Global Citizen’s commitment to transparency

In the nonprofit world, trust is everything: Can donors be sure their dollars add up to real change? For advocacy NGO Global Citizen, announcing high-value commitments — financial contributions, vaccines, meals, trees, etc. — at high-profile festivals requires rigorous due diligence and certainty. PwC worked pro bono with Global Citizen, developing clearer workflow processes to vet and track secured commitments from intent to execution.


A concerted effort toward accountability

While it’s easy to talk about changing the world, organizations that are truly committed to this mission should prove their dedication through action. Only by backing up their words with tangible results can they make a meaningful impact. For Global Citizen, an announcement of billions of dollars to fight global poverty makes headlines, but it invites questions from the public, commitment-makers and the organization itself to confirm: Are those dollars real? Will they make the impact they’re supposed to? How do we make sure we’re comfortable with this commitment being on our platform?

At Global Citizen, the ability to answer these questions with certainty is fundamental to its mission of ending extreme poverty worldwide. It’s what turns the organization’s star-studded music festivals into life-changing events for people around the world. Global Citizen needed a clear way to evaluate commitments throughout their life cycle to help establish trust and maintain societal support. With an eye toward increasing transparency, impact and accountability, the organization turned to PwC to help improve its operating model, technology, processes and procedures for vetting and tracking commitments.

Making sense of billions
When it comes to its commitments, Global Citizen doesn’t directly solicit or accept funds. Rather, the organization leverages its substantial public profile, rallying collective action to secure commitments from governments, multinational organizations, corporations and philanthropists — and then validating the disbursement of funds.

But when a commitment maker pledges money toward a cause, the dollar amount in news headlines doesn’t always tell the full story and due diligence is essential. An announced commitment may, for example, be a reaffirmation of a prior pledge announced on a different platform (not a new commitment), or it could be an announcement that redirects funds previously associated to a different commitment with varying amounts of “new” funds attached. The world of international development can have instances of double counting and inflation, and it risks damaging the credibility of the campaign efforts itself.

Upon its founding in 2008, Global Citizen was much like any other startup, building processes as it went along. But as its profile grew — and with it, the size of its secured commitments — the organization realized that a more rigorous system for measurement and evaluation would be necessary to turn announcements into action. A connection made through organic relationships led to a discussion about how PwC could help Global Citizen manage this growth. Global Citizen knew the firm would be able to help develop and implement the tools and procedures to help solidify the integrity of secured commitments at a rapidly growing scale.


Greater advocacy through greater accuracy

For James Salazar, director of Impact and Accountability at Global Citizen, due diligence was job number one. “Our former process and technology struggled to keep up with the level of specificity required for a commitment to become certifiable,” Salazar says. “We had to be able to differentiate between new and prior commitments over their life cycle.”

Working pro bono, a cross-functional PwC team helped Global Citizen create a 12-step process that was built into Salesforce, with a standardized information structure and intuitive dashboards to help manage the myriad of commitments in the days leading up to a festival. A commitment life cycle workflow enables Global Citizen to catalog incoming commitments, track whether they’ve been honored, identify where dollars have been allocated and understand the success of the resulting programs. By monitoring commitments in Salesforce across their life cycle, Global Citizen can determine, and credibly claim, the role it played in helping make a global impact.

Building a framework that works

Before the design and implementation of a more transparent system, Global Citizen and PwC challenged fundamental assumptions around the skills, processes and data necessary to establish the link between advocacy and impact. The pledges Global Citizen secures span various dollar amounts and types of work. Uncertainty around one commitment could undermine confidence in all of them. PwC specialists in financial services transformation, sustainable development, cloud and digital, and ESG assurance came together to create an organization-wide operating framework and data structure in Salesforce that helps Global Citizen validate and track commitments on a consistent basis.

PwC helped upskill Global Citizen employees on evaluating commitments and describing them in a consistent way. The team also developed a messaging framework to help communicate effects and outcomes with accuracy. This robust process of public-facing accountability holds both Global Citizen and commitment-makers to their word.


The difference is clear

As of 2023, the systems, processes and governance that PwC helped implement have enabled Global Citizen to track more than 300 commitments valued at more than $64 billion. The results of these commitments — interventions dedicated to reducing poverty, driving equity and climate action — have helped nearly 1.3 billion people. “The public can be skeptical, even cynical, around pledges from governments,” says Global Citizen co-founder Mick Sheldrick. “We’re proud we can stand on stage and declare what is new.”

Global Citizen reviews its commitments for accuracy ahead of events, giving the organization and its commitment-makers increased certainty by the time they take the stage to announce them. The commitments Global Citizen decides not to accept after due diligence also build confidence in its system and brand. An estimated 94 percent of its commitments are on track to progress through completion and implementation (i.e., money delivered to organizations on the ground), with the other six percent not being completed due to political events outside of its control (elections) or disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to its extensive, tech-enabled vetting process, those ratios are set to only improve over time.

Doing good at great scale
During a recent global crisis, the Global Citizen system was looked at as an example of how to accurately assess the value of commitments. Thanks to Global Citizen’s rigorous due diligence, the organization reevaluated and redefined its investments, mitigating against any misunderstanding that could negatively affect its impact and brand.

Strengthening confidence in Global Citizen’s mission is more than good PR. Being able to demonstrate results fosters a virtuous cycle that creates more opportunities to gather commitments. The new Salesforce-based system is built to scale and support new festivals across various continents, generating increased investment in programs for food, vaccines and job training worldwide. “The number of commitments is no longer a barrier to tracking,” Salazar says, noting the organization’s increased bandwidth with the same-sized team. PwC continues to support Global Citizen with pro bono consulting work, assessing processes and technology on an ongoing basis to help drive continuous improvement, increased accuracy and greater capacity.

Beyond scale, increased training and education have contributed to a greater organizational understanding of why tracking impact is so important. With this new vision, Global Citizen is set on being an authority and trusted collaborator in increasing transparency throughout the NGO space while helping governments, corporations and philanthropists make effective commitments and holding them accountable for delivery.


commitments secured against United Nations Global Goals, tracked by Global Citizen since inception


billion in funds distributed toward verified, secured and delivered commitments, tracked by Global Citizen since inception


billion lives affected as a result of Global Citizen’s actions and secured commitments being implemented, tracked by Global Citizen since inception

Rigorous systems for due diligence, transparency and tracking of commitments build trust in Global Citizen’s impact

“We can now declare implemented commitments confidently, without speculation.” 

Mick Sheldrick
Co-Founder, Global Citizen


“If you’re only measuring the money and not impact, you’re measuring the wrong thing.”

James Salazar
Director, Impact & Accountability, Global Citizen

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