Home / Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why did you create Shared Nation?

Shared Nation has two sources. The first is the general sense of powerlessness that many people around the world feel when they look at the most serious problems facing the planet - from climate change to inequity to species loss. They know that crises are imminent but feel anxious that elected leaders and others with power aren’t acting with enough urgency. They despair about what they, as individuals, can do to make change happen.

At the same time, Shared Nation takes inspiration from many initiatives around the world that show the great impact that is possible when many people combine their resources and take decisive action together. This recent article that we co-wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review documents how these groups are beginning to have much more influence and describes the potential when millions combine their resources.

Powered by a breakthrough voting technology, which allows large groups of people to make efficient decisions about how to act together, Shared Nation seeks to bring this phenomenon to life on a very large scale. Our community wants to become a major force for global change, a people’s foundation that can have a meaningful impact through “massive aggregation” of money, time and wisdom.

Q. What has Shared Nation accomplished to date?

The Shared Nation concept was first described online in 2010 and a team of friends began to experiment with it in earnest in 2014. We tested a very basic version of the concept with our friends and family in 2015 and 2016, and ran two prototype funding rounds to gauge whether or not we were really onto something in May and October of 2017. With an average user rating of 8.25 out of 10, we felt confident enough to proceed.

In March 2018, we launched a fully functional platform. To push ourselves and to increase our rate of learning, we ran monthly funding rounds that addressed a number of topic areas from reduction of carbon emissions to youth empowerment to prevention of relationship violence. We got over 1700 people to try our platform and more than 700 to subscribe, making us the world’s largest global giving circle.

The community has done a lot of good already, giving away over $65,000 in funding to several social causes and organizations. Earlier this year, we helped the Eden Reforestation Project plant more trees in Haiti, we helped More Than Words open a new bookstore employing foster and homeless youth, and we helped High Tech High build several tiny, self-sustaining homes for those without one. We believe this is only the beginning of what we can --- and will -- accomplish together.

Q. What is Shared Nation's $100,000 "All or Nothing" Initiative? 

To build on the momentum from its successful prototypes and pilots, Shared Nation is aiming to collect $100,000 in pooled funds from its community by April 1, 2019, with a funding round to follow in May. We will not have any new monthly funding rounds until that time and we will seek to have similarly-sized rounds thereafter.

We believe that the true power of aggregating our funds will become much more apparent with larger monthly “pots” and we think the entire experience will become much more compelling overall.

Importantly, our $100,000 aim is an “all or nothing” proposition: If we meet our goal, community members will pay what they’ve pledged; if we fall short, they will not be charged a penny, and the round will not occur. We’re raising the stakes on ourselves!

Note: We fell short of the $100,000 goal for April 1, 2019 and therefore will not be having a funding round in May 2019. No credit cards will be charged.

Q. Why should I join Shared Nation? What’s the benefit to being part of it?

Shared Nation is a fun, fast and meaningful way to help solve the world’s biggest problems. You join by contributing a small amount of money each month into a shared pool and then you have a say about which projects the Shared Nation community supports with that combined amount. Overall, it’s a highly efficient way to actively engage with solving the world’s biggest problems that does not require a lot of time from any one person. This article provides a fuller description of how the Shared Nation experience works.

Note: Shared Nation is not currently accepting new contributions or registrations. 

Q: How do I contribute money to Shared Nation? What is my monthly obligation?

Shared Nation works by asking all of its participants to make a small monthly contribution ($2 minimum) into a shared pool of funds. Each month our community goes through a fun, fast and interactive voting process to select an organization from a new topic area (e.g. climate change, women's rights and gender justice) to receive those funds -- though all candidate organizations get some small amount just for taking part. Through this process we learn more about great innovations and increase our clout by investing together. By selecting a monthly plan you indicate the amount you will contribute each month (for months when rounds are held). That amount will be drawn from your credit card on the first day of every month to cover your contribution to the prior round. You can cancel at absolutely any time.

Note: Shared Nation is not currently accepting new contributions or registrations.

 Q: How secure is my credit card information on Shared Nation?

Shared Nation's payment processing is handled by Stripe. Stripe is certified as a PCI Service Provider Level 1, the highest form of security certification in the payment industry. For more information, click here.

 Q: Why do organizations become candidates for support on Shared Nation?

Shared Nation is a new source of support and feedback for innovative organizations and projects that try to solve global problems. They all get the benefit of some small funding (an equal portion of 10% of the community pot), which we believe is important since it acknowledges the critical work they do and makes sure organizations representing marginalized groups are less neglected. Candidate groups also get great exposure just by taking part. The requirements to enter a round of funding are relatively few-- primarily involving a relatively short description of the innovation or initiative for which they seek support. In addition, Shared Nation makes much faster decisions than traditional funding mechanisms that rely on expert panels or lengthier deliberation so that funded organizations can get to work faster.

Q: Do candidate organizations have to be nonprofits?

No, projects do not have to be nonprofits. 

Q: Are my contributions tax-deductible?

They are not. Shared Nation is not structured as a non-profit and it also does not take in contributions from its community members; those are transferred directly to winning organizations. Shared Nation as an organization will never profit from this work -- roughly 6% of contributions go to operating costs (i.e., staff) and administrative costs (i.e., payment processing) but all other funds will flow directly winning projects. We will supply public financial statements at the end of each year to verify this.

Q: How will my money be used? Are there any requirements for winners?

Currently, the money Shared Nation collects from its users is given as an unrestricted gift. This may change as the Shared Nation grows and collects larger amounts. Shared Nation does follow the projects that we support, and invites them to provide updates on their progress which we share with our members.

The primary requirement for Shared Nation winners is that they must collect their funding through Stripe, a platform almost identical to Paypal in terms of security and ease of use.

Q. How do the Shared Nation community's contributions get allocated each month?

A big part of the idea behind Shared Nation is aggregating impact - we want to the winning organization each month to get a big boost from our pooled funds and, in the future, we hope to be able to take large actions together (e.g., buying land to put into protection). That said, as of July 1, 2018, the 7 quarter-finalist organizations (that aren't the winner) get to split 10% of our funds, and all other participants split up 10%, as well. So the winning organization gets all of our funds, less 10% for quarter-finalists, less 10% for all other participants, less operational and processing fees (roughly 6%).


Q: How does this compare to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or StartSomeGood?

In Shared Nation, people pool their resources and then collectively decide which projects to support. This is very different than existing crowdfunding sites, which take a market-based approach in which people make individual decisions to invest in different projects. These platforms are valuable, but Shared Nation was formed to unite people together in massive, digitally-coordinated, collective action. We believe that some problems cannot be solved by markets (or even well-meaning foundations or billionaires) alone, but can be solved through mass action. Shared Nation is also unique in that rounds focus on specific issues (such as climate change or income inequity). In the future participants will be able to donate time (in addition to money), as well. Shared Nation is also unique in that rounds focus on specific issues (such as climate change or income inequity). In the future participants will be able to donate time (in addition to money), as well. 

Q: What problems will Shared Nation focus on solving? What are “global commons problems?”

Shared Nation focuses mainly on addressing global commons problems. Global commons problems are problems that are shared by all residents of the planet like climate change, biodiversity, population displacement, and inequity. Since nation states and individual philanthropies are not equipped to solve such problems on the urgent timeframe required, we’re experimenting with the Shared Nation as an alternative. (In no way are we rejecting those other institutions; we just view what we’re offering here as a helpful complement.) We will run a Shared Nation round every month, determining topics as we go with input from all of you!

Q: Why can’t I vote on any project I want to?

We encourage all citizens to spend as much time as they would like to browse projects, and to share their perspectives by liking projects or adding comments. However, each citizen can only vote between the pairs of projects randomly assigned by Shared Nation -- until we get to quarter-finals, when every citizen votes on every project. This is called pairwise voting, and we’ve designed this approach very intentionally. One reason is that it doesn't allow any group to 'stuff the ballot box' and another its that it gives each citizen the same amount of voting power (regardless of how much money they contribute). In addition, it does not require much time from any citizen. Importantly, you are not completely powerless to see your favorite project advance; while 7 of the 8 quarter-finalists are determined by pairwise voting, the most 'favorited' project fills the eighth slot.

Q: What is pairwise voting?

Pairwise voting is a voting method that allows large groups to make fast decisions between lots of voting options. Rather than requiring every voter to review every project before making a decision, it asks every voter to choose between just two options (in this case, candidate projects) a few times. In so doing, we can rapidly determine the overall preferences of the group; we can narrow things down to a set of quarterfinal projects in a matter of days.

Q: Why does the Shared Nation community do pairwise voting?

Since we have only finite resources and want to pool them to increase our collective power, we have to make some hard choices about which organization we want to fund the most. We also have too many candidate projects for everybody to review them all in detail. Pairwise voting is an efficient way for a large number of people to divvy up the work of ranking a large number of options, narrowing down the group's preferences fast. 

Q: Does Shared Nation's pairwise voting approach actually lead to the best projects getting selected?

Our voting approach is highly efficient: each participant gets a handful of votes before we narrow things down to eight quarter-finalists. We are, thus, sampling the citizens preferences rather than asking every citizen to rank each project in order to determine the finalists. During finals, every citizen does vote on every project, ensuring the most-favored project will win if it makes it to finals.

We ran some simple tests and showed that with 100 candidate projects and 2,000 citizens, there is a 97.5% chance that the project that is the most favored by the citizens is identified as one of the quarter-finalists after only 10 pairwise votes. This result was based on the assumption that there is only a 65% agreement among all citizens about which of any two projects is best. If there is higher agreement among citizens, the most-favored project would be in finals even more than 97.5% of the time. We would also observe an increase the percent chance that the most favored project makes it to the quarter-finals by having more citizens or fewer projects.

Q: What is the difference between favoriting and voting?

Shared Nation uses both favoriting and voting to select its eight quarter-finalists each month, and we realize the difference between them might be confusing.

Voting, by which we really mean pairwise voting, helps the Shared Nation community select seven out of the eight quarter-final contestants for the month. Each contributing member of Shared Nation is given a set of five pairwise votes per week prior to the playoffs (i.e., quarter-finals). Each user votes between projects that are randomly selected. No one in the community has control over which projects appear in their voting queue. It’s a fair way to operate, and it apportions the work of narrowing down to playoff contestants across the community, aggregating our preferences.

Favoriting, by contrast, gives Shared Nation members a little more control over which projects they really want to champion. Each member can favorite as many projects as they would like, but the project with the most favorites (before playoffs begin) advances. Members can identify their favorites on the page where projects are listed, on the round standings page, or on the individualized page of the project they’d like to favorite. You can change your favorite organization anytime before playoffs start.

Q: How are the eight quarter-finalist projects selected?

Shared Nation utilizes pairwise voting and favoriting to select its eight quarter-finalists.

At the beginning of each month, each member of our community makes a few pairwise votes between a subset of potential investments to help the group narrow down its options. The seven projects with the highest pairwise voting “win rates” proceed to the playoffs. If there is a tie for seventh place, the tie is broken by the project with the most favorites (i.e., expressions of support enumerated on each candidate project's page). In the event of a tie in number of these endorsements, the selected organization will be drawn randomly.

The eighth, and last, finalist is selected through the “favoriting” functionality. The project with the most favorites joins the other seven projects in proceeding to the playoffs. If the most favorited project is one of the seven projects with the highest pairwise win rates, then the eighth slot goes to the next most favorited project that is not part of the top seven. If there is a tie for the most favorited project, then the project with the higher pairwise win rate proceeds to the playoffs. In the event of a tie in win rates, the winner will be drawn randomly.

 Q: What if I can't afford to join Shared Nation?

Please don't let that stop you from signing up! You can request sponsorship during the sign-up process and we will do our best to help everyone join regardless of their ability to pay each month.

Note: Shared Nation is not currently accepting new contributions or registrations.