An Exploration of Contrasts: My Internship at UniversalGiving

This summer, I joined UniveralGiving as a member of the Marketing Team. I applied for an internship at UniversalGiving after hearing CEO, and Duke alumna, Pamela Hawley speak at an event for women in entrepreneurship at Duke. I was looking for an opportunity to learn and make a genuine impact at a values-based company. At UniversalGiving I experienced how seemingly diverse skills and ideas harmoniously come together to create a successful business. Here are three things I learned:


  • Branding:
    Over the course of our weekly marketing meetings, our team developed our company brand. We curated content to promote our values of giving, volunteerism and international interconnectedness. We also branded ourselves as thought leaders on topics of interest to our community, creating dialogue on world issues. By publishing posts designed to spark conversation, showcasing our NGO partners doing meaningful work around the world and contributing to posts on others’ pages, our social media presence was about much more than increasing our business and traffic to our website. 

    Through my work, I learned that the value of a company’s social media extends well beyond self-promotion and provides an opportunity to create a values-aligned brand and authentic engagement and conversation.


  • Full Circle Work:
    Because of my quantitative background, my main responsibility on the marketing team was to produce weekly analytics reports for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Analytics. I monitored and tracked changes in likes, comments, shares, followers and user acquisition week after week.I, however, was able to better analyze trends and put them into perspective because I also helped curate the content. I evaluated the numbers within the context of our weekly social media campaign themes and nuances of our specific posts. Because UniversalGiving is a small company, I had a full circle view of our social media strategy; I created the posts, studied how they were received and recommended new strategies. Contributing to both the content and the analysis was immensely helpful allowing me to take on a prominent role in restructuring our social media tactical plan and creating a more effective strategy.

    Through my work on the Marketing Team, I learned the value of having both a quantitative and creative skill set. By blending together these two seemingly disparate areas, I was able to be more effective in both.


  • Precision Finance:
    My quantitative background also took me out of the marketing world and into the Office of the CEO preparing financial reports for the CEO and CFO. Not only did I learn how to create professional products, but I got a close-up view into how the finances of a company are managed and the level of detail required for this line of work. My work on the financials involved preparing invoice spreadsheets for analysis, creating expense reports, and working on the three-year budget projection for an upcoming board meeting. 

    By gaining insight into the financial branch of a company, I learned how broad this area can be; it requires both extreme attention to detail and an ability to abstract into the future. Precision and prediction must blend together to create a dependable financial base for a company.

My experience at UniversalGiving demonstrated how diverse skills and ideas align and integrate to create stronger outcomes. This was a fitting lesson to learn as UniversalGiving is a social entrepreneurship venture; with a goal of both promoting values and maintaining financial stability, contrasts are built in its foundation.



Doing Good (twice over) with Holiday Gift Packages

Today’s guest post is from Chelsea Iverson.

If you will be giving to charity this holiday season or are considering making a personalized and meaningful donation on behalf of someone you love, you’re not alone.

Holiday giving is a tradition that combines the Scrooge-inspired spirit of Christmas with generous year-end-tax breaks. Each year, charitable organizations around the world receive millions from contributors during the holiday season. It seems that the tougher the economic times, the more dedicated we are to helping those who are most vulnerable. According to the Red Cross, 68% of Americans believe that it is especially important to give to charity this year due to poor economic conditions, and 79% of Americans admit that they would prefer to receive a charitable gift in their honor than a present they would not use this holiday season.

Two years ago, when my father asked that we donate to a meaningful charity in lieu of giving him a Christmas present, I immediately knew I wanted to donate to an organization that would save the world’s trees. My father loves trees. He loves their resilience, their fortitude and their ability to withstand so much human destruction. Overwhelmed with all the charitable organizations out there, I wondered how to select the most impactful, the most meaningful organization and how to be confident that my donation was going directly to saving trees.

Through my experience looking for a charitable gift in honor of my father, I discovered that there are so many charitable organizations spreading so much hope all over the world, and deciding where to give can be difficult.

UniversalGiving offers a tool that helps you find gift packages – from thousands of charitable organizations – suited to your loved ones. This tool helps ease your concerns about choosing a trustworthy organization and provides clear gift amounts that allow you to see what your gift will actually achieve.

Saving trees is just the beginning. There are over 400 gift packages available on, which means you will be able to find a charitable gift package for all your loved ones. To give a gift package in honor of family members, friends or colleagues, begin by thinking about their interests, concerns and cares, and search for the gift package that best suits them. UniversalGiving’s pre-packaged gifts make it easy to see where your gift is going and who the beneficiaries are. Here are some examples of the gift packages that are offered:

For the teacher in your life:

Give $25 to provide an impoverished child in the US a pair of eyeglasses so he or she can see the blackboard and succeed in school.

For the cook in your life:

Donate to supply in-school meals to hungry children.

For the doctor or nurse in your life:

Give $258 to train a doctor to perform life saving surgery for children in Peru.

Check out more gift packages

UniversalGiving screens non-profits for you with their Quality Model™ standard, so you can be assured that your gift will go to a top-performing organization. You want to do as much good as possible, and since UniversalGiving takes nothing from your donation through their website, you don’t have to worry.

When I was searching online for a charity for my father, I wished that I had better options for sorting through the abundance of organizations that help save our planet’s trees. I needed an organized catalogue of charitable organizations that I could easily search by cause and have the confidence that my gift was making the greatest possible impact.

This year, I think I’ll help reforest Haiti in my father’s honor. Thanks to UniversalGiving’s gift packages, I know my gift will go directly to support the cause he believes in so much.

Chelsea Iversen is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. She works with non-profit organizations to strengthen their messaging and communications. You can contact Chelsea at or

The Top 6 Ways to Support UniversalGiving

  1. Shop!

Who knew shopping could help the world?  By shopping through  UniversalGiving’s unique link on AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate between 4.5% and 8% of your purchase to UniversalGiving!  AmazonSmile offers the same Amazon products at the same low prices, no added cost to you.  The more you shop, the more you support UniversalGiving!

Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Register with AmazonSmile: Click here and sign into your Amazon account.  From there, it will ask if you would like to select UniversalGiving as your charity.  Click yes!
  2. Click on our custom link, to begin making purchases!
  3. Bookmark our link for your future Amazon purchases!

Be sure to share this link with friends and family!  Click here to share your support!

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2. Volunteer with UniversalGiving

Looking for an impactful summer getaway or a”travelthropy” opportunity?  Look no further!  Volunteer through UniversalGiving and find a variety of ways to help better the international community.  Take a trip to Vietnam and teach children English, or visit a chimpanzee rescue center in Cameroon.  When you volunteer through UniversalGiving, you can travel the world with a purpose.  Not only will you do great things, you’ll feel great doing them.

3. Give a gift

You can also stay right at home and still make a big impact.  Giving a gift through UniversalGiving guarantees that 100% of your donations will go to a cause you care about.  Just ten dollars can provide a child with a mosquito net or a nutritious meal.  You can even give a loved one a gift certificate from UniversalGiving and allow them to choose what cause they want the money to go to.  Gift certificates are perfect for the holidays or birthdays if you’re looking for  a gift that gives back!

Amazon smile 2

4. Fund a project

Looking to give back but don’t have the time to go on a volunteer trip?  Donate to one of our vetted NGOs’ projects to help fund vital causes.  From creating a clean water system for a Chiapas community to helping create sustainable livelihood for female farmers in India, your contributions are crucial to making these projects come to fruition and, ultimately, benefitting a community in need.

5. Raise for a Cause

If you feel particularly passionate about a cause or multiple causes, why not create your own fundraising page?  Set a deadline or a dollar goal and share your page with friends and family.  Simply add your favorite projects, gifts, and organizations to your personal list and get started!

6. Share your support!

Finally, an easy way to get involved is to share your support for UniversalGiving!  Click the below Facebook or Twitter icon to share your support for UniversalGiving to friends and family on your social media.  It’s as simple as that! Telling others about UniversalGiving and all the good we do is a great way for you to make an impact and help create a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life™.

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How One Day Changed my Life

give a day global

by Kerry Rodgers

“While traveling in South Africa 6 years ago, I volunteered for one day at a wonderful non-profit in a township outside of Cape Town. It was serendipitous, as one of my traveling companions had a personal connection and invited us to join him for the afternoon. The experience was transformational – I walked away deeply inspired about the work of community-based nonprofits. Although we were only there for a couple hours, I became an ongoing supporter of the organization. It occurred to me that this one day was a win-win: the nonprofit had a new contributor and, for me, it was the most memorable day of my vacation.

I sat on the idea of replicating my experience in South Africa for many years. In the meantime I began volunteering every chance I could get. I went to Haiti for weeks at a time. When I came home, I became intently focused on the question: How can I work to get more people to care about what is going on in Haiti and in other places facing enormous challenges?

I realized that my interest in global issues began on that one day, in South Africa. Maybe experiences like mine could be replicated across the globe? I shared this idea with some friends who had similar ideas, and then Give A Kerry_websiteDay Global was born!

By donating one day of your vacation to a local nonprofit, you can make a difference in international communities while creating meaningful memories and life-long friendships. We believe that it’s not what you can finish in a day that matters – but what you can begin in a day!”


We believe that there is no better way to describe what volunteering is than through the words or our friends and partners who give back to our global community.

For Kerry everything started that day

At UniversalGiving, our goal is to provide you the opportunity to have an incredible volunteering experience. Who knows, maybe you will discover a new passion!

Here are some of our partners looking for incredible volunteers:

1. Give a Day Global
2. Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
3. WAND Foundation
4. Biblioworks
5. Green Cameroon

Brand Image and the Importance of CSR in the New Digital Age Part 3

csr framework graphic

By Matt Gallagher

Developing CSR Programs Conveniently, Efficiently and Effectively

Time, planning and management do not necessarily have to be a big part of your investment in CSR. Websites and services like UniversalGiving can handle all of the legwork so that your contribution is focused on providing a greater good. Your administrative requirements remain minimal, with 100 percent of your donation going directly to the cause of your choosing. Charitable organizations such as UniversalGiving can handle the administrative end, vetting projects through a trademarked, proprietary Quality Model. They consult on proper methods of engaging with nonprofits and how you can maximize your social impact. UniversalGiving clients gain a viable way of helping to build a sustainable society, contributing to a better world while improving reputation and likability among their employee base and their consumers.

Sample Case

Cisco Systems, Inc.: Donation Programs Vetted, Saving Time and Money

The worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate, and collaborate, Cisco Systems designs, manufactures, and sells computer networking services and product equipment. UniversalGiving partnered with Cisco to provide highly customized international and domestic NGO Vetting Services, as well as implement the Launch a City program. UniversalGiving vets all of Cisco’s grants based on its proprietary Quality Model TM. More than 500 nonprofits have been vetted for Cisco’s Matching Gifts Program and UniversalGiving vets all of Cisco’s international giving platforms. UniversalGiving  also helped the company implement its Launch a City Program to determine the best CSR Strategy and Implementation across 40 cities in which Cisco is based around the world.

The successful partnership has enabled Cisco to ensure that all Cisco employees can donate to vetted, on-the-ground NGOs. The efforts save Cisco time and money by handling all operational and client-support services such as NGO related calls and inquiries. By encouraging a culture of generosity in their business plan, Cisco boosted employee morale and brand image, improving client retention and employee incentive.

UniversalGiving Corporate

UniversalGiving Corporate (UGC) is a customized service helping Fortune 500 companies scale their Corporate Social Responsibility programs worldwide.  UniversalGiving Corporate handles the strategy, operations and NGO vetting for corporations, ensuring the success of their giving and volunteering programs.  

What We Do

magnifying glassInternational Vetting

We vet every non-profit and project with our 24-stage Quality Model (TM). You’re ensured superior, top performing partnerships.


globeTargeted Expansion

You pick the city, nation or region. We match your employees with high quality local nonprofits. We go where you operate – or plan to set up shop.


plus signDisaster Response

We help you create and operate immediate disaster response programs, connecting you to localized expert NGOs across the globe.


Cpeopleross System Collaboration

We work seamlessly with your giving platforms, so you don’t have to handle back and forth NGO communications and technology issues.


lightbulb1CSR Consulting

We have the industry and international expertise to help design, launch, manage, and communicate your good work globally.


In Summary

While CSR obviously benefits society, it also stands as an investment in a company’s brand image, client acquisition potential, and ability to attract high quality talent.

As Carroll and Shabana conclude in their paper, “the business case for corporate social responsibility can be made. While it is valuable for a company to engage in CSR for altruistic and ethical justifications, the highly competitive business world in which we live requires that, in allocating resources to socially responsible initiatives, firms continue to consider their own business needs. In the last decade, in particular, empirical research has brought evidence of the measurable payoff of CSR initiatives on firms as well as their stakeholders.”

Perhaps that explains why, according to a Wharton School Analysis, as recently as 10 years ago, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR report. Now, more than half do.

Fortunately, CSR does not need to be a reinvention of the wheel or require much corporate commitment beyond the financial. Charitable organizations such as UniversalGiving can provide the strategy, operations and expert NGO vetting for corporations, ensuring the chosen causes are appropriate, just and customized to a company’s unique social needs. Investing in a better future ultimately builds a better company and a greater world for our children and grandchildren to prosper.

csr part 3 pic

  1. Carroll, Archie B., and Kareem M. Habana. “The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review of Concepts, Research and Practice.” International Journal of Management Reviews. The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial RegulatioJuly 2011. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.
  2. Retrieved 20 August 2015 from

Unselfish Love

By Brittany Duke

When I blindly plunge my hand into the ceramic shell bowl on my dresser and my fingers close around a small gold stone ring, I’m reminded of my 16th birthday. For reasons different that most people’s the week I turned 16 was life-altering. Instead of a lavish “Sweet 16” party I spent the week in Haiti learning about how people survive in orphanages that are severely underfunded and concrete villages without electricity. The poorest country in the world by many estimates is one without social nets designed to help others from falling into extreme poverty. Unlike the United States, extreme poverty is not unusual or cause for great concern.

As we arrived to the orphanage we visited, people in our mission group began snapping pictures of the children in faded and torn school uniforms as though they were exotic animals on a safari. It was difficult watching people that had the latest iPhone and luxury car waiting in their garage try to relate to these children. Asking their favorite toy or activity quickly became an awkward experience. Unlike five year olds in the US who can easily identify their favorite organized sport, favorite TV show, favorite electronic toy, these children were amazed by the ability to take pictures of themselves on our phones.</p

As time passed, privileged adults began to relate to the children on a basic level of love. The language barriers were quickly forgotten and soon small dark hands fitted easily into larger white ones as the children dragged the adults to their rooms and proudly showed off the bunk beds they shared with so many others. Young children had the signature dirt stains on their knees telling the story of the baseball they loved to play with a stick and a cloth tied together. Everything became a game of “how can we make this a toy.” My shoelaces were quickly removed and two young girls with plaits in their hair started jumping rope with it. Our electronics were quickly put to use by the Haitian kids and photos have never been taken with more frequency or excitement than that day.

Many of the children gathered around kissing your cheek, holding your hand, sitting on your lap vying for attention. The whole combine that they lived in was open-air, had dirt floors, and three small structures that would have been called shacks by United States standards. They showed us the chipped colored concrete wall about 3 feet high separated the two classrooms, which had desks that were shared by as many as three children. The blackboard in the front held lessons ranging from learning about the alphabet to geometry. When asking a small boy in the signature green and see-through white shirt what he enjoyed the most he pointed to the small outdoor classroom with a smile across his face. The opportunity to get an education is rare in Haiti.

At noon the teachers and caretakers started cooking in an open air kitchen and 15 minutes later the large rusty bronze bell was rung to tell everyone the food was ready to be eaten. Each student grabbed a slightly dirty looking plastic bowl with designs on the side from a shelf in the common room that served as a dining area. One small girl waited in line for her food, dwarfed by the larger children on either side, received her food and came running over with a large smile and gave me the bowl. Upon inspection, the bowl contained rice mixed in with some sort of meat and some small green cubes which served as their vegetables for the day. These children get two meals a day; this was the large afternoon meal which by American standards would be a side dish. I shook my head and said thank you, but I would really like it if she would eat the food. I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat, and I haven’t ever eaten out of a bowl that is cleaned with sand and unpurified water. I also have access to food at any time during the day. But the lesson to be learned wasn’t about the food or bowl, it was the act of unselfish love and giving. This girl was willing to go without eating that afternoon if I had accepted her offering. With no thought for herself she gave unselfishly and from her heart. It is easy to give from our abundance and donate our cast-offs to the nearest goodwill after we have no more use for an item of clothing; however, the act of giving by the small Haitian girl in a wrinkled and stained white and green school uniform dress was an example of true love.

Later that day, a girl with dark hair plaited and tied with plastic clips caught my attention. She looked as if she were around 13 in her green and white dress with two buttons missing. Unlike some of the younger kids she seemed more reluctant to involve herself in the festivities. I learned she was 15 and was about to turn 16. Our birthdays were less than a week apart. It was apparent that she looked after some of the toddlers and infants and had to be one of the oldest girls at the orphanage. The more we connected the more I found out about her life. Her parents had passed away in the earthquake and she had no other family that she could turn to. The man who ran the orphanage had found a temporary place for her to stay in the wake of the tragedy and eventually provided her and about 21 other young people a place to sleep, a school, and food twice a day. She brought us over to her bed and told us she had gotten a mattress last year. She pointed to her pink mosquito net and you could see the pride spread across her face. The room she shared with nine other younger girls had roughly hewed concrete walls with open windows and no air conditioning. To contrast our upbringing and experiences, I was born into a privileged middle class family, attended private school since the age of four, enjoy traveling with my family, and have an air conditioned room with a mattress which I never fully appreciated until the week of my 16th birthday. After showing us her room she began to chant and move her body to the beat of her chant. She inquired whether or not we would like to take a video of her performance and so we dutifully pulled out our phones and recorded a song and dance that was amazing. She told me that if she was able to choose what she could do with her life that she would love to be able to be a famous singer. With a smile on my face I confidently assured her with my parent’s catchphrase, “you can do anything you set your mind to.” Her head moved back and forth and we got a wakeup call as to the lack of opportunity she has in her life. She isn’t told by anyone that she can accomplish anything, or be anything that she wants to be. That mattress in her open-air room, at the orphanage will probably be the best accommodations she has for a long time after she leaves and moves out on her own. She explained she was planning to get a job working a fruit stand with her friend. She hoped to make enough money to live off of it, however it all depended if she had a good day at the market.

The competition is ruthless in the markets they sell food in. The one market we visited overwhelmed all of my senses. It was possible to hear the yelling of the vendors from half a mile away. Each vendor fought seemingly to the death to try and get you to buy what they were selling. Hands grabbed at me as if I was the newest game flying off the shelves of a store. Each seller tried to persuade me to buy their goods by dragging me as close to their stand as possible. The initial fear of being moved against my own will left after I became aware of the cultural selling practices. The smell was overwhelming, there were aromas of spices mixed with sweat and you immediately knew showering was viewed as a luxury, not a necessity. Although it was impossible to buy something from every single seller that particular day I was blown away by the desire and will to succeed. Each person was fighting for survival and if that meant groveling over the price for a good and trying to sell a classic Haitian piece of art to a tourist they were willing to do anything necessary to assure they would get the sale and be able to support their family for another day.

When there are hard experiences of my life I’m often reminded of a phrase a mentor shared with me, “that’s a first world problem.” Everything is put into perspective when you realize how little others have. For my 16th birthday I received a few presents, one of them being a gold ring which will always be a symbol of abundance and a lesson I learned from a 15-year-old girl in Haiti. To take any opportunity I have for granted would be inexplicable after this experience. If this Haitian girl, as able to express such a gratitude for what she had, meant I was able to take advantage of every opportunity given and give thanks for everything, no matter how small. The true genuine love expressed by so many was an amazing takeaway, whether it was a girl trying to give me her food or a man trying to sell some good in order to take care of his family. The experience was life-altering and I will always be reminded of the time I was immersed in another culture and learned more about myself in the process.

Stop the Disease of Schoollessness!

There is a great disease of schoollessness: Kids who grow up without the classroom, and without the ability to learn. Their minds, in a way… are dying….

Without food, our bodies don’t grow. Without classes, your mind doesn’t grow.


So… please help us stop schoollessness now.

Support the amazing volunteer teachers working with WorldTeach determined to provide educational opportunities all across the globe. Give the gift of books when you join hands with Develop Africa and promote literacy efforts for children in West Africa. Work with Miracles in Action to provide backpacks and school supplies for children in rural Guatemala.

All of these amazing UniversalGiving™ partners are determined to eradicate the disease of schoollessness that plagues our global community.

Break that chain today and allow a new vision for not just a child, but for their families, so they have a new example. Change their life, and yours- today.

UniversalGiving® is an award-winning nonprofit allowing people to donate and volunteer with top performing, vetted organizations all over the world.  100% goes direct to the cause.   All organizations are vetted with a proprietary Quality Model™. Our Vision is to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life.”®