I’m happy to report that the 2015 RJMetrics Charity Drive was a huge success. We had significant growth over last year in terms of both donations and participation, and I’m incredibly proud of our team.

As background, last year we wanted to give back to those less fortunate than ourselves in a way that was true to our data-driven culture. We held our first fundraising drive at RJMetrics. Instead of the company choosing a cause, we asked members of our team to choose a cause of their own. We then created an internal document for highlighting the causes and providing evidence to show colleagues why their charity is worthwhile, and to persuade others to support it. We then created tools for each person to submit info on their charitable giving.

This was the second year of the charity drive, and it ran from December 2nd (Giving Tuesday) through New Year’s Eve. I think the data speaks for itself:

  • We made 93 donations, of which 47 were anonymous.
  • We donated $38,763.80 in cash, an increase of 111% over last year.
  • We donated 309 hours of our time, an increase of 203% over last year
  • Our teddy bear donations stayed flat at 5
  • We encountered a divide by zero error when attempting to calculate the percentage increase in the donation of old clothes, furniture, computer monitors, and cars. We estimate that these donations were worth approximately $8,000 in aggregate.

At 45% of our total cash donations, GiveDirectly was our largest recipient of financial contributions for the second year in a row. It tied with Wikimedia for the highest number of individual donors. Additionally, GiveDirectly will receive the company’s $729 potluck lunch donation, where we donate our budget for lunch on a day where the team cooks meals for each other.

If you’re not already familiar with GiveDirectly, it is an amazing organization. They provide cash to poor families in Kenya and Uganda. GiveDirectly is extremely data driven about its impact, and there are numerous peer reviewed randomized controlled trials that show that they produce long lasting positive impacts in terms of health, education, and income. According to the charity evaluator GiveWell, GiveDirectly is a standout compared to other charities with respect to transparency, communication, and commitment to self-evaluation. They recently posted real-time performance statistics on their website with links to download CSVs of the raw data so that anyone can audit them. Instead of showcasing a few cherry-picked success stories, they randomly select a recipient each week and publish that recipient’s story on the GiveDirectly facebook page.

At 58% of our total hours, Spark Philadelphia was our top charity in terms of time for the second year in a row. Spark’s goal is to increase high school graduation rates. In the poor urban communities where Spark operates, on-time high school graduation rates are often below 50%, which is significantly lower than the national average of 80%. 92% of students who participate in Spark go on to graduate on time. Spark reached out to us when they first came to Philadelphia a few years ago, and we’ve participated in each semester since then.

Spark’s strategy is to get to kids while they are still in middle school. It works with teachers to identify students who seem at risk for dropping out because of problems at home or in the classroom. Spark then matches the kids with volunteer mentors from companies in the city, and the kids come to the mentors’ offices for two hours each week. The goal is to show them the paths that will be available if they get an education.

The kids work on projects with the mentors’ assistance, and the group that I was able to work with this semester created an addictively challenging video game. They came up with the premise, wrote the code, designed the art, and created the music. After writing the code that allowed the in-game character to jump, one of the kids looked around at the mentors and asked if he could work here. We assured him that we’ll save a spot for him when he graduates high school and college.

If you’d like to support our top charities, you can contribute at the links below: