Grad students help Guatemalan NGOs attract potential donors via the Web

Two master’s degree candidates in economics are on a mission to make the world a better place, starting in Guatemala, where a multitude of non-profit organizations are seeking donors and resources to help develop their country.

Justin Podbielski, CLAS ’07, and Maura Williams visited Guatemala last summer as volunteers. They were struck by inefficiencies in the development community, where individual non-profit organizations sometimes compete for the same resources or are unaware of the activities of other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

At first, they saw this as an academic problem — this is what happens in the non-profit community when there are no profit incentives to govern your actions.

Then they realized that the reputation of an NGO functioned as an incentive. The more information potential donors have about an organization, and the more transparent the NGO is, the more likely donors are to support it.

“If you improve the information flow, you can use access to information as a way to improve the flow of donations,” Podbielski theorized.

That’s when the problem moved them to action. They found a solution in a familiar tool: the social networking web site Facebook.

Read more in the UConn Advance.