Project Description

GiveDirectly skyrocketed from a budget of less than $200,000 budget in 2012 to over $140 million raised as of 2017.

Swift River facilitated this growth and their shift from tracking donors in an Excel spreadsheet to their sophisticated and automated system.


GiveDirectly’s business model is built on the idea that a large group of individual donors would want to directly contribute to helping another large group of people in developing nations by providing them with a basic annual income.


  1. The premise is that unconditional payments will help raise the living standards of families subsisting on less than $1/day and facilitate them moving towards greater self-sufficiency. Transparency and direct feedback from recipients to donors was critical.
  2. GiveDirectly was using Microsoft Excel to track donations and donor communications and the organization did not have the capacity to track individual donor’s donation histories. Resolving credit card processing challenges and communication with individual donors to address donation issues was labor intensive and cost-ineffective even though there were a growing number of online and monthly donors.
  3. The donor communication process was complex, unwieldy and inefficient. Sending an email to the GiveDirectly donor base involved creating a mailing list in Excel, modifying it prior to uploading a .csv file to the email software, deduplicating and then sending out emails to that list. There was no way to determine what content individual donors were interested in and then delivering that content.


GiveDirectly realized that good tracking and database systems were the key to meeting their needs.

  • Swift River set up Salesforce for GiveDirectly and helped to integrate a Stripe payments solution that allows for payment via credit card, ACH, bitcoin and more using the Payments 360 that allowed for customers, payments, reimbursements to all be managed within one system: Salesforce.
  • Swift River helped set up the donation processing components of the GiveDirectly website and cleaned up legacy data prior to importing into Salesforce.
  • The Swift River team trained GiveDirectly staff to use Workflows, Flow and Process Builder, which enabled them to set up an intricate system of direct customer engagement emails that responded to every situation possible to automate donor retention.


  • GiveDirectly has now delivered over $42 million to people living below the poverty line with basic income assistance worth approximately $1,000/household/year. Without an automated database it simply wouldn’t be possible to manage 30,000+ online donors that are directly impacting the lives of over 350,000 people in east Africa.
  • The new hands free donor management solution is much more donor responsive and staff-time effective. GiveDirectly relies on a network of individual donors who give regularly. Donors are now automatically alerted if a monthly credit card donation is declined with customized emails that help retain donors: “Have you moved?”, “Hey, did your credit card expire?” and more. When this was all previously done in Excel, donor turnover was high and dealing with each case was labor intensive.
  • When GiveDirectly began using Salesforce, their relationships with their donors improved substantially. The project was initiated as a way to manage donations – there were just too many to handle manually in their Excel system. Now the organization is managing communications and donation management in an integrated way. GiveDirectly now knows the exact history of each donor they’re reaching out to and how to connect with them and is using advanced tools like Pardot to roll out targeted strategies for donor segments.
“Our systems are now so good that we can handle all the individual donor support issues with a customer service team of 1.5 folks for our community of 30,000 donors. Swift River was very flexible and always had the budget of our small (at the time) organization in mind 一 they really focused on efficiency. Meghan and Park were knowledgeable about the implications of various potential solutions, gave us options, and were transparent about what it would take to get us where we wanted to go.”
Catherine Diao, Communications Lead, Give Directly