Olivia Cosgrove was “the woman who spent your money” in disaster-zones around the globe. Now, she is founder and CEO of Donor2Deed, a virtual company that she operates from her Enniskillen home.

Co-ordinating the logistics for international aid agencies in war, flood and famine zones awakened a desire in Olivia to ensure that donors know exactly how their money is helping on the ground.

She created Donor2Deed, a software tool that connect donors to charity projects via Google Earth and Maps, giving them more choice and informing them of the impact of their donation.

Creator of Google Earth, Michael Jones has backed Olivia’s product providing advice and support.

The Monaghan native, who lives in Enniskillen, has worked with 25 charities since 2009, including UNICEF, the Dublin Simon Community and US Meals on Wheels. Her latest focus is companies with CSR projects who want to communicate to others the good work they are doing within their communities.

A trained accountant with KPMG in Belfast, Olivia travelled to Rwanda in 1995 with Concern, an audit client. While there, she managed the money for an area the size of the UK. She later lectured at the University of Malawi with the World Bank before heading to Kosovo in 1999 where she was publicly recognized by UNHCR as the leader of the only project to successfully complete a target to rehabilitate the homes of 1,000 families before Balkan winter set in. Following the Indonesian Ocean Tsunami in 2005, Olivia developed and implemented a logistics system for an international medical agency operating in Banda Aceh, the worst hit area.

When her grand-mother gave her money to bring directly to tsunami-hit Indonesia, Olivia bought ladies underwear and crayons, paper and balloons for the children.

“People had literally lost everything. I got the kids to draw pictures and I was able to bring those pictures home to my grandmother and tell her the story of where her money went and how it helped.

“I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every donor could have that experience. I am the person who spends your money and I understand the impact that you actually make.’” Olivia recalls that the island of Ireland raised £2 million for Concern to help in Kosovo in 2005. “That gave us a massive cash flow to start buying wood, so we could rebuild 700 homes ahead of the Balkan winter. We were the only agency that did it and we were six weeks ahead of everyone else.” Olivia wanted the Irish people to know what a huge impact they had had. “We had no way of communicating that to them other than by taking a spread in a national newspaper to say ‘thank you’. But by the time the message gets back to HQ and is passed through the communications team, both the message and its relevance are lost,” she states.

“That’s where the idea for enabling the donor to connect directly to the project came from; allowing them to stay connected to the project and understand the real impact they make.” Olivia has noticed that people have “lost faith in charities” and are now only giving to recognised brands e.g. Concern, Trocaire and Save the Children. “They give less to smaller brands, but the irony is, those smaller brands are more nimble and can often be more cost effective as they often have fewer admin costs. These include community organisations working on the ground.” Donor2Deed is “trying to restore the faith of donors by enabling charities to become more transparent to their donors while increasing their online donations,” Olivia explains.

“Charities have very tight budgets. They are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate value for money. That leads them to a risk-averse culture, whereby they are not able to try something new because there is no demonstrated return of investment. I suggest they can use technology to solve that problem.” Donor2Deed has made its presence felt in the Republic of Ireland, having worked with Denis O’Brien’s Digicell, the mobile phone network provider, which operates in Central America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. She is also in discussion with the Irish Government in relation its open data policy.

On heading a virtual company, Olivia comments: “The joy is you can connect with people across the world, you have the flexibility of working for yourself. You have to be aware that the west coast America doesn’t open until 5pm and east coast until 2pm, but that’s fine, it enables you to do other things during the day.” Her time working in emergency zones allowed her to see “the incredible work people actually do.” “The frustration has always been not being able to inform people on a wide scale of the impact they can make,” she adds. “It’s really important to let a donor know that they are valued. But sending them a letter or an email to say they are valued, is not letting them know they are valued!” she argues.

Her message is: “Donors are starting to walk with their wallets. We are proving a low cost solution to companies that want to stand out from the crowd.” Olivia relocated to Enniskillen in 1999 and, in her spare time, enjoys hiking and paddling on the Erne. She is influenced by Maya Angelou, who said: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”