After wearing many hats and building even more relationships through GlobalGiving, Senior Community Engagement Associate Miranda Cleland shares what she’s learned.
Seven and a half years ago, I sat in my American University dorm room, writing project reports, fundraising emails, and social media posts for Aid Afghanistan for Education. I had just volunteered to help out after listening to the founder, Hassina Sherjan, give an inspiring talk at the student center about the state of education for women and girls in Afghanistan. I asked, “What can I help you with?” She answered, “Will you help manage our GlobalGiving account?”
That was my first GlobalGiving title: Project Leader. Since then, I’ve been a marketing and communications intern, fellow, champion for community engagement, senior community engagement associate, and soon, alum. GlobalGiving has brought me all around the world, working with colleagues in London and Bangalore, visiting nonprofit partners in Lebanon and Palestine. It even brought me back home again, when my mother’s organization, the Collinsville Food Pantry, graduated from the GlobalGiving Accelerator in 2019.
Here are three lessons I’m taking with me as I depart from GlobalGiving for a new role mobilizing support for Palestinian children.
The world is smaller than we think.
Not long after I started working at GlobalGiving, we were able to support Prosper, a community leader in Burundi, in raising enough money to get a critical heart surgery for ten-year-old Kevin. I was struck by how global Kevin’s story is: Donors in the US gave enough through GlobalGiving to help Prosper send Kevin to India for the surgery. Kevin returned safely to his hometown of Ruhagarika, Burundi, where he lived happily with his mother and little sister, and went to school with his friends.
My part of this story was miniscule: I answered the phone when Prosper called the GlobalGiving office.
Just a few days ago, I learned that Kevin died earlier in February, four years after his life-saving surgery. I will be honest with you: I cried.
I have never met Prosper, Kevin, or his family in person, and I have never set foot in Burundi. But Kevin’s story, even with this devastating ending, encouraged me. That we, as humans, can have relationships through screens and phone calls, and those relationships are incredibly meaningful. That even when there is suffering far from home, we can feel empathy so deeply. I cried again when I learned that donations paid for Kevin’s funeral—such a strong gesture of care and solidarity from across the world.
We are so isolated from one another right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this story reminded me that the world is so much smaller than it seems.
Women of color community leaders are leading the way.
Anyone who has worked in the social sector can attest to how many women make things happen. Women, especially women of color, are truly leading the way toward a more equitable world in every sense.
I think this is true everywhere in the world, but in my time at GlobalGiving, I was impressed at the leadership roles that East African women have taken in the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM). From Fatuma’s peacebuilding work to Dr. Grace’s popular education approach, it is abundantly clear that women of color community leaders know exactly how to address the problems their communities face. Individual donors and funders like GlobalGiving can support their expertise and mission by providing flexible funding and training resources, without burdensome grant applications or reporting requirements.
We work with people, not projects.
It turns out, leaving a job is a lot of work. Handing over projects and programs to my smart and caring colleagues, I know things like the Peer Learning Network and Online Fundraising Academy will continue without me. Everything seemed to be falling into place until a colleague asked me, “What about all your relationships with our nonprofit partners?”
This question stumped me at first. GlobalGiving has never had a formal relationship management process for our nonprofit community, so I couldn’t just assign a new account manager to all the partners I’ve gotten to know personally over the years. It wasn’t as easy as sending a mass email to hand over those relationships.
And so, in short, I decided not to “hand over” those relationships at all.
GlobalGiving’s nonprofit partners know that they can always contact our team for support, and I won’t be able to answer those questions anymore. But I’m confident that the relationships we’ve built can’t be adequately captured in some software program anyway and aren’t limited to the funder-grantee dynamic.
I look forward to staying in touch with the hundreds of nonprofit partners who’ve become personal friends.
Like Hanine, who supports Syrian refugees in Lebanon and helped Beirut rebuild after the devastating port explosion last August.
Like Annette, who is helping a community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo strengthen local leadership and knowledge.
Like Vasumathi, who works to improve medical education in India and has already offered me her extra bedroom in Mumbai.
There are simply too many to list, and I am beyond grateful to know I’ll have a home wherever I travel. If you’re a GlobalGiving nonprofit partner, please send me a message and keep in touch—I mean it.
I am not sure there will ever be a good time to leave a job as fulfilling as GlobalGiving, but I do know there’s a good time to start something new. I’ll be joining Defense for Children International – Palestine to help build a global movement in support of Palestinian children. DCIP is the only human rights organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian children, and I couldn’t be more excited to join their team.
I suppose there’s only one thing left to say: thank you. To all of GlobalGiving’s nonprofit partners I’ve met online or in person, to all the generous donors I’ve spoken to over the phone, to my brilliant and kind coworkers, thank you for all these truly unforgettable years.
Featured Photo: Miranda Cleland by Karama Organisation for Women and Children's Development