Social Citizen Sighting: Pamela Hawley

Oct 2, 2009

This interview by guest blogger and Case Foundation graduate intern Brannon Cullum is part of our "Social Citizen Sightings" series, in which we highlight how people are using their creativity, idealism, and digital fluency to support their causes ever day.

Pamela Hawley is founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, a web-based marketplace that enables people to volunteer and donate to top-performing projects in over 70 countries. The organization’s vision is to “create a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life.” Pamela maintains a personal blog, Living and Giving; the organization also has its own blog, PhilanthroPost.

Name: Pamela Hawley

If you had to describe yourself in one tweet, what would it be? I am passionate about social entrepreneurship, and creating greater relationships of harmony, trust and peace in our world.

Who is your role model? My parents are my best friends and my role models. Service has definitely been a thread throughout my life, which I saw with my parents and how they helped others in so many ways. They were and are models to me of loving, giving people. My father was an astute businessman, my mom is a flutist. Both were very entrepreneurial; both encouraged me to follow my dreams. Over the years, I have learned from them that service is about how you treat people; it's not just volunteering. If you look at the root of philanthropy -- it's not money. It's the love of people. And that's what they demonstrated in their day-to-day actions.

What are you currently reading? Bill George's Authentic Leadership and Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

What does social entrepreneurship mean to you? Social Entrepreneurship is about running your organization with business principles, and generating revenue. It could be for for-profit or nonprofit. For UniversalGiving, it's extremely important to my vision that we generate revenue to support our efforts. The first level of our service allows people to give and volunteer in more than 70 countries across the world. We don't take a cut on the donation. Our second service, UniversalGiving Corporate, generates revenue. We work with Fortune 500 companies to help them with their Global CSR programs, helping with CSR strategy, operations and NGO vetting. We help them increase their giving and volunteering worldwide and impact on the community, while also increasing their global brand, employee retention, and product adoption.

What has been your most memorable or meaningful personal volunteering experience? I remember volunteering in the earthquake crisis of El Salvador in 2002. In the uppermost mountains, people were completely isolated. At this time World Food Program and Red Cross didn’t have the time to go up these mountains...there was no food, no shelter, and volcanic fluid was streaming into their water supplies. So with three people, we loaded up one truck. We brought whatever water, rain-sheltering materials and food we could. We arrived up a very steep and chunky hill, our tires almost getting caught in dried and muddy grooves of dirt, barely a road, as we bounced around from side to side. People huddled, starving, shivering, soaked through, under some barren trees and tarps. We gave them what we had. We listened to their hearts and to their stories. We did what we could, and they appreciated our small effort. Most of the time — what we don’t realize — is that we make an impact simply by making the effort to care, to listen.

How do you approach working with three different groups – individual volunteers and donors, nonprofit organizations, and Fortune 500 companies? What can they learn from one another? UniversalGiving's website is certainly a hub for nonprofits, donors, volunteers, corporations and high networth donors. Each partner is essential. Donors and volunteers have access to our NGOs who are vetted with our Quality Model to ensure the most effective, trustworthy philanthropy and volunteer experiences possible. Corporations are benefitted by their alliance with quality NGOs and the long-term relationships we help them establish. Overall, I'd say everyone is wants, and is expected to contribute, quality. We strive for excellence in all our relationships. Our vision at UniversalGiving is to: "Create a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life." Each donor, volunteer, corporations, and NGO contributes to this process of giving and volunteering. And as we do so, we are building a stronger network of understanding, compassion, respect for others. We are building a new world based on greater harmony, trust and peace, which happens through these important one-on-one connections.

In light of the economic crisis, we have heard a lot in recent months that people are scaling back on giving both their money and time to various causes. Given this climate, has UniversalGiving seen a change in how citizens are engaging in their communities and beyond? To be honest, we have seen so many positive trends in this tough economic climate. Some individuals who find themselves without work have decided to volunteer: One woman who was let go, decided to change the view of her life. She signed up to go to Ghana for a year. Others have been motivated to give gifts with more impact. Most people still want to give, they just don't want to give a $100 shirt. Therefore the demand for our Gift Packages and Quick Gifts has risen, as individuals want to make holiday and birthday gifts more meaningful. People would rather give $25 to buy eyeglasses for a child than another material present. It seems an increased sense of humility and desire to help others has developed out of the recession.

UniversalGiving has a strong online presence. How has the organization been using tools such as Twitter, blogging, and Facebook to engage potential volunteers or donors? We are indeed very active in social media, and it is a great way to spread awareness about our cause. We maintain a consistent presence on all social media sites, speaking about global issues, promoting our partners, and highlighting ideas and insights in our industry. Through this multifaceted presence, we are able to cross-promote, outreach, and network—thereby inspiring individuals to give and volunteer, and make a unique impact in their own, inspired way

What advice would you give to a college student interested in engaging in service and making an impact on his or her community, but doesn’t know where to start? I would ask each student to think about what they are passionate about. To truly look in one's heart and see what motivates you. Often it's from an experience in the past, an issue that moves you, or a desire to bring increased awareness about a situation that has personal relevance. Once y you've identified that goal, I'd suggest a search on UniversalGiving and sign up to volunteer. Projects can be as small as signing a petition or as exciting as a year volunteering abroad. There are so many ways to help others. In the process, be open to how you will grow. You may soon realize as I did that you are the one who is truly growing in humility and increased understanding about another community and culture, and grateful for how much the experience is giving back to you.



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