Tuesday, March 14, 2006


On the way in to work a week ago, I read a small blurb in the Globe & Mail about a Journalism Student at the University of Niagara (Ontario) who had begun a letter writing campaign to 250 of the world's biggest companies in hopes that they would sponsor his education. The student - Shawn Taylor - made a promise to his dying Uncle that he would complete his schooling.
Read more about Shawn's story here.

He needed to raise CDN $10,000 and at the time I first visited his blog, no companies had stepped up but he displays each of the rejection letters he receives on the blog. In a way, some of the responses kind of reminds me of Letters From A Nut. Pepsi responded by giving him a bunch of merchandise whereas others just explained that supporting an individual was outside of their scope of social responsibility and community investment.

I called Shawn and wanted to know about his responses and what his values were. I quickly came to understand that Shawn wasn't willing to act as shill for the highest bidder. That and other parts of our discussions made me appreciate that this was a genuine attempt at finding an innovative, alternative means to funding his education and making good on his promise to his Uncle.

Shawn's story intersected almost perfectly with a plan of ours at GiveMeaning to create an Ambassador Program. For a while now, we've been working on an idea that would see us partially sponsor a student's education in return for that student explaining GiveMeaning to their community both on campus and off. In my discussions with Shawn, I felt a great fit and decided to launch the Ambassador program with Shawn as our first Ambassador.

In a way, his blog is an ad-hoc form of what we do on our site: Host pages each with their own specific charitable goal and encourage individuals to donate to that goal and get updates and progress reports through that page. Of course, Shawn's project does not qualify as a charitable activity and would never get approved for listing at GiveMeaning but both the spirit of his blog as well as the response from caring individuals is very much aligned with the spirit of GiveMeaning.

Given Shawn's goal is $10,000, I'm hopeful that three companies will follow GiveMeaning's lead and each contribute $2500. If not, I have a 'Plan B' for Shawn's goal but I'll wait to see if the momentum for Shawn's goal changes any with the first major contribution to his goal.

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