Earlier today, Michelle Obama announced the launch of the Obama Foundation’s Global Girls Alliance, an effort to provide more educational access to adolescent girls around the world. An estimated 98 million adolescent girls aren’t currently enrolled in school despite plenty of evidence proving that better attendance correlated with reduced poverty, better life chances, and especially lower rates of childhood marriage and mother and infant mortality.
The Obama Foundation raised nearly $233 million in private donations last year but in this instance appears, for some reason, to be operating largely as a cause coordinator–not putting up its own money. In addition to creating a network with 1,400 different grassroots cause groups sharing lessons, resources, and ideas, it’s partnering with crowdfunding giant GoFundMe to create a Global Girls Alliance hub where groups can ask the public for more support.
“We chose this model of support to grassroots leaders so that donors can see and support real people and real projects, and so that the foundation is supplementing but not replicating the work that other major nonprofits in this field are doing,” says Tiffany Drake, the director of the Global Girls Alliance. “Our hope is to create an additional way for grassroots leaders around the world to get funding, closing that last 10 feet between financial support and an organization seeking help.”
Drake says that only about 3% of all humanitarian aid is directed at education. That’s down from close to 7% in 2015. While she declined to address how much the foundation had spent to jump-start this effort, some costs will be ongoing. GGA plans to provide its network with special speakers and webinars to spur growth. Much of that will happen virtually, but the group is also hoping to find more ways to get the public more involved, which Drake noted might include starting a girl’s education book club, or encouraging people to collaborate more directly with groups they support.
Some of the larger partners that could share lessons with emerging startups include groups like Rise Up in the U.S., Camfed in sub-Saharan Africa, the Study Hall Education Foundation in India, and World of Letters in Jordan. At the same time, Drake says that many of the smaller grassroots nonprofits may be tackling whatever issues seem the most pressing in their own backyard, from “mentoring girls in Kenya, to hosting leadership trainings in Nepal, to providing sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in Zambia.”
To that end, the GoFundMe hub is both a fundraising tool and awareness builder. It makes clear that these projects may tackle all manner of barriers (“physical, cultural, financial”) because improving education isn’t just about funding new schools or ways to get there; in many cases it means changing the misogynist or defeatist attitudes and beliefs that also limit girls’ chances of enrolling or staying. As with many hubs, donors can contribute to individual nonprofit group campaigns in various counties.
There are currently five campaigns there, with asks ranging from $5,000 to $48,000, and a central Global Girls Alliance Fund that will be spread among projects that that group has identified. These range from “mentoring girls in Uganda to hiring educators in India to covering school-related expenses for girls in Guatemala,” the site says. That fund is supported by Procter & Gamble’s Always brand, which has already given $50,000 and will match up to $200,000 in contributions between now and the end of the year. The alliance and GoFundMe plan to add more campaigns as they’re submitted and vetted.
For GoFundMe, this collaboration helps cement the idea that not just individuals but nonprofits can use the service, and from any country. “The Global Girls Alliance’s mission aligns perfectly with the core of what GoFundMe is and wants to become,” says a company spokesman in an email to Fast Company.