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20 Years Of Change—And Counting: A Conversation On GlobalGiving’s Business Partnerships

This year, GlobalGiving celebrates 20 years of connecting nonprofits around the world with the resources they need to create meaningful change in their communities. I asked Donna Callejon, veteran GlobalGiver and interim CEO, to share her reflections on GlobalGiving’s journey and discuss what lies ahead. She also flipped the script, asking about my experience.


Donna Callejon

Interim CEO, GlobalGiving

Who She Is:

Having been with GlobalGiving since 2003, Donna assumed the role of Interim CEO in December 2021. She previously led the development and execution of our organization-wide strategy to leverage the power of the GlobalGiving donor community to support community-led response to natural and humanitarian disasters. Prior to focusing on this work, Donna built and led GlobalGiving's corporate partnerships and vetting and grants programs and teams. Donna serves on the board of i2Capital, an innovative conservation financing B Corp. She is a California native with a B.S. in Managerial Economics from UC Davis and lives in Maryland with her partner, Debbie, and four-legged family members Bodie + Oliver.

Kristina: When you look back on your time with GlobalGiving, what does this 20-year milestone mean to you?

 
Donna: It’s almost unreal, to be honest. It’s been such a labor of love for so many of us, and I’m mostly feeling gratitude. Gratitude to our founders Dennis and Mari for inviting me to help them lead this grand experiment. Gratitude for all the GlobalGivers (team members) who’ve contributed to our survival and success. Gratitude for our donors, corporate partners, and the nonprofit partners we serve. But ultimately, what I feel grateful for in a personal sense is the many deep and lasting relationships I’ve had a chance to develop in the past 18+ years.

Donna: You’ve consulted for many leadership companies during your career. What do you think makes working with GlobalGiving unique for our partners?

 
Kristina: GlobalGiving is more intentional in its approach to partnerships than any place I have worked before. Many organizations working in service of companies are focused on being relevant in the market and accommodating to the client or partner. It is an approach that focuses on being half a step ahead. GlobalGiving, on the other hand, is more focused on being relevant and influential. We are thinking 10 steps ahead, for our own growth and for others, in order to transform the sector and drive change. Our willingness to make decisions based on that pursuit of transformation is what sets us apart—we are playing the long game. It’s a unique and tremendous value-add for companies that are equally committed to creating lasting change.

Kristina: What have you learned about how our partnerships with companies can positively impact community-led changemakers?

 
Donna: Wow, I feel like I have so many examples of ways in which our corporate partners have pushed us to lean into our commitment to support community-led changemakers and vice versa. Partnerships that fall into the first category include the groundbreaking Pepsi Refresh Project in 2011 and the early COVID-19 grant program for women business owners supported by Sara Blakely and Spanx. On the flip side, we often gently nudge companies to think boldly about supporting truly locally led organizations that otherwise would struggle to implement the interventions and positive change they seek in their communities.

One of my favorite examples of a brand really “getting it,” and having that meaningful impact, is the Island Spirit Fund we manage in partnership with Cruzan Rum. Since hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated the US Virgin Islands in 2017, Cruzan has been consistently supporting local anchor organizations like the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development. This multi-year support in the face of the disappointing US government response—and exacerbated by the pandemic—has been crucial to maintaining the health of the nonprofit community on St. Croix. This funding has included investments in sustainable agriculture, solar certification programs, and more—all driven by local changemakers, and with lasting impact.

Donna: Since we’ve doubled down on our commitment to being more community led, how has your team’s work with our corporate partners changed?

 
Kristina: We have been talking about community-led principles for several years now, but it was difficult to synthesize them into tangible talking points or tools for meaningfully engaging our corporate partners. We finally have clear, actionable commitments. As a result, we can have constructive conversations about how to design a program to be more community led and ensure a more equitable, trusting, and impactful relationship between companies and nonprofits. I have been amazed by how easily the team has incorporated the commitments into our conversations with companies and how positively our corporate partners have responded. With feedback such as “You are helping us be more equitable” and “These commitments articulate our aspirations, too,” we know we are on the right track. It’s been incredibly rewarding!

Kristina: What excites you about GlobalGiving’s next chapter?

 
Donna: I’m excited that we are clearly past the “survive and advance” stage of our evolution. We have proved over and over that our model works, and now we are on the cusp of making some really important investments in our infrastructure, mindset, and products that will allow “future GlobalGiving” to scale and innovate with new levels of impact. It’s also become clearer to me that GlobalGiving works because people—our team, our partners, donors—trust us. And we trust them back. That trust is the heartbeat of what makes GlobalGiving special and successful. And if we stay rooted in humility and continue on the path to creating a more equitable and community-led sector, the sky is truly the limit.

Learn more about the evolution of GlobalGiving’s business partnerships at our upcoming anniversary event, “Community Forward: Celebrating 20 Years Of GlobalGiving,” on March 23, 2022.

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Featured Photo: Protect mental health, keep our centres open! by Tea Leaf Trust

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