Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Pamela Hawley: A Social Entrepreneur Inspired By the World

Pamela Hawley

When Pamela Hawley was twelve years old, she saw extreme poverty on the streets of Mexico. She was on a family vacation when she and her father wandered onto a cul-de-sac filled with begging, starving children. Even at that age, she remembers the word UNACCEPTABLE stamping itself across her mind. She began volunteering after that—in soup kitchens, with welfare patients, crisis counseling in the United States.

As she became an adult, her volunteering transitioned to the international front. She has volunteered all over the world, including in microfinance in remote villages of India; crisis relief work in the 2000 El Salvador earthquake; sustainable farming in Guatemala; digital divide training in Cambodia; and indigenous community preservation in Ecuador. From these experiences, she saw the need to get money and volunteers to the most effective organizations working on the ground.

From this inspiration, Pamela founded UniversalGiving™. UniversalGiving is a web-based marketplace that helps people give and volunteer with the top-performing, vetted organizations all over the world. All projects are vetted through UniversalGiving’s trademarked, proprietary Quality Model.™ 100% of each donation goes directly to the cause.

Pamela is a social entrepreneur, who combines her passion for ending global poverty with a love of solid business principles. UniversalGiving is a social entrepreneurship nonprofit, generating revenue through UniversalGiving Corporate (UGC). UGC assists Fortune 500 companies with their global CSR programs, through CSR strategy, NGO vetting, and the scaling of their CSR programs worldwide. UniversalGiving Corporate’s work strengthens their corporate clients’ global brand, and also makes the company more attractive to employees and clients. Performing this strategic CSR work helps a company’s bottom line, while also serving the community. Clients include Cisco, MTV and BEA.

UniversalGiving was launched in November of 2003. Since then, close to $2 million has been given through the site, publicly, and more than $20 million through corporate partners. Average donations are around $15-$200. UniversalGiving has connected nearly 10,000 volunteers and NGOs. UniversalGiving has a team of nearly 30.

Quality is a key focus for UniversalGiving. UniversalGiving’s goal is to connect people to quality opportunities for giving or volunteering. UniversalGiving has a trademarked proprietary Quality Model™ to vet all partner NGOs. Aspects of the Quality Model include verification against terrorist lists imparted by the U.S. Treasury Guidelines and compliance with the Patriot Act, and independent review of finances. There is also a review of NGO track records and management teams. UniversalGiving works with a Worldwide Advisory Board of international experts who recommend NGO Partners.

Pamela cites her father and mother as key guides in her life. Her father taught her to pursue excellence. Her mother is a model of gentleness, kindness, compassion. Both think, expect and work towards the best. Both focus on excellence and valuing people, which have been important lampposts along her journey. Striving always to stick to values and to principles is one of the most important things Pamela feels she has done in her entrepreneurial ventures. The key is to listen to your SGI—your Spiritual Gut Instinct, which indicates the right thing to do. It’s being very self-aware, in tune with your conscience, in line with your highest sense of right.

It has been a big transition for Pamela to engage on the international front. She and the team have had to become increasingly sensitive to different cultures. In a way she describes it as “becoming lower and lower” –more humble as we continue to learn that those who give are really the receivers. The donors are the ones who are learning. We can never learn enough about others’ backgrounds, can never truly walk in their shoes regarding the challenges they face in poverty, or understanding the nuances of their culture, politics or country history. Therefore a certain sense of humility is necessary in order to do UniversalGiving’s work.

For other entrepreneurs who are looking to make a difference, Pamela recommends reading leadership books True North by Bill George, Peter Sims and David Gergen; and Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey.

Pamela’s own advice is that you have to be not only good at what you do, but you also have to feel called. Despite the challenges, you will still love your work. Any good entrepreneur has to have both passion and perseverance. It’s not a short sprint—it’s a marathon, step by joyous, determined step.

Pamela Hawley
Founder and CEO
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