THE BLOG
07/19/2013 05:46 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2013

Connectivity: The Real Currency of Change

By: Jill Sheffield, Women Deliver President and Maz Kessler, Catapult Founder

Donors today are no longer content to write an annual check to a charity and then tuck their checkbook in the drawer until the next year. Posting our "like" on Facebook is an easy 30-second fix, but oddly unsatisfying. We know there is a problem, but feel helpless to actually solve it. In this era of connectivity, we all want the opportunity to make a difference.

We created Catapult to meet this need, providing the first ever crowdfunding platform solely dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women. Having been involved with girls' and women's issues for many years, we had some pretty specific ideas on how to make this more than a simple list of projects. We wanted to create a sense of trust and transparency between the project and donors, a platform where donors not only had choice, but knowledge on how their money is being spent and the results of this investment. And we wanted to give organizations across the globe the ability to raise funds for projects that often are too small to be funded by foundations and corporations or do not fit into a funder's priority. We know from our Women Deliver conferences that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations doing meaningful work across the globe. Catapult puts all its projects on equal footing, and allows each donor to decide which to fund.

Since its launch on the first International Day of the Girl, October 11, 2012, Catapult has funded over 200 projects in 81 countries around the world. Through an innovative partnership with Gucci's CHIME FOR CHANGE, Catapult powered the first benefit concert in which attendees could choose exactly where their money went, by using gift cards to direct their donations to individual projects on Catapult.org.

Catapult's power comes from choice and transparency. Individual donors learn about projects around the world that need funding, select the one that speaks to them most, and then stay connected with the organizations they support for an entire year with updates from the field. All partners are carefully vetted, and 100% of donations go directly to the projects. This process provides donors with long-term involvement with the issues that matter to them, and organizations with the funds they need to succeed.

Now success stories are pouring in from around the globe and the real impact begins!

In the Philippines, Roots of Health raised over $5,000 to fund their Healthy Pregnancy Program, which provides girls and women with information on how to have a healthy pregnancy and free prenatal care.

In Afghanistan, the Afghan Institute of Learning raised $6,000 to hold its first ever Ideation Summit, bringing together health officials, community leaders, researchers, poets and students. Participants laid the groundwork for bringing peace, human rights and justice to their country.

In Ethiopia, Pathfinder raised $15,000 to provide educational support for 500 female students across the country so that they can finish their schooling and better their futures.

And here in the US, Trees, Water and People collected $4,000 in donations to help Native American women obtain the skills they need to get jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Crowdfunding is transforming how people give and take action, and social media has opened new avenues for engagement on a massive scale. The power now lies in the hands of the crowd and the open democracy of the web. You decide which issues speak to you most, in all corners of the planet, from sustainable development to safe births to freedom of expression. You have the power to spread the word to your family and friends and work together as a team to fund the projects you believe in. On the other side of the world, your mouse clicks can translate into prenatal vitamins or textbooks. The real currency of change is connectivity, and Catapult provides the forum for these connections to take place.

We are reaching the end of the 2015 development goals, one in which girls and women were not prioritized as they should have been. Now, we have a tremendous opportunity--to pave a future where every girl, woman and child is healthy, educated and empowered. We all have a role to play. Together, we can show the world that investing in girls and women is an investment in potential, and in a world we can all believe in. Join Catapult - it's time to put the Internet to work for girls and women everywhere! Invest in Girls and Women: It Pays!