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.

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2 Responses to “A Fundraising Success Story: Somali Survival Backpacks Project”

  1. Thanks for the great report. Small correction: we sent in two updates every WEEK. In an emergency situation, timely updates are crucial. Another factor: having had experience working with Global Giving for two years meant that Hot Sun Foundation knew how to get another project up and running quickly. We also sent email thank you’s immediately to every donor. A requirement: having Somali partners who have connected Survival Backpacks with popular Somali websites and the Somali Diaspora around the world, including the well-known Somali rapper K’naan (Wavin’ Flag, South Africa World Cup). Our Somali colleagues originated the project. Hot Sun Foundation provided support and infrastructure. Hot Sun Foundation is proud and humbled to work with our Somali colleagues on this outreach to Somali refugees in dire need. Hot Sun Foundation hopes to establish an ongoing network of support with this project, developing a new model of emergency assistance. We appreciate all the support and advice we receive from Global Giving.

  2. [...] and other essentials for those in desperate need.  Our friends at Global Giving have posted a compelling blog with more information about Hot Sun.  I encourage you to read it and follow the embedded YouTube [...]