• Email it to others
• Put it on their blogs
• Twitter (@donor2deed just set up)
• LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms
• Donate via our website
• Give us some feedback to help us do a better job next time
Final words of wisdom?
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” - Vincent van Gogh
I guess it is summing up creating Donor2Deed. I decided to take all my skills (as an accountant) and overseas experience to solve a problem – and it took a lot of courage, effort and self-belief. I also want to encourage others to ‘Go for it’. We are all experts, you don’t have to be able to shout it to the world – just use your expertise to do the right thing – whatever that is – in my case – help charities become more transparent to their donors.
The CEO of Donor2Deed, Olivia Cosgrove, is a chartered accountant. She trained as an auditor with KPMG. She has 15 years field experience in a wide range of leadership roles in humanitarian operations such as the Tsunami in Indonesia, Afghanistan post 9/11 and the Rwandan Genocide. She experienced the challenges at first hand on the ground to account for expenditure, report to donors and communicate the impact that donors are making. As a result, she has designed the tools to give Donors additional transparency, demonstrating the impact that they make while reducing the administration burden on you, the non-profit. Donor2Deed has a patent pending, has been backed by the Head of Technology in Google and has secured a high level advisory panel that includes Microsoft.