| December 22, 2011

The Fun in Fundraising for an Online Learning Charity


All non-profit enterprises raise funds. It comes with the territory. After all, if an organization could pay all its bills by selling its services at a profit, it should probably do so and allow Adam’s Smith’s invisible hand to do the heavy lifting.

People in our field sometimes complain about having to raise funds.  And to be sure, it is no substitute for reading with children in our program, or helping publishers donate e-books, or building an extraordinary team. But it turns out that fundraising can also be fun.  That’s because it’s really an opportunity to engage with interesting experienced people and share ideas with them.  This is just as true for smaller donors as for major donors: even $20 donations (which is enough to buy 5 e-books) are often accompanied by a question, a suggestion, or simply a life-affirming expression of gratitude.

Here are a few examples– let’s call it “The Story of Bill, Shel, and Brendan.”

The Bill is William Draper. Here is a bit of wonderful holiday news: on Tuesday, The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation awarded Worldreader a three-year grant, and named me a DRK Foundation Social Entrepreneur.   This is huge: we were one of only six grantees, out of thousands of requests and proposals they receive each year.  We are humbled to be part of the group that funded the entrepreneurs behind Kiva, Room to Read, Vision Spring, and many other first-tier  social enterprises.

The financial support from the DRK will directly help us get thousands of kids reading in some of the world’s poorest countries.  But even more important is the expertise that Bill’s team bring on what it takes to effect large-scale change.  The questions that Anne Marie Burgoyne, Breanna DiGiammarino, and the rest of the team asked during our application process have already sharpened our thinking immensely, and we’re deeply appreciative.

(By the way, what is it about people named Bill?  We’ve already written about this Bill, and this Bill was kind enough to Tweet about our work to his 35,000 followers last week.  Wow!!  If you are reading this and your name is Bill, please contact us immediately.)

Shel is Shel Kaphan, and his Kaphan Foundation yesterday also gave Worldreader a generous grant.  (Yesterday was a big day for us!)  Shel was Amazon’s first employee, and those of you who know him know he’s kind of a natural-born skeptic.  Shel and his partner Ericka asked great questions as they kicked Worldreader’s tires fairly well, which makes their endorsement even more gratifying.  We look forward to working with them for many years, both on our Sub-Saharan Africa work and in the future in Latin American.

And Brendan is Brendan Williams, who made a donation through our website in the name of the SMS 7th Grade Teachers.  We didn’t know Brendan directly, but his generosity will help bring more books to children in Ghana and Kenya while it acknowledges teachers in his own life.  We’d love everyone who likes our work to follow Brandon’s lead!

Brendan, Bill, Shel, have helped Worldreader immensely this year as we’ve brought more e-books to more children, and we appreciate every one of you who have  followed our progress.  The secret to keeping fund-raising fun is knowing that  each person helps shape and refine our thinking, challenging us to think even bigger or faster or just plain different… and along the way, reaffirms our belief in the generosity of all.

Huge thanks to all our funders and other partners, and Happy Holidays to all from all of us at Worldreader!

Some of Team Worldreader in October: Colin, Dani, Sofia, Elizabeth, Zev, Susan, David, Beatriz, Jessica, Lisa, Jenn, and Amelie. Not shown: Nadja, Heidi, Tina, Joseph, Alex, Tanja, and Betty!