Sub-Saharan Africa, United States


Poverty Alleviation, Disaster Relief

The Client

GiveDirectly was founded by a group of development economists at Harvard and MIT in search of an effective way to provide financial assistance for poverty alleviation. The non-profit started providing direct cash transfers, no strings attached, to the most vulnerable in Africa, about a decade ago. Dedicated to radical transparency, GiveDirectly is the first charity that lets individual donors send money directly to those living in extreme poverty -- allowing recipients to decide for themselves how their aid dollars are spent. The efficacy and impact of this unconditional, direct cash payment approach to poverty aid has been substantiated by rigorous randomized controlled trials and other evaluation methods.

In its standard programs, GiveDirectly uses a strict operating model to make sure the appropriate households are receiving the right funds. The operating model steps include:

- Using public data and its own field assessment criteria to target vulnerable communities and households.
- Conducting audits to ensure eligibility and guard against fraud.
- Transferring payments to deliver at least $1,000 to each household (around one year’s budget).
- Calling each recipient via GiveDirectly’s call center for payment verification and to provide quality customer support to beneficiaries.

To date, GiveDirectly has delivered over $140 million to more than 130,000 families - largely in East Africa.

The Challenge

While GiveDirectly used a mobile survey tool to collect beneficiary assessment data in the past, they were also trying to track other interactions including cash transfer details and follow-up calls with recipients as well as to monitor field agent activities.

At the same time GiveDirectly was considering a more full-featured system for their core operations, the organization saw an opportunity to extend its direct giving model to disaster relief by providing unrestricted cash transfers to victims of the 2017 Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Among the challenges GiveDirectly faced operating in rural and urban areas of Puerto Rico - a Caribbean island devastated by the category five hurricane’s powerful winds and driving rain - were power outages, hard to traverse roads, disrupted internet and mobile data service, and dangerous debris fields.

"The value of the TaroWorks and Salesforce integration…(is) that the backend of Salesforce is so configurable, that I can link every recipient to every (data point) we create…The building blocks are already built so...we’re not writing code from scratch and that makes it so much cheaper and so much faster for us..."

Han Sheng Chia, Humanitarian Director, GiveDirectly.

The Solution

In the aftermath of hurricanes Maria and Harvey, GiveDirectly spun up and launched their CRM with the TaroWorks mobile field service app. With the new system, GiveDirectly accomplished a range of tasks needed to distribute $9.5 million in cash transfers from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to low-income families in Puerto Rico and Texas hurricane damage zones.

A team of almost 30 GiveDirectly field staff and managers fanned out across 20 neighborhoods in northeastern and southeastern Puerto Rico using TaroWorks’ offline mobile forms on their Android devices. Staff on the ground screened potential households through a digital enrollment process that took about 12 minutes per recipient. Tasks included recording basic demographic information, capturing the GPS location of each visit, photographing personal documents (like government-issued IDs, utility bills and mortgage statements) to verify individual identity, and taking snapshots of damaged property to assess need.

GiveDirectly programmed eligibility calculations into the TaroWorks form using javascript, which told their field officers on the spot whether a household was eligible for the cash transfer funds. This allowed the GiveDirectly field officer to inform the potential recipient in real time. Families deemed eligible for aid subsequently received a prepaid money card (since many of them didn’t have a means of accepting mobile payments), which was registered by entering card serial numbers into the TaroWorks’ app. Card distribution, which occurred up to 300 times on any given day, was verified by getting the recipient’s digital signature on a mobile device screen and having a family representative pose for a photo holding the cash card.

Field agents who logged and stored their activities on their devices when they didn’t have connectivity, uploaded that data to Salesforce once within range of WiFi or mobile data service. With TaroWorks’ direct integration with, the data was saved against the beneficiaries in Salesforce, allowing GiveDirectly to see comprehensive histories of each household, including details about the card issued and results of follow-up surveys.

GiveDirectly screened and provided cards of $1,500 each to more than 4,700 families in Puerto Rico, totaling more than $7.5 million over 5 months. The organization delivered 94% of the project funds directly to the recipients and only 4% of recipients experienced issues using the money. Detected fraud rates of less than 1% were in line with prior experiences elsewhere. Eighty-four percent of recipients preferred cash to traditional in-kind assistance citing its flexibility and the inherent trust and respect it signified.

Many recipients used the cash transfers to purchase consumer goods like power generators, appliances, mattresses and clothing - which allowed them to resume functioning in their homes. Building materials and medication were also among items purchased with funds distributed by GiveDirectly.

Since the initial launch of the system for the hurricane projects, Give Directly has expanded its use of the Salesforce and TaroWorks system to their earlier main cash transfer projects in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Related: Using the Nonprofit Cloud and TaroWorks’ offline mobile field service app (AppExchange) to help manage the work, GiveDirectly channeled funds from philanthropy Arnold Ventures to low-income families recovering from the devastating storms. (Read More)


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