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Saima Zaman, Program Officer

Doing Philanthropy eBay-style: GlobalGiving

Have you ever written a check for a charity and wondered, “Where is this money going? Is it really doing anything?” GlobalGiving takes the mystery out of international philanthropy by connecting donors with high-impact projects all around the world. Donors visit GlobalGiving’s website and choose from among a variety of pre-screened charity projects. The leaders of the projects submit updates, so donors can see how their money is making a difference. As an online marketplace for legitimate charity projects, GlobalGiving has been dubbed the “eBay of international philanthropy.” One of the people who helps keep this marketplace operating is Saima Zaman, 29, a Program Officer at GlobalGiving. She helps project leaders post their updates and assists people with getting into the GlobalGiving network, among other responsibilities. To learn more about Saima, GlobalGiving, check out this week’s Nonprofit Spotlight.


GlobalGiving Foundation


February 2002




Saima Zaman
Program Officer




Islamabad, Pakistan
Miami, FL

Current residence

Washington, DC


George Washington University
Master’s in Public Policy

Bryn Mawr College
Political Science

Work Experience

GlobalGiving Foundation
Program Offcer

World Resources Institute
Project Coordination
International Cooperation

Program Assistant



About the non-profit

GlobalGiving is the world’s leading marketplace for international philanthropy, connecting thousands of donors with high-impact, grassroots charity projects around the world they might not otherwise find. Called the “eBay of international philanthropy,” GlobalGiving enables donors to choose the projects they want to support and “follow their give” via regular progress updates that project leaders post to the globalgiving.com website.

GlobalGiving was founded by two former World Bank executives who, frustrated by the limitations of “top-down” development, created GlobalGiving as a whole new way to power people’s generosity and support great ideas – from the bottom up.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Helping Project Leaders (the people leading the projects featured on GlobalGiving) post updates, answering their questions, helping new people get onto GlobalGiving.

Working with my colleagues on helping Project Leaders better market their projects, thinking of how to explain GlobalGiving better to the Project Leaders.

Thinking through more fun ways of helping Project Leaders share their work with the world!

Most notable milestones

For me, finishing up my master’s degree while working full-time. I was so glad when I was done!

Working and traveling in Pakistan. I wasn’t sure how I would do it, but it worked out.

What’s the niche?

GlobalGiving is helping donors around the world address questions such as:

  • When you give to a typical charity, do you ever wonder where your “give” goes? How much of it actually gets to the ground where the project is being implemented? How many people is it helping?
  • What happened to my money after I gave it?
  • Is it going to have a long-term impact?
  • Is your money being spent wisely, or is it stuck somewhere along the way?
  • Can I give a thumbs up to a group that I think has done a great job with my money?
We believe GlobalGiving enables a better, smarter way to power people’s generosity—allowing them to support grassroots, world-changing projects that address specific challenges faced by local communities. Simply put, it’s philanthropy for everyone – so even those without the fortunes of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett can make their mark on the world –and feel good, too. GlobalGiving aggregates many donations, which reach projects within one to two months and make an immediate impact. And people can get involved from the convenience of their computer!

What’s the biggest challenge?

As a growing nonprofit, the hardest thing is getting the word out there and generating awareness about who we are and what we’re doing on a shoestring budget. That means we are relying largely on word-of-mouth marketing. As we grow, we also need to ensure that everything we do is scalable. We are looking for the community to take on the role of “marketing” for GlobalGiving!

What’s in store for the future?

GlobalGiving’s vision is to exponentially increase the level of donations flowing through the marketplace, benefiting thousands of projects, and touching the lives of millions of people. Our goal is to be regarded as the de facto marketplace for all legitimate grassroots projects – that anyone with a project will want to be listed in Global Giving because it’s the place where they need to be in order to connect with donors around the world.

Community Projects that Gobal Giving was engaged in

GlobalGiving recognized that there was a need within the Muslim community to be able to give to projects during Ramadan, safely and effectively, knowing where money is going and who it is going to. We work with a network of credible partners and our unit of giving is at the project-level enabling donors to see what activities their money will fund. We also have many partners working on projects in countries in the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa.

In fact for Ramadan, one of our partners posted projects in Sudan and Palestine where they were collecting money to provide food for iftars. We chose a very select group of projects and put them on a Ramadan Giving page. www.globalgiving.com/ramadan.

We had a bit of uptake and people were interested that we were undertaking this initiative. In the past a few colleges and universities have had fast-a-thons and chosen to give to GlobalGiving projects such as health care clinics in Darfur and Hurricane Katrina relief.

Best way to keep a competitive edge

Always be open to change and taking risks.

Guiding principle in life

Be confident and be passionate about your work.

Best practical advice

I say this a lot, but you need to really believe in what you do. It makes life rewarding and the feeling of going to a job where you know and believe you are making a difference, is unparalleled.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

I really believe in GlobalGiving and what we’ve set out to do. I love hearing from friends who’ve donated to projects on GlobalGiving and are excited to receive project updates or make donations again to other projects.


Mom and Dad. I’m very fortunate to have very supportive parents who’ve encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy.

What motivated you to get started?

Well, my two years in Pakistan convinced me that international development was where I wanted to focus my career.

Like best about what you do?

I love hearing from project leaders who are happy with their experience on GlobalGiving, share their successes from the field and their interaction with new donors!

Like least about what you do?

The email traffic can be quite overwhelming!

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a dolphin trainer and then about a month later I wanted to be a pediatrician.

What was your first job?

Working in Pakistan at an NGO called LEAD-Pakistan. At LEAD, I worked on creating communications materials, managing the research paper series and working with LEAD Fellows on training and career development.

Biggest pastime outside of work

I love to cook and try new recipes. I love food.

People most interested in meeting

I would love to meet Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi. I think they are amazing in what they have achieved in Pakistan. They are two of the most compassionate and selfless people ever. The definitely are role models in many ways and that’s why I would love to meet them.

An interesting fact about yourself

I speak four languages: Urdu, Pushto, English and French.

Three characteristics that describe you

  1. Hard-working
  2. Open-minded
  3. Spiritual

Three greatest passions

  1. Cooking/food
  2. Reading
  3. Travel

Favorite book

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Favorite cause

Human rights, particularly in Muslim-majority countries.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

Anyone interested in learning more about a new way to give!


Interview by Saba Nasser
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez

Article published on May 19th, 2008 | Comment | Trackback | Categories »

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