Saturday, October 28, 2006

Interesting Fundraising Idea in Oregon

According to this article in the Salem, Oregon StatesmanjournalWoodburn Company Stores (presumably the name of the shopping mall) "plans a fundraising shopping event that it says will give participants a chance to be pampered while they shop and collect money for good causes.

The Nov. 4 event's goal is to raise $25,000 for 10 non-profit organizations, including the Volunteers of American, Easter Seals and Ronald McDonald Charities of Oregon and SW Washington.

Tickets cost $20, with $10 from each ticket going to the charities. Participants then shop in any of the 85 stores in the center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They also get lunch, dessert, a wine tasting, a gift from Garden Gallery Iron Works and gift wrapping. It's a great holiday promotion that could easily be implemented by other malls. I hope that there are information booths or better yet identifiable volunteers from the 10 organizations that will benefit from the event to talk about and raise awareness about who they are and what they do.

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Got my shots

Well I got my shots this afternoon. The clinic I got them at ran a looping video detailing all the viruses of the world, how they are transmitted and their effects (without vaccination). I forgot to tell them that this wasn't exactly calming for clientèle like myself who arrive into the office with fear that the vaccines themselves will infect me with the diseases I'm trying to prevent.

I had an irrational and completely uninformed fear (the best kind of fear, no?) about what was going into my body. I only got two live vaccines: Yellow fever and a combo shot that is the standard thing you get when you're in high school. One of the downsides of dropping out of high school was not being vaccinated as a teenager.

So I've been vaccinated for Tetanus, Diptheria, Polio, Measles/rubeola, Hep A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and Meningococcal meningitis.. A lot of shots for one day.

In addition to the vaccinations, I was prescribed Malarone, (anti Malaria drug that is a bit more costly but apparently has less side effects) and Cipro (an anti-biotic that I had only heard of from the Anthrax scare).

The vaccinations cost me $310 (including the consult fee) and while I haven't picked up the drugs yet, I expect that the drugs will cost over $200 to cover me while I am there. Malarone I know is $5 per pill. As it is at the end of the month, I found myself gulping at the drain on our bank account for these drugs. While this may sound like trite, (somewhat like the old 'eat all your dinner. There are starving kids in the world), I found myself for the first time seriously thinking about the costs of preventative medicine. If I'm in Vancouver and getting vaccinated for a two week trip now means we'll be eating mac & cheese until the end of the month, how in the hell are these vaccines afforded in the 3rd world?

I suppose this revelation reveals my naivety and how little I actually know about the issues in Africa (a realization becoming more and more apparent). The Gates Foundation has funded the development of a promising vaccine RTS, S but there is still at least 5 years of trials and work left to be done.

One thing that Millennium Promise has been involved in advocating is the simple access to insecticide-treated bed-nets (which cost about $10 per net and last up to 5 years) can save lives. Several campaigns are underway to promote the bed-nets and I love the simplicity of the campaign.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Busy Day

Friday's at GiveMeaning are supposed to be an opportunity for us to slow down, eat lunch together as the whole team (it's taking a bigger and bigger table to accommodate us all) and talk about the week that has passed.

The day started with a rush order of another 80 piggies for a church youth group in Vancouver. Jess and I delivered them to the church, thinking we would just drop them off. Instead, I found myself standing in front of the kids explaining the Pig-e-Bank's to the group of kids.

I must admit, I found it difficult to just explain the basics of the Pig-e-Bank at first but found my footing quickly and acted out a little skit (Jess' idea) that seemed to go over really well. But what was most satisfying was after standing in front of the whole room, I talked to some of the kids in smaller groups and was able to get their reaction as they held the box themselves. It was my first direct experience with a kid's reaction to the box and I have to say how proud I was.

It was a great feeling.

I came back to the office to find a great article in today's Vancouver Courier which describes the Pig-e-Bank program perfectly and ends with the first public mention of our expansion strategy for what will be a much bigger plan to make real change from spare change

Kids are starting to come online and activate their boxes. To protect their privacy, I can't post links to their individual pages but suffice it to say, I could spend the entire weekend reading their descriptions of what they're inspired about and why they want to help the charity they chose.

Speaking of the weekend, tomorrow I get my dreaded vaccines. Ouch.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006


About six weeks ago, I met a guy that for the past ten years had been one or two "extensions" outside of my immediate social network. By this, I mean that this guy and I had known so many people in common, we had travelled in many of the same circles and yet we had never met. So finally we meet for coffee and it was one of those kinds of meetings that just couldn't end. We had so much to talk about, so many shared interests, shared friends, etc that we just kept on going. This guy told me about some of his experiences travelling to Africa and very casually asked me if I wanted to come on his next trip. I replied without thinking. "Would love to!"

Let's back up. Some of my first memories growing up were of slide shows by people from South Africa showing the brutality of Apartheid. I remember being in the back of a community centre room in Victoria (called the home of the "Newly wed and nearly dead") and fearing that the police were going to bust through the door and arrest all of us being I couldn't differentiate from the police in South Africa to the police in Victoria. I grew up handing out leaflets outside of Shell Stations protesting their continued economic involvement in South Africa. Africa was in my heart, brain and soul from the earliest of memories.

I have travelled extensively but all of my travel has been airport to hotel to boardroom to hotel to airport. I have never travelled outside of this pattern.

I have engaged in many conversations about Africa. I have talked extensively and convincingly about the issues, about what's going on in the various countries, the politics, the economics. But I have repeated other people's stories, other people's experiences. For all of my reading, all of my facts, I have never seen any part of Africa.

So during the busiest time of the year for us at GiveMeaning, in amongst a bunch of new features we're developing for the site, right after our "Pig-e-Banks" have been launched, I'm off to Africa for two and a half weeks with 6 men, 4 of whom I met for the first time tonight.

At our meeting tonight, we went around the room introducing ourselves. Talking about why we're going and talking about what we fear most. What I fear most are the injections I have to take. The live viruses that I'm injecting into my body to protect me. After that, I fear the men I'm travelling with. I told them this tonight. Those that know me best know that I have very few close friends and these people have become close to me over several years. But for this experience to be what I want it to be, I must make these men, these strangers my close friends at least for the purpose of this trip.

Because what I most want from this is not only my own experience but a shared experience. I'm most hopeful that the conversations we have during our travels will lead to new opinions, new beliefs and new ideas.

This first initial meeting was really encouraging. All of us (including those that had already travelled to Africa) were more or less on the same page. Regardless of how much knowledge or travel we each individually have, we have all committed to arriving with an open-mind and being free (as best we can) of expectations, prejudices, and preconceived notions.

I would love to articulate why I'm going and what my purpose is to this trip in detail. All I can say is that I need to go. I've been trying to go for several years and it's never been the "right time." This certainly isn't the right time but I've made this work.

I'll be blogging (or so I hope) regularly from every country I visit on my trip and will hope to be uploading video and pictures from my trip. I hope that my perspective will be worth reading. As someone that interacts with donors and fundraisers and charities every day, I think I know some of the big problems, the big stigmas, the big questions that we all ask. Stay tuned here for updates.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pig-e-Banks are HERE!!!!!

They're here! What was first talked about on my blog as "Codename: Apple" has been revealed as our "Pig-e-Bank" program (pun intended).

While we were still working under-wraps on our modern twist to the coin collecting box, Unicef surprised us by announcing that they were ending their Halloween coin collection program.

Many people were very sad that this wonderful, simple way of introducing children to philanthropy and fundraising was ending. I'm pleased to announce that this Halloween, schools and individual children can become members of our Pig-e-Bank.

Now, kids can fundraise for any of the 80,000+ charities in Canada and through a very generous grant and some great logistical work on our part, we've figured out a way to take the biggest hassle out of the coin collecting equation and actually pig-up (oops I mean, pick-up, haha) the money from almost anywhere in Canada.

GiveMeaning's commitment is not just to revolutionize online philanthropy but to make all parts of the sector more fun, engaging, transparent and hassle-free for all involved.

Please permit me to boast that we've really outdone ourselves with these boxes.

We only have a limited number of these boxes for this Halloween, so I encourage you to go over to our site and order a few!

I recognize that it's late in the game. We've done this largely under-wraps with pre-selected schools, individuals and groups but we still have a few left and would love to see every piggy find a home!

On a different note, I have to say how excited I am that I am two weeks away from my first ever trip to Africa. If all goes according to plan, I will spend my first few days alone in Northern Uganda and then join a group of men travelling from Vancouver to three countries in Africa. This is the first time I'm mentioning this trip in public as my schedule has been very much in flux given how busy all of us are at GiveMeaning during the holiday season. I'll be sure to post much more about the trip and I intend to be posting regular updates while in Africa.

For the man who hates to fly, I can't wait to get on the planes that will take me to the continent that I've been wanting to visit since I was a little boy and learning about South Africa at anti-apartheid meetings and rallies that my parents were involved in.

I have to profress my tremendous gratitude to my parents for raising me in a family that from the very earliest of ages, it was made clear to me that we as individual citizens hold the power to change anything. I still remember my first anti-apartheid rally: The notion that Mandella would be freed, that powerful corporations would be forced to abandon political relationships because of pressure from our protests outside gas stations and liquor stores, all seemed impossible even to optimists like my mother and father. And in a relatively short period of time, it happened.

The Power of Plenty. The power of 5 dollars, five minutes always stuck with me. I saw first hand how a little could do a lot when each little bit could find each other and join together.

That's what we've done in some tiny bit at GiveMeaning and what we hope to do better day by day. GiveMeaning's power is in its community. It is not in technology or process or anything like that. It is simply in the collective will, intention and action of those who take the time to participate. And every single day we see more and more people joining existing projects and starting new ones.

I'm very thankful to be part of GiveMeaning. To be part of so many people's dreams and passions is one of the best jobs in the world. Every single one of us in the office is very proud to serve all of you.

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Matching Funds

One of the best things we've done in recent months is require each new project at our site to first collect 100 votes of support before the project becomes eligible for fundraising. We did this to prevent projects from becoming abandoned or never properly getting started and this new system has done very well.

When we announced the new voting system, we also announced a $5,000 matching fund for the first project to collect 100 votes as an early incentive to use this new system.

The winner of this matching fund was this project which is raising funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Giselle Mansfield, the woman who started this fundraising page is the ideal GiveMeaning fundraiser. She is motivated, resourceful, and a real go-getter. It's no surprise that in just over six weeks, she has reached her fundraising goal at our site.

Today, the same day that our first matching fund has helped Giselle's page reach it's goal, we announced our first corporate matching fund. World of Good an online marketplace for fair trade gifts has generously provided a $5,000 matching fund to a new project to send a Sudanese Refugee to Medical School in Uganda.

These corporate matching funds are a win for all involved. World Of Good's brand not only becomes associated with this incredibly positive, wonderful project but they become bonded in a very meaningful way to each donor through the site. The message that the donor gets is that World of Good cares about what that donor is there to support. To further cement the relationship, World of Good is giving a 10% discount to first-time visitors to their site that enter a special promotional code found at GiveMeaning.

I can't see a good reason why any company wouldn't want to create a similiar matching fund offer for every project on our site.

It's been a great day at GiveMeaning!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Been a while

It's been well over a month since I last blogged which I think violates all suggested "good blogging practices" but I'll be making up for lost time very shortly. Starting in November, I hope to be blogging daily on a very exciting trip that I've been trying to make happen almost ever since I started GiveMeaning. It appears as though all the stars are aligning to make this trip possible.

A lot has happened since my last post. CTV gave us some really wonderful national television coverage which you can see here

The coverage ran the night I left for Hollyhock to attend a conference called Web of Change. I was very reluctant to go to the conference and had a bunch of preconceived ideas of what was going to happen. I thought either it would be either too hippy/lala or a bunch of techies talking about solutions without any interest or knowledge in the core problems or worse a combination of hippy/lala and arrogant tech bs.

First, the actual place is amazingly beautiful. There are a bunch of flickr photosets tagged webofchange that show the place's beauty. There is a main lodge which has wireless access and where the food is served which is the definately the hub. But each actual conference session takes place in various cabins throughout heavily wooded parts of the property. Just travelling to and from each conference session, that you are walking through these beautiul old trees as opposed to air conditioned, carpeted hallways of a conference centre makes for a different attitude.

What made the actual conference so enjoyable was the quality of every conversation but one. Sure, there were personalities that I found irritating but nevertheless everyone there was there because they had a passion and desire to be part of the solution. They were there because they wanted to live life with meaning and were actively doing so. I was humbled and inspired by many people I met up there.

Shortly after coming back from Hollyhock, we received our first bit of US media coverage which unfortunately was very disappointing for the sheer inaccuracy of the article. Luckily, all attempts by my friends in the US and Canada to find the magazine on newsstands failed, so it appears as though they are not as widely circulated as before but according to the article: I ran venture capital for Intel and News Corp (I consulted to both companies but was never a VC for either), we aren't seeing viral growth (just the opposite! we've spent less than $1,000 on advertising since our inception and our growth is entirely word-of-mouth), and I count Warren Buffet as a good buddy (never met the man).

No press is bad press? Our first press in the Valley is "GiveMeaning: The site that doesn't have viral growth." Great. Oh well!

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