Monday, April 30, 2007

Fast-Food Philanthropy? Idol Gives Back

In my Google Reader the other night, I found a post by Amy Tiemann at the MojoMom Blog entitled "Fast-Food Philanthropy" talking about the recent "Idol Gives Back" American Idol campaign to raise money for charities seeking to address poverty in America and abroad. I wrote the following comment in response to her blog entry:

Thanks for your post. I can only imagine the negotiations that went on behind the scenes between the orgs that are to receive this money and the producers of Idol Gives Back.

As is the case with many big appeals (e.g. Make Poverty History, Live8 etc), the actual highlighting of individual charities in a piece like Idol Gives Back would be fraught with the brand managers of those charities squabbling over how they are represented, worried that they would lose a percentage of the pie, as opposed to think about how the pie is increased from mass-media events like Idol Gives Back.

Idol is one of the most valuable pieces of television programming on the network, certainly much more watched than the late-night and weekend appeals put on by the big international charities.

The fact that IGB's appeal speaks and incites action amongst a group of people most likely not otherwise conscious of the plight of African Countries is indeed a good thing. And while it leaves people to get that "quick satisfaction" that placates their need to do more than "phone it in" the reality is that for many citizens, this is all they are capable of.

I have lamented the fact that most all big appeals have little to no meaningful feedback. Long ago, I coined the term "Return On Generosity" to refer to the fact that without this measure, most of us are unlikely to remain invested.

What's wrong with Fast-Food Philanthropy is that the producers have forgotten to include the "toy in the happy meal" that makes one want to come back and collect the other toys on my next purchase.

I hate ending on such a stupid analogy but hey, I'm hungry and I'm in need of some fast-food.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Made my first goal!

It's a beautiful day here in Vancouver, the Canucks won game 2 against the Ducks and I've reached my first goal in my fundraising drive for Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre.

In less than one week, I have raised over $1,100! What's really special for me is that I've received donations from a few total strangers! I have no idea how they found my GiveMeaning page (perhaps through the blog?) but really want to wish a special thanks to those people!

Another bit of personal news. My wife, Jessie Farrell has her first Country single (Let's Talk About Love) on the radio across Canada and though it's been playing for only three weeks, it's already at number 20 on the Canadian Country charts! And the single can be downloaded on iTunes!

It's a very exciting time for the both of us!

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Friday, April 27, 2007

A day like no other

Friday's are usually my slowest day. We have a team get together scheduled every Friday where we go for either a lazy lunch or a movie or something else meant for us to discuss the week and connect as a team. I try to keep my meetings light as a result. The morning started nicely as I read an email to my wife that I had received late last night from someone that had heard my speech in Campbell River. It was great validation of the immense amount of myself that I give whenspeaking at schools.

My policy is to try and meet with as many people who ask for my time as possible. And I must admit, sometimes I feel (especially with all the other demands on my time) that I should be more strict with my time but I've always believed that for every meeting that I feel misused my time..That it will all balance out.

A man called me last week saying he was from an African country and telling me that he was a survivor of torture and wanted to do some things back home for other survivors. He was scheduled for 10:30. Yesterday afternoon, a local Vancouver man called and said he had read some press on GiveMeaning and wanted to meet quickly just to learn more about what we do. I was more reticent to accept (not wanting to schedule anything that might make me miss my time with the team). I told Ruby (my assistant) not to agree to anything.

The man from Africa was late this morning. I was busy with a number of end-of-the-month issues so was happy to have the extra time. When he arrived at my office, I was still distracted with administrative tasks. I asked him to tell me his story. He apologized in advance, saying it was very difficult to tell his story. I started to focus in on him. As I did so, I noticed aspects of his physical appearance that made me think he had some physical disabilities.

Over the next two hours, he recounted his life from 2 years old to a man of 30 something. I had originally written an account of his story but have decided to delete it as I know I can't recount his story to you. What I can say is that this man sobbed through his life story, and saddened me with a story that filled me with hate, cynicism, and shock (in the truest sense that I was left without words, thoughts or even ability to respond to what I was hearing). This is a man that has been repeatedly tortured to inches within his life and harassed and intimidated even after fleeing his country and arriving in Canada.

This man came to me not asking for anything for himself but wanting to help people worse-off (I quite frankly can't even fathom how that's possible) than him, still living in his home country. He has every right to be entirely self-absorbed, tell his story to garner financial support for himself and his family and yet he's tenacious in his desire to support people who he feels need the support more than him.

I introduced this man to colleagues here at GiveMeaning who met with him separately to talk more about the specific project he wants to do back in his home country.

Ruby told me that the man who had called yesterday looking for "20 minutes" (I have never had a 20 minute meeting with a stranger in my life). I relented begrudgingly. Meeting with him would mean missing my time with the team but something in me told me I needed to meet with him.

By the time he came to the office, the team was leaving the office, leaving me to man the phones by myself. I apologized for having to interrupt our meeting but sitting in my office and listening to how I answer questions about the site is probably one of the best introductions to everything that GiveMeaning is. The more we talked, the more I wanted to say to this guy, in part because I was certainly robbed of my normal pretenses (i.e. armor) from the man I met in the morning.

In one of the phone calls that interrupted the meeting, I told someone about my fundraising page for Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre. At the end of my meeting, I ended the first meeting how I almost always end first meetings about GiveMeaning: "Hey, just go on the site and if you see something you like, make a donation or if you can't find something, submit a news story or your own project proposal." He responded by emptying everything he had in wallet on the spot. It ended up being $400. I was totally and completely floored.

The next meeting after that was a friend of someone who works here at GiveMeaning who , upon hearing about what GiveMeaning is all about, wants to create a free radio ad for us! By the time that I started my meeting with him, I was (and am still) emotionally run-down. The generosity of spirit that I am exposed to, and the serendipity that occurs in my life on an almost daily basis day chose to fully whack me over the head today.

I am incredibly blessed. For all who ask why I do what I do, the answers are above.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Khartoum Booms while Sudan Burns

This article was posted a few minutes ago at the GiveMeaning site.

It gives us the real deal on how to end the Genocide in Sudan: Restrict its oil exports, and bring the Sudanese government to its knees.

Is it any wonder that President al-Bashir continues to smugly defy diplomatic efforts and UN resolutions? As long as China pumps Sudan's oil, nothing significant can occur to stop the Genocide.

As a young boy, I stood outside Shell Oil stations with my mother with signs that read "Product of Apartheid." The economic pressure that came as a result of this kind of boycott was a significant contributor to the end of Apartheid.

Why not boycott China's products until they come around? I see all of these activist efforts to lobby our Governments but it's not our Governments who need convincing.

What say you?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In Campbell River

I arrived into Campbell River this afternoon. I'm pretty sure that the pilot of our small plane forgot that there were people on board as he essentially dive bombed us onto the runway. An adventurous beginning to day.

I spoke at a secondary school here in town this afternoon and was saying to my friend Ryland that I never really know whether I made an impact or not. Though it sounds cheesy, I really do believe that inspiring just one person justifies the expense and time that these trips cost. I find that most students prefer to ask me questions one-on-one, not in the actual Q&A session but today, I had two great questions asked of me: 1) Do you have any pet projects? (Answer: My fundraiser for Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre and my Project to help raise funds for Yves) and 2) Who do I look up to?

That question really got me thinking. Though I admire parts of various high-profile people, there isn't one person I really get totally excited about. As I thought about the question more, I realized that the people that I really admire are a lot of the people that I find through GiveMeaning. Guys like Logan Cochrane, and Chris & Jeannie and so many other people all around the world doing amazing work and following their passions.

Just a few minutes before writing this blog entry, I noticed that one of the students who attended my talk this afternoon has already created a new proposal at the site. Click on her name on her proposal to read more about her. She is a great example of what I mean by being inspired by many of the people that use GiveMeaning.

The cynic in me says that this sounds like I'm pandering to GiveMeaning members but I promise I'm being entirely sincere when I talk about the inspiration and motivation I draw from our community.

Just finished speaking at a secondary school here in Campbell River. The last time I was here was in transit to Hollyhock on Cortez Island which is a quick water-taxi away from here. My hotel looks out on the docks where the water-taxi is and as the sun is starting to break, the urge to just jump over there is rising.

For those of you that don't know Hollyhock, click here. GiveMeaning is one of the sponsors for the upcoming Social Change Institute.

I jump at the opportunity to go to

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Monday, April 23, 2007

You can make my beard disappear!

As many of you know, I've had my beard for quite a while. In Entebbe, a vendor said it was the (and I'm quoting exactly) "most glorious beard" he had "ever seen" and asked me to promise him never to shave it. In exchange, he gave me a slight deal on the replacement digital camera that I bought at his store.

Though I am remiss to break my word to this man, I am willing to quite literally sell-out. For a price.

I've decided to walk a mile in women's shoes (literally) in support of a Victoria, BC based charity called Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre.

I've created a fundraising page (at GiveMeaning, naturally!) to collect donations and if I raise $5,000, the beard comes off.

I'm sure that if my wife or my mum had an extra $5,000 to spare, they would gladly give the whole amount. But the whole point of a GiveMeaning page is about pooling together small donations to accomplish the bigger goal.

So, if you want to see my face again, click here and give generously!

I'll keep y'all posted.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Proud of the CBC

I've been horrible at updating the blog lately. So much going on! I'm currently in Kelowna and running out the door to a dinner but wanted to express my pride and respect for our CBC!

CBC is one of the only broadcasters I know of that refused to air video of the "manifesto" left by the despicable mass-murderer who requires no further mention.

Their reasoning can be found here and it is well worth a read.

I know that there is an intellectual debate to be had that is framed in the "if everybody else is showing it (or it's available elsewhere) then so should we" but this is a man who interrupted his killing so he could co-opt the media in further propagating his hatred.

While I understand how altogether valid intellectual debate can put many people firmly the "Grey zone," I respect the ability to be guided by a more specific sense of taste and values (again resisting the debate about the role of values in broadcast decision).

The media has given this vile thing what it wanted, media attention and an "iconic" status. It is psychologically impossible to deny that his reliance on being the most talked about news story this week was in part what drove him to commit this act.

This same "co-opting" of the media I speak about this week is the victory that Terrorists understand in their media strategy.

I'm very proud of the CBC's decision and I hope others will take note.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

These guys are my heroes!

I have never been so excited about a group of people or an idea (other than GiveMeaning) as I am about the guys at DirectCurrentMedia

They are producing a series called 4Real that uses celebrities to bring exposure to some of the most amazing human beings on earth! I've blogged about my cynicism about pairing celebrities with cause.. What makes these guys different is that the celebrity is nothing more than the eyeballs. This is not about showing their halos, its about them just being participants in the experience.

The people that are featured on 4Real are community leaders who have made and continue to make massive progress on behalf of their communities despite conditions and environment conspiring against them.

I had a meeting scheduled with them yesterday afternoon and then brought them out for drinks late last night.

These guys are just getting going but I predict will be a major force.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

First Podcast

Well, I've finally gotten my first podcast uploaded to iTunes. For those iTunes users, you can download it from them here here
or if you don't use iTunes, you can get it here

The interview was recorded with Gavin Hollett, one of the founders of Opportunity Aequa, a Victoria-based non-profit that has raised nearly $15,000 through GiveMeaning to build soccer fields and bring soccer equipment to kids in Ecuador.

I blogged about Gavin just before he left for Ecuador but had no idea that he and the team would do such a good job of blogging while in Ecuador.

Their project is the best example of delivering their donors a "Return On Generosity." Go to their page and click on the "Blog" tab and read through their almost daily posts.

The Podcast is the first of what hopefully will be a regular series of interviews of project founders on GiveMeaning. Please let me know what you think of the Podcast.

Massive thanks to Ryland Haggis of RedPilot for creating the Podcast!

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