Crowdsourcing: Yesterday’s Corporate Philanthropy Is Today’s Branding and Community-Building

Today, corporate philanthropy decisions draw on the collective wisdom of diverse groups of people of all generations and backgrounds, including members of the global community being served, social innovators, customers, employees, and others.

globalgiving storytelling

Old corporate giving, 10-20 years ago: Decisions were made behind closed doors, among a small, select, close-knit group of people. New corporate philanthropy, often part of the CSR strategy: Decisions draw on the collective wisdom of diverse groups of people of all generations and backgrounds, including members of the global community being served, social innovators, customers, employees, and others. The vehicle: Crowdsourcing. The value: Good for business, and better funding decisions to improve communities and the world.


GlobalGiving’s Experience With Crowdsourcing

To learn more, I interviewed John Hecklinger, Chief Program Officer, GlobalGiving Foundation. GlobalGiving is an online resource that connects donors with causes around the world. Since 2002, GlobalGiving has raised $36,900,150 from 140,976 donors for 3,677 projects worldwide. Among their various services, GlobalGiving assists corporations and foundations with crowdsourcing campaigns.

1. What is “crowdsourcing” when it relates to corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility?


JH: Crowdsourcing can mean many different things. Beth Kanter helpfully identifies four distinct types of crowdsourcing–creating collective knowledge or wisdom, crowd creation, crowd voting, and crowd funding. GlobalGiving deploys all four types of crowdsourcing in partnership with corporations; companies have used one or a combination of the four approaches to match corporate social innovation efforts with community needs, to engage customers in new ways, and to increase employee social engagement.

2. How does Global Giving assist companies with their crowdsourcing campaigns? And why Global Giving…how does crowdsourcing fit into the context of your mission?

JH: Our Crowdsourcing Social Innovation program uses a combination of voting and crowdfunding as a way to qualify organizations to participate in GlobalGiving. We do this through online funding challenges. Our most recent challenge qualified over 75 new organizations for GlobalGiving, and generated over $570,000 in crowdfunding. More broadly, you can view GlobalGiving itself as a product created by the collective work of our donors and project leaders who provide nearly all the content you see on GlobalGiving’s web site. Our Storytelling Project asks beneficiaries talk about their communities in an effort to build collective wisdom about the performance of GlobalGiving’s network of organizations.


We’ve learned a lot about working with the crowd, so we’re in a good position to help companies conceive and implement giving programs with a crowdsourced component. GlobalGiving’s mission is to drive funds to great projects, and we’ve found that companies can really help motivate the crowd to identify and fund ideas that would not otherwise have a chance.

3. Who are some of your corporate clients and which campaigns has Global Giving helped with?

JH: Most recently we worked with Ford Motor Company on The Focus Global Test Drive program. People around the world submitted videos describing why they wanted to test drive the 2012 Ford Focus in Madrid and which charitable organization they thought should receive a $10,000 donation from Ford. GlobalGiving helped get the word out to the crowd and is vetting and disbursing funds to the 40 winners, selected in part by the crowd’s response to the submitted videos.


We helped Pepsi design and implement the Pepsi Refresh Program. GlobalGiving vets and funds the monthly winners and monitors their progress in cooperation with GOOD, Inc.

We helped Eli Lilly & Co. identify and crowdfund organizations around the world helping those suffering from tuberculosis. Lilly sponsored a Lilly MDR-TB Partnership challenge on GlobalGiving last November.

We worked with InnoCentive and the Rockefeller Foundation to find solutions to specific technology problems faced by GlobalGiving project leaders. The community of InnoCentive problem solvers generated five innovative solutions to problems around clean water supply and delivery.


4. Has Global Giving assisted other philanthropies with crowdsourcing other than businesses ?

JH: The Packard Foundation sponsored a Green Open Challenge through GlobalGiving, which identified and crowdfunded organizations addressing climate change through education and smart technology. We worked with the World Bank on the Urgent Evoke social entrepreneurship online game. The game itself was an exercise in creating collective wisdom, and GlobalGiving ran a crowdfunding challenge for the top social entrepreneurs in the game.

5. Based on your experience with crowdsourcing, what are the TO DOs and NOT TO DOs for companies that are considering setting up a campaigns?



  • Set clear objectives and success metrics
  • Set clear rules and enforce them consistently
  • Provide immediate feedback to encourage activity
  • Make sure your design stimulates desired activity and discourages simple gaming


  • Don’t over-incentivize participants
  • Don’t assume the crowd will show up on its own
  • Don’t underestimate the need to moderate content and to support participants

Pioneers and Iterative Learning


PepsiCo [a client] is a pioneer in crowdsourcing funding. Having launched the Pepsi Refresh Program just a year ago, PepsiCo is iteratively refining the program to achieve its purposes for the greatest benefit. According to company spokespersons, quoted in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, the value of the Pepsi Refresh Program is three-way: consumers will win, the company brand will win, and the community will win. (See my 2011 prediction on the win-win-win.)

Various company officials are quoted in the NYT and the WSJ saying that PepsiCo sees the program as a way to build brand awareness, establish long-term relationships with consumers, allow the company to learn about its customers’ priorities, and help support individuals in building their communities based on their ideas. According to the WSJ, PepsiCo is so pleased with the program’s impact that they are expanding Pepsi Refresh to China and Latin America this year.

Social media bring visibility to the learning experiences of companies that are leading the way with crowd creation, voting, and funding. The experiences of trailblazers will accelerate the adoption and success for the companies that follow. Hecklinger agrees. “Yes, there is a lot of iterative learning in this area. We have never done the exact same thing twice. We’re always tweaking the process, the goals, the incentives, the platform, etc. Rapid experimentation and continuous improvement is our approach.”


With the expert resources of organizations like GlobalGiving, and innovative pioneers like PepsiCo, corporations engaged in CSR and philanthropy will be equipped to achieve their business objectives and to make the world better.


About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions. Korngold's latest book is "A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot," published by Palgrave Macmillan for release on 1/7/14