Dan Morrison understands the power of face time. While traveling through India in 2006, he met a woman who said her earthquake-ravaged community needed a well but didn’t have the $5,000 required to build it. Back home in Washington, D.C., he sent out a card pledging $2,500 and asking acquaintances to join him. Within days, $500 checks started arriving—from a friend, a former roommate, and Morrison’s high school English teacher, among others. A lightbulb went off. “I realized that with fundraising, it’s critical to have a specific project people can wrap their minds around,” says Morrison. “That the request was coming from someone they knew made it that much more effective.”
In December 2008, Morrison created 1Well, a nonprofit that helped people make investments in high-need areas around the world. Soon after, he quit his job as a consultant on Middle East policy to focus on 1Well full-time. In 2009, spurred by a $300,000 grant from Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, and his wife, Wendy, the group morphed into Citizen Effect, an online fundraising platform that connects citizen philanthropists with vetted, small-scale projects around the world. Budding do-gooders visit the website and choose a country, a fundraising goal, and a focus area (food security, education). In 2011, the group raised close to $500,000, funding 339 projects to date.
The twist comes in picking a fundraising approach—like the cross-country bike ride that Boulder, Colorado’s Glenn Olsen did to raise money to build indoor toilets in Bandwhad, India. “When you do what you love in the name of a good cause, it’s more fun for everyone,” says Morrison, who believes that many people who might skip a specific objective (eliminating dysentery in South Asia?) will be lured in by an individual putting forth so much effort to help.