Archive for August, 2011

 

climbing up the hockey stick

Posted by Donna Callejon on August 29th, 2011

It really is hard to believe that it’s been nearly eight years since the day in Geneva when I met Dennis Whittle.   I went 4,073 miles to meet the guy who would turn the page to my career’s second chapter, when his office was just 3 miles from my house.  Three weeks later I met the other half of the founding duo – Mari Kuraishi.  Needless to say they were smart, direct, and impressive.  So not long after that I found myself toiling along with them and two handfuls of others in that sometimes smelly, often music-filled and always fun office above the thrift store down the street.

One of the first things they suggested I do was to read their business plan.  So I did.  It had, like legions of business plans before it, the classic hockey stick growth curve.  In our case, the unit being donation volume.  According to this plan, we would be at $40 million in annual donation volume, and “pay our own freight” by about 2005.  Um, we didn’t quite make that.  Many slightly less sloped hockey sticks followed.  When things didn’t take off like a rocket ship we tried new things, always led by our two fearless (and in this case that word really applies) leaders.  We tried plan b, plan c, and plan d, always with our eyes on the prize of working to make it possible for great organizations around the world to access funds and for donors of all shapes and sizes to support the causes that inspired them.

So here we are in 2011, celebrating two things.  First, our donor community just crossed $50 million in aggregate contributions.  Second, for the first six months of the year we more than “paid our own way,” covering 103% of our expenses on our own steam.  The business model is different from what was in the original plan.  The mix of donation activity is different from what was in the plan.  The mix of revenue comes from sources not in the original plan.  And we don’t yet feel like that 103% is a lock consistently, but we see the end of the tunnel.

Roles have evolved; Dennis has transitioned off the staff and onto the Board.  Mari runs the day to day with her quiet, determined leadership style.

Why did they persevere?  Ten days ago Dennis wrote a very poignant blog post, made moreso by his mom’s passing just a day later.  The post gives some insight into what motivates him.  Mari  has different, but equally inspiring, motivations as described in this Wharton Blog from earlier this year.

From the perspective of their team, we are glad they did press on.  Because they did, more than 50 million dollars have been contributed to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits around the world who are working to educate children, feed the hungry, build houses, train women (and men) with job skills, and catalyze hundreds of other important initiatives. This past week, a generous donor in Singapore gave the 50 millionth dollar through GlobalGiving to help with relief for the East African famine.  This was possible largely because Dennis and Mari have persevered to build a team and a platform that continue to live up to our mission of “unleashing the potential of people around the world to make positive change happen.”

A Fundraising Success Story: Somali Survival Backpacks Project

Posted by Marc Maxson on August 3rd, 2011

A week ago GlobalGiving launched an employee giving portal for Eli Lilly & Company. On the first day, the Lilly Foundation and its employees contributed over forty thousand dollars to GlobalGiving projects within Lilly’s giving focus areas. One of these projects was an emergency project to provide Somali famine victims with “Survival Backpacks,”  run by Hot Sun, a film school in the Nairobi slum of Kibera. Hot Sun raised over $8,000 from 143 donations in one day, thanks to Eli Lilly employees.

This unexpected windfall is noteworthy for two reasons:

  • First, the organization was flexible in its mission and able to shift focus to disaster relief (when it had only managed a film school prior to this).
  • Second, the reason Survival Backpacks for Somali Refugees attracted all those new donors was because their team followed GlobalGiving’s recommended strategies – posting four project updates in 2 months, tweeting / facebooking heavily about the cause, and building personal relationships with donors in a variety of other ways. This helped them attract 76 donors, which gave them good visibility on our website. (Site placement is determined by a series of factors including donor numbers, reporting history, etc.)  Therefore, the Backpacks project had high site visibility on the day that we brought in 38,000 new donors; this led to  a significant overnight fundraising success story.

Fundraising is stochastic, meaning that each action does not guarantee results in a tit-for-tat fashion, but the sum of each incredible personal act does indeed add up. This example should inspire and instruct others in how to attract resources to any community effort, whatever the need, regardless of barriers.

Here’s a bit about the genesis of the project from its founder, Nathan Collett:

Long before this crisis hit, Somali filmmaker Ahmed Farah and I had been shooting a documentary about the Somali refugee camps in Dadaab. We felt we had to do something to fill the gap that large aid organizations are not filling. People need immediate help, before “official” help arrives, as they wait for days, even weeks, to be registered. This gave birth to the Survival Backpacks project. Famine now adds to war as the reason for their exodus. Somalis are crossing the horn of Africa on foot, arriving at Kenyan border camps, where they wait. This will help them survive until “survival aid” arrives, and allows them to keep moving if needed.

As filmmakers we also are working to raise awareness of the issue from a Somali perspective. In 2007 I shot a short film in Northern Somalia called “Charcoal Traffic.” Every time the country tries to get on a solid footing there is outside intervention, war, and attacks such as the Ethiopian invasion in 2008. Many of Somalia’s problems are self-created, but outsiders have made the problem worse. An African proverb says that ‘when the elephants fight, the ground suffers’… this is the case in Somalia. The people are suffering.

Our goal is to give something tangible and raise awareness. No filming or transport costs are taken out of GlobalGiving donations. The trailer for our next documentary “Dadaab: get there or die trying” was screened on Al-Jazeera English’s “The Stream” on July 27th 2011. We hope to continue raising awareness through you, and those whom you tell about us… but to not limit ourselves to that. People on the ground need help. We’ve seen their faces, we’ve experienced their suffering. We can’t just film anymore, we need to save lives.

Best,
Nathan Collett

If you’re interested in learning more about the story of the Somali Survival Backpacks project, here are some links to follow:

The crisis in the Horn of Africa is so immense, we’ll be watching to see what other innovative people and projects arise to help alleviate the suffering. Here are the drought/famine relief projects on GlobalGiving today: http://www.globalgiving.org/east-africa-drought/

You can find other tips and examples about successful online fundraising strategies on our Tools and Trainings Blog.