Today we’re launching a new website for GiveDirectly—the first major update since www.givedirectly.org went live in 2011.
Our main goal in reimagining the site was to create radical transparency into what we do and how well we do it. We’ve invested a lot to integrate cutting-edge technology into our field model so that we have real-time data to guide internal management. Why not open up that same data to the public? All we needed were APIs to connect the website and our internal field database (which is powered by our technology partner, Segovia).
Transparency is of course a non-profit buzzword, but I usually see it used in reference to publishing quarterly or annual reports, packaged for marketing purposes—not the kind of unfiltered data and facts I want as a donor. We wanted to use our technology to take transparency to an entirely new level.
Two features of the new site that I’m most excited about:
First, you can track how we’re doing on our most important performance metrics, at the same time we do. For example, the performance chart on the home page mirrors the dashboard we use internally to track performance in the field. If recipients aren’t understanding our program, you’ll learn about it when we do. If the follow-up team falls behind or outperforms, metrics will update accordingly. We want to be honest about our successes and failures alike.
Second, you can verify our claims about performance. We don’t think you should have to trust that we’re giving you accurate information. Each “Verify this” tag downloads a csv file with the underlying raw data (anonymized). Every piece of data is generated by a GiveDirectly staff member’s work in the field and is stored using proprietary software; it’s our end-to-end model in action. Explore the data for yourself and absolutely question us on what you find.
There is still a lot of work to be done. In the near term, we’ll be building out the API to incorporate more metrics, and releasing more data as fast as we can clean it. We’ll also be making visual tweaks to make the site easier to read and interact with—from font changes to better rendering on retina displays. The longer term vision is all about innovation around data sharing; one feature we’ve already prototyped, for example, is a real-time “feed” of our staff’s individual interactions with recipients.
There are other changes worth noting, too: more about our ongoing impact evaluations; highlights of the public discussion about how our model is influencing the sector; and a more granular breakdown of exactly how a donor’s dollar gets spent. There’s also a new efficiency metric for our fundraising operation: cost per dollar raised. We think it keeps us—and hopefully donors—focused on what matters when it comes to fundraising spend: the return. For example, we’ll evaluate and report what we spent rebuilding the website in relation to how much additional revenue we’re able to generate.
And yet: a lot hasn’t changed. The site is still pretty simple and puts information ahead of complicated graphics and photos. Our goal has always been to let the data and evidence speak for themselves; we think that on this new site, they do just that.
A final note of thanks, which feels right as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday. We were lucky to partner with Brooklyn United, whose incredibly talented and committed team helped us define a new visual identity that is distinctively and authentically “GiveDirectly,” and will stand the test of time. We were also lucky that Thanh Tran lent her top-notch development skills and product acumen to this project, without which we wouldn’t be where we are.
We’re excited to hear what you think!