Givology, under the leadership of Co-Founders Joyce Meng and Jennifer Chen, is connecting volunteers and donors to people and projects around the world. Together, through crowdsourcing, they are attempting to make quality education available to all children, and thereby transform communities one student at a time.
This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Joyce shares about pioneering, creating community and about moving from thinking to doing.
Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream, Joyce? How did that originate?
Joyce Meng: What we’re trying to do with Givology is trying to maximize the impact per dollar so that the aid in the world can be done a lot more efficiently with a lot more accountability and transparency. It’s not about what you send in terms of textbooks. It’s about the exit opportunities once students finish a program. What are the community differences that are created through that program? That’s what Givology aims to do.
In terms of the origination, part of it was that I’ve been lucky to have so many things in my life. Education transformed my life. My parents were immigrants from Taiwan. We didn’t have very much growing up, but what they did instill in me was this dream that anything was possible, and that if you have a good education and you work really hard, everything is potentially achievable.
SDB: How do you think your day job as a financial investor is helping you with Givology?
Joyce Meng: We’ve got more than 3,600 students around the world in 28 countries. Givology is 100 percent volunteers. Everyone has something to give. In giving, they learn something about themselves. The skills I learn in terms of analyzing companies and impact, doing the due diligence, certainly applies to what I do with Givology.
SDB: Is there one accomplishment you are most proud of?
Joyce Meng: That’s really hard. Two things that we have done at Givology that I’m a little more proud of is that we published a book. We completely wrote it ourselves and self-published. It’s been downloaded more than 5,000 times.
The second thing we did is this project called Make Your Mark. We worked with Joseph Kilrain of Gigapixel Creative. He painted a gigantic mural of the world. We set it out in Union Square (one of the large parks in New York City). We had finger paint so people could put their finger print on the part of the world that they wanted to help. We got pledges for the finger prints. Jubilee Projects, a YouTube phenomenon that films video to create change, filmed the entire process. We got more than 300 peoples’ finger prints and a lot of hits on the video. Then we auctioned off the mural pieces at a big gala kickoff. All of that money went back directly to our projects and students at the locations designated by the finger prints on the map.
What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?
SDB: What are some obstacles that you have faced?
Joyce Meng: There’s always going to be growing pains. Givology started really small. Now we’ve gotten quite big, so we have to make sure that we keep our community tight and that every person that we bring in feels connected and empowered to do things within our organization. It becomes harder the larger we grow. We’re always trying to make it feel more like a community.
SDB: How have you been able to accomplish your success without a lot of resources?
Joyce Meng: We don’t have an office, we don’t have overhead, we don’t have full-time staff. We have spent zero dollars on marketing. I think it’s a complete mentality change - small hours, not just dollars, can be crowdsourced. If everyone gives an hour or two hours, or if a hundred people do that, that’s so much more valuable than hiring a full-time staff member to try and do everything. We get all this talent donated because they appreciate and understand the purity of a volunteer-driven model. Also they use Givology as a way to develop and grow themselves. Money doesn’t motivate people as much as recognition and the feeling that they have accomplished something greater than themselves. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are in Givology. To be fully empowered and have a bunch of really supportive people working with you to achieve big things, that’s what keeps people motivated. The second thing is, when you have a budget of zero for anything, you get really creative. There are so many low-cost ways to get your message across.