Features of the Website
- We certify charities. Certification is based on 3 areas of accountability; philosophy & approach, financial health, and performance.
- A ‘Given Tree Certification’ holds charities accountable for using best practices, showing transparency with financials and reporting on how funds are spent and projects are progressing.
- Charities post updates/photos/video so donors can see how their contributions are being used.
- 100% of your donation goes to the charity. Given Tree is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, run by volunteers, who are professionals with years of experience with non-profits both local and international, online networking, financials, accounting, marketing, and more.
- You can follow your friends and see the interactions they share with their favorite charities.
- Any of your favorite charities can sign up, but we hope to especially shine light on the smaller charities with great causes who don’t get the focus they deserve and don’t have the resources to create an online platform for raising money.
Plans for the Website
- Having a virtual tree grow based on funds raised (tree on the project page and maybe a personal tree on your profile).
- Donating sometimes gives gift-to-a-friend donations – when corp sponsors available (more on this to come!).
- Create your own mini-campaigns for your favorite charity eg. “BBQ party to raise $500 for Haiti Helper’s Build-A-School campaign!”
- Facebook integration and other social features.
About the Team / How We Got Started
The founder Angie Holzer, with a background in working for local and international non-profits, two years ago came up with the idea. And with help from a few friends, the idea came to life…but she still needed someone to develop the website. One day as she was talking with a friend of her’s and web developer, Brady Mitchell, about wanting to create a place where any charity, especially the smaller ones, can be assessed and then get help fundraising, Brady quickly agreed to help. Brady volunteered to take on the project in his spare time, and was currently working at the same company as me. Brady asked me if I would be interested in the project after he had mentioned the concept of Given Tree to me and I said I had thought about building a social network for charities in the past.
It’s hard to believe but Brady and I started developing the code for the website over a year ago now. Angie leads the certification and the legalities side of organization. Recently we added Frank Leng, who also worked at the same company as Brady and I (he built the lovely signup page you guys are gonna use to signup). Designer Monica Ewing graciously donated her time to providing the designs for the website. Given Tree now even has a board of directors as well, which includes Angie, Brady and 3 others.
Another Charity Website? How is this different?
I think the easiest way to show how Given Tree is different is to compare it to a couple of the (very different) big non-profit websites.
Causes – I was a big fan of Causes, a Facebook app for charities. I’ve used it many times in the past to make a donation on behalf of a family member’s birthday. I like a lot of innovative things they’ve done; using FaceBook as their platform, finding unique ways to raise money (aka. watch this ad video or fill in this survey to raise money for a charity). How we differ from Causes? I was disappointed to find out Causes is a for profit business. It was actually co-founded by Sean Parker (creator of Napster). Also, with Facebook as Causes’ primary platform, as Facebook changed (like dropping app boxes on profiles), they’ve had a hard time adapting and it’s not the same experience it once was.
Kiva – I’ve actually been surprised how many people reply to me after telling them about Given Tree with “Oh, like Kiva”. How we differ from Kiva? The primary difference is Kiva focuses only on micro-finance projects, which is about *lending* money to people in developing countries for business ideas. While this is noble, Given Tree also includes other projects like building wells, education, immunizations, curriculum for schools, etc. We applaud Kiva for what they have done, but feel there’s much more that needs to be done where they don’t reach. You can read about concerns and issues people have had with them on Kiva’s Wikipedia page.
Charity:Water – We will lend a lot of inspiration from Charity:Water. I’m obviously a big fan for Charity:Water birthday campaigns, I would consider Given Tree a success if we can provide the Charity:Water experience for Given Tree certified charities. I respect how transparent Charity:Water is, how professional their videos and photos are, and the care they put into their campaigns. Of course we likely won’t have the resources for such professional photos/videos, especially when our focus is on more than 1 charity, but eventually I’d like to see our media of a similar quality.
Given Tree will launch with with it’s first charity very soon! We have 3 more charities ready to launch soon after. We plan on getting a blog up and running, where we can post more updates like this one on building the website and challenges we encounter.
One thing we learned while building giventree.org is just how long some of these features take to build. For this reason, we have decided to release features in phases. We’ll be launching a very basic version of the website in the next month. If you’ve got any neat ideas for Given Tree we’re all ears, post them in the comments below or contact one of us.
So, get over to the signup page and we’ll email you when we launch! http://giventree.org