Joyce Meng's Blog

Feature Story about Givology

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Givology Helps Students Abroad
Area nonprofit aims to transform education philanthropy

Paul D. Shinkman, The Connection
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In his inaugural speech Jan. 20, President Barack Obama addressed poor nations throughout the world, saying Americans will "work alongside you … to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds." The president need look no farther than across the Potomac River to see his words already in action through a locally founded nonprofit organization.

"‘Givology’ is all about transforming education philanthropy," said co-founder and Vienna resident turned Rhodes Scholar Joyce Meng, explaining how her organization focuses on transparency and making giving easy, something she felt is lacking with larger donation-oriented nonprofits.

This organization, whose main purpose is raising funds for impoverished students abroad, functions primarily through its Web site community where potential donors can peruse listings of students throughout the world, their life story, specifically how much money they need and for what purpose and how much they have already received.

"We have an entirely volunteer staff with no overheads," Meng said. "All of the donated money goes directly to the students."

THROUGH THE WEB SITE, donors can post to student’s journals to follow-up on their donation directly or simply relay moral support.

Givology’s staff dedicates much efforts to carefully selecting viable, responsible nonprofit organizations, such as the Peach Foundation or the Peace Nursery and Primary School of Uganda, based in locations lacking education support. Meng insists that donations as small as $5 will make a big difference.

"One hundred dollars may not seem like a lot to [Americans], but it can build a library in China," she said.

In the five months since its inception Givology has raised more than $2,500 with 198 donations.

"It’s always a good thing when Northern Virginians can pause from their beltway routine to think about people in the world around them," Stuart Stein of Northern Virginia, an active Givology donor and a former classmate of Meng’s, said. "Even momentarily seeing the world through another person’s eyes builds a better understanding between cultures."

Meng, 22, first had the idea for this organization in April 2008 while an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. She worked with co-founder Lauren Zarzar of Oakton, a classmate of Meng’s at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and also at Penn, to develop the model and successfully launched Givology in September. It is awaiting receiving 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

THE ORGANIZATION has since developed a core group of 10 volunteers, all of whom were seniors together at Penn, who manage Givology. This group includes a chemistry doctorate candidate at Harvard, a bioengineering student at the University of Virginia, and Carl Mackey, a doctorate candidate at Penn who designed Givology’s sophisticated Web site.

"You can pay a firm thousands of dollars to make a Web site like this," Meng said of the integral feature of the organization. "But one guy did it for us. For free."

Meng has extensive experience with international development and microfinance through internships at Goldman Sachs, the World Bank and Credit Suisse in Hong Kong to name a few. She is reading for a master of science in economics for development at Balliol College, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

"I’m tired of talking about what we ought to do," she said. "Now let’s do something."

With the steadily growing number of donors and Web site involvement, Meng hopes Givology will raise $20,000 in 2009.

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