Seattle Times spotlights Ripple Effect

POSTED BY Halli Brunkella-Thiel on Aug 11, 2009

The ripple just keeps on getting bigger! Check out the Seattle Times “Business of Giving” Blog feature on Ripple Effect. Not only does it provide a great overview of the site, but it also highlights the fact that WSU is one of the first higher education institutes to utilize online giving in this format. Also to note—Ripple Effect now has over 1500 Twitter followers. Great example of how social media can be leveraged to get the word out and provide fresh, relevant updates. Do check out the twitpics. Great to put a face on the people you are helping half a world away.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 - Page updated at 12:38 PM

WSU's Ripple Effect pushes frontier of education philanthropy

By Kristi Heim

Washington State University is known for its agricultural expertise, knowledge that it spreads around the world through a dozen international development projects. Now it's linking those programs with online giving in a new initiative called Ripple Effect.

The idea is to give donors a direct way to support WSU's mission and improve the livelihoods of people in the countries where it operates. The Ripple Effect Web site features concrete items such as trees, treadle pumps, stoves, seeds for crops, goats or honey bees, which donors can purchase for rural communities where WSU works. The cost ranges from as little as $16 for a seeds kit to $1,024 for a full share of a honey bee kit.

The program, owned and operated by the WSU Foundation, gives students, alumni and others a chance to engage in philanthropy at a level they can afford and way they can understand, said Scott Garrepy WSU development director for international programs. He thinks WSU may be the first major university in the U.S. to try online '"retail philanthropy."

Each gift fits into a system connected with various aspects of village life and with WSU's larger goals of sustainable development, he said.

WSU's goals include improving the sustainable management of natural resources through tree planting and reduced wood consumption, increasing farm productivity to strengthen food security and nutrition, and improving health standards through safe water and sanitation.

WSU has worked in Malawi, since 1986, planting trees, creating conservation agriculture programs and building primary schools, fuel efficient stoves and small scale irrigation, through Total Land Care, a Malawian non-governmental organization it helped set up.

"WSU's efforts to help people help themselves in developing nations rank among our most important, and least recognized, initiatives," said WSU President Elson Floyd. "Ripple Effect allows every contributor to see who they are helping and how they are making a very real difference in the lives of struggling people half a world away."

Ripple Effect has a lot in common with other online philanthropy start-ups I've written about such as Jolkona Foundation and See Your Impact. The program takes the popular concept of online micro-giving and applies it to education.

Garrepy said the university is also using Twitter to spread the word, and its RippleEffectWSU profile page now has more than 1,500 followers.

"With budget crunch issues, we've had to be creative about how to raise awareness of the site," he said. "Social media is a very important and effective tool for us."

Gifts are received by WSU Foundation and transferred to the university's International Research and Development Department. WSU staff on the ground secure the items and services and deliver them to families and villages in Malawi.

"If one goat kit and two tree seedling kits are purchased through the Ripple Effect Web site, then one goat kit and two tree seedling kits will go exactly where they are most needed in Malawi," said Garrepy.

Copyright ? 2009 The Seattle Times Company

WRITTEN BY Halli Brunkella-Thiel

Add a comment