After quitting his corporate job in America, Gret Glyer decided to spend three years living in Malawi, Africa.
There, he worked on implementing sustainable farming and fundraising for impoverished families, but soon grew frustrated with how inefficient international charities are at solving local emergencies.
Be it a young girl in Malawi needing emergency treatment for wounds from a crocodile attack, or paying the tuitions for one Ugandan girl’s education, Gret couldn’t see any platform that could bridge the resources of families in developed countries to tackle the emergencies of the developing world in an agile way.
And hence, DonorSee was born.
What is DonorSee?
DonorSee is a crowdfunding platform that looks to bypass big international aid organizations by bringing your money directly to aid workers. Think of the fundraising crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, but with a specific focus on international aid.
Aid workers who work locally in developing countries determine what projects to post on DonorSee – from raising several hundred dollars to buy a child formula milk, or thousands of dollars to build a home in Nyendo, Uganda. According to their website, the platform collects an average 3.75% fee on donations and makes sure that 90% of the donated money goes directly into implementing the projects, rather than administrative or overhead costs.
Like its name suggests, DonorSee also tries to make sure donors see the exact impact that they are having. Aid workers update donors with videos and photos on the site and make sure that the impact they make is clear.
With $150,000 of seed funding in his pockets, Gret believes he can make DonorSee the new face of charity.
“We deliberately made DonorSee a corporation instead of a charity so we can bypass the same paperwork that makes charities inefficient,” explained Gret, “at the same time, we want to make sure we hold aid workers who implement their projects accountable by offering public updates through our site.”
Ruffling the Peace Corps’ Feathers
Of course, humanitarian aid is a multi-faceted issue, and Gret’s journey with DonorSee hasn’t been without its challenges.
Earlier this year, the Peace Corps, whose 8,000 volunteers are potential valuable DonorSee users, announced a complete ban of the platform in February 2017, citing federal regulation concerns.
In essence, Peace Corps has a long-standing policy that does not allow volunteers to accept funds for projects from outside sources, which means Peace Corp aid workers cannot solicit or accept money from DonorSee. This is done for the sake of accountability and clear management, so that all donated funds will end up in projects that they are meant for.
While charitable and volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps and a company like DonorSee are ultimately striving for the same goal, Gret also harbors no illusions about the inefficiencies of big charities.
Inefficient management, poor fund allocation and high volunteer turnover are just some of the problems that Gret sees in large charities. In addition, while the need for clear accounting of resources is needed in any large scale projects, some Peace Corps volunteers do feel helpless for being instructed not to share their personal medical packs to help with local emergencies.
Rather than achieving accountability through rigorous internal accounting, DonorSee makes sure its projects are doing what they are supposed to by publicly sharing milestones through videos and photo updates posted by aid workers. This openness places the power in the hands of donors, who can raise concerns, stop donations, or file complaints publicly about any project that is not achieving what it promises.
According to Gret, the DonorSee team also has a meticulous vetting process for each project, many of which are run by trusted, personal connections of Gret.
Searching for a New Model
So, can there be a middle ground between large charities and for-profit startups like DonorSee?
Even though the Peace Corps has turned down Gret’s request for a partnership, DonorSee might have shed light on one of the core problems of large charities.
In a video posted on YouTube, Gret explained that had it not been for DonorSee, a young girl who was severely injured when crossing a river in Malawi to get to her parents’ field might not have been able to get the proper emergency medical treatment she did.
In fact, the agility with which DonorSee’s democratized version of charity operates, whereby small projects can be launched in minutes and crowdfunded within days, might be exactly what bureaucratic charities lack when tackling local emergencies in developing countries.
Besides tackling emergencies and putting out fires, however, a large part of humanitarian aid is also about building capacity and self-reliance – in other words, to teach others how to fish, instead of handing them fish.
Perhaps the challenge of lifting the 800+ million people in the world still living in extreme poverty needs to be addressed with a multitude of solutions. The future of humanitarian aid could be a field where charitable organizations with global resources focus on research, education and development that leads to long-term impact and independence in the Global South, and startups like DonorSee can leverage their agility to focus on addressing the immediate short-term needs of local families.
You can support DonorSee campaigns on their website here: www.donorsee.com