Many years ago, I had the idea of creating a group of advertising and marketing professionals who would work together via an online portal and help non-profits around the world by donating their time and services. I never quite got ProBono Group done. In fact, I didn’t much manage to get past the point where I bought the domain name.
Last year, after settling the dispute with Arianna, I turned my attention to, spoke with and talked to a number of friends about how really to help groups around the world. I knew that my talent wasn’t creating my own non-profit (tried that too, failed) but it was in helping non-profits get to the next level.
Over the last decade, my agency has worked with, among others, NRDC, Rainforest Alliance, (RED), Marion Institute, Sustainable Cape, Veterans For America, The Justice Project and many more.
I started to look at the process — how non-profits work and how, well, they don’t work. I’ll write my post about how 501(c)3 — the (c) stands for corporations and I think that non-profits could do well by acting more like corporations later.
1. You have to help non-profits who have helped themselves.
Trying to teach a non-profit that doesn’t use Social Media or hasn’t had any fundraising success how to start the process ends up being a waste of time. There’s a reason that they haven’t even started to look at those things — they either just don’t care or they care to an extent, but can’t make it a priority.
It’s much more about taking a non-profit that has some momentum and giving them a massive boost forward. It’s like turb0-charging their efforts by bringing in great people.
2. There has to be some money.
Some people will disagree with this, but we live in a capitalistic world. People will give a lot — but you have to be able to cover some basic costs. You’ll get there a lot faster if you do — and you might not get there at all if you don’t.
3. Great people will help — but with a few conditions.
The project has to be interesting. They aren’t going to donate time and services to help the usual project around the world. The projects have to be interesting and with great potential.
The work has to be defined. You have to ask for specific help on a specific project.
You have to support them. If they need more research, more input, more pictures, you have to give it to them.
You have to act like a management consultant — solve the problem and move on. My friends who are designers, branding experts et cetera — they almost all have their own companies. They want to come in, help and move on knowing they did help.
They need to be recognized or rewarded in some way. It can be with a trip to go see the project or with positive press. But you have to be able to show them clearly that you value their time.
With this in mind, this project, now called Good2Go, has started in two places around the world and today, I wanted to share what we have done in Kenya.
Just north of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, there is an incredible movement to create conservancies that extend not only the area protected for wildlife, but also create a true eco-tourism model where a far higher percentage of tourist dollars benefits the people who live there — the Maasai.
One new conservancy is The Mara Naboisho Conservancy. This 50,000 acre conservancy is integrated into the Masai Mara National Reserve and sits in a critical area for the wildlife migration.
It also is a conservancy that is run by a board that is half Masai elders and half ecotour operators. It’s a special place with a special mission that fit all the requirements for a great first project.
I spoke with Sean Anderson frequently via Skype and visited in October. On February 4th, I traveled back over and presented what we have done so far. Maybe you want to help with a project in the future — maybe you are a project that might need some help.
I started by reaching out to the very-talented Patrick Hanlon of Thinktopia. The conservancy had a basic problem of not being able to really clearly explain to potential visitors and donors why the conservancy was worthy of support and visits.
Patrick created a wonderful branding positioning deck that took what was their weakness and turned it into a great strength. I am virtually certain the Conservancy is the first group of its kind over there to benefit from such thinking.
For example, all the conservancies have a tendency to talk about themselves with their full names, The Mara Naboisho Conservancy. First, the word Mara means much more in Europe than it does here and with the Mara Reserve itself becoming increasingly crowded, it’s not such a positive anymore.
Conservancy is also a frequently-used word over there but here in the States is close enough to “guardianship and conservator” to perhaps not always be a positive affiliation.
We pointed out that while a company might be named “The Apple Computer Company” people call it Apple. So we’re calling it:
Naboisho as a simple destination — a place to aspire to visiting is much simpler and clean. (Naboisho in the local language means ‘coming together’ and I should note that everything we have done and any success we have is on the shoulders of especially the tour operators and the Maasai elders who spent literally years getting this project to where it is so we can help.)
Patrick and I also developed new positioning lines for the Conservancy — settling on one broadly for Naboisho and one specifically for the tourist market.
In an effort to describe how the whole conservancy works, the amazing and real partnership between the eco-tour operators, the Masai and the tourists — we created.
Naboisho. Where Africa Comes Together.
For the tourist market, we wanted to create a line that clearly stated why Naboisho is the best place to visit to see wildlife and it is for many reasons (a maximum of 124 guests in five small camps in 50,000 acres, no more than 3 cars at any one sighting, the largest pride of lions in the region.)
For this market we are using:
Naboisho. Africa At Its Best.
With this foundation, we have reached out and set loose a number of people.
Grant Richards of Chemistry Club in San Francisco worked and created a masterful new identity program — incorporating all the elements of Naboisho that are so amazing — the land, the sky, the wildlife and the people.
April Soderstrom, a talented jewelry designer is working with the women of a local beading cooperative right next to Naboisho to design a special Naboisho collection.
Annie Scranton of Pace Public Relations in New York City donated her time to create a press outreach campaign.
Mangesh Hattiukudur and Will Pearson of Mental Floss graciously stepped in and offered to write an article about the Conservancy and also support a PrizeAid campaign to raise funds.
Alayne Freidel of my agency, CommonSense.Agency is working on developing US donor programs for the Conservancy which is soon to be its own US 501C3. Avery McNiff of CS.A is acting as project manager for the whole effort.
Aurora James of Brother Vellies visited recently and hopefully will help drive some press as well through her amazing work.
Pat and Grant are visiting the Conservancy this summer and will be hosted by Encounter Mara camp.
April and Annie will hopefully visit soon.
Mangesh just visited with me and as soon as the State of Alabama will allow Will to travel again, I hope he can as well.
The ability to host these people and to write articles like this is of great benefit to us in this project as is the fact the Conservancy has some funds available to cover some costs.
Our collective mission is by mid-2015 to have enacted all of this work and to have pushed up the Conservancy to the next level (and I should clearly state over the past three years, so many people have dedicated so much to getting this project to the point where we can effectively help.)
We then will let the Conservancy move forward primarily on their own. I hope this merry band will then look around the world and find another project to help. I also hope that by reading this — you can think about doing this the sort of thing as well.
I have no desire to own the process or the idea — in fact, I would be delighted to know you took it, found a project and a group and made a difference. If I can answer any questions, or help you do that, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And thanks to everyone who has stepped in, stepped up, and is making a difference. It might have taken me a few years, well it could be close to a decade actually, to take the idea and make it a reality, but what a great reality it has now become.