Guest Post: The Story of NationWares

You all know by now that I got my start in fundraising in the Annual Giving Call Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Phonathon programs.  One of the reasons why I loved that experience so much was meeting all the people I did; my fellow supervisors, full-time professional fundraisers working in Annual Giving and adjacent departments, and – most of all – the student callers.  Amie Mariana Sider is one of those former callers who I feel truly proud to know.  Though I haven’t seen her in a while, I’ve been able to keep up-to-date on her life through social media, and it occurred to me one day that she’d be a fantastic guest blogger for What Gives.  When I reached out to her she generously accepted my invitation, and I am so excited and proud to share Amie’s guest post below.  Be inspired, excited, and spurred to action by Amie’s words.  Enjoy!!!

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Disclaimer: Brace yourselves readers, this is gonna be a long one. I’ve always been a rambler, but I think for this post it’s totally necessary for you to understand my context, background, and reason for doing what I do.  Hopefully it can encourage and inspire you to join in, or simply rekindle your love of giving and doing good.

My name is Amie Mariana Sider and for some crazy reason I’m one of those 25 year old kids who somehow ended up landing their dream job at an absurdly young age with relatively no official experience. What turned out to be a huge qualifier was my unofficial expertise that came to me by growing up among a family of do-gooders, world changers, humanitarians, and international development gurus. At the age of 10 I had already traveled to more suffering and impoverished nations than fancy beach resorts. I forgot to mention that I was also born in an extremely remote and impoverished area of Guatemala and was blessed enough to escape the cycle of poverty by being adopted into an incredibly loving Canadian home.

Since the delicate age of 5, I have vocalized my determination and passion to truly change the world and end the cycle of poverty for those who deserve a chance to escape it just like I did. From then on I volunteered, participated in countless fundraisers, donated savings from my piggy bank, and searched for the best way that I could to bring about change for the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable people. 15 years later during my student career at Wilfrid Laurier University, NationWares was born.

As a Sociology and Global Studies major, I was determined to come up with some revolutionary idea to eradicate poverty. I’ve always understood charity and charity/development work, but was always drawn to the overwhelming success of the business industry. Let’s be honest here, I was a sociology major because math and numbers terrified me and I vowed to my grade 10 math teacher who promised not to fail me if I agreed to never set foot in another math course again in my entire life… which brings me to my third year global studies course.

The Global Studies department created a program called the Global Studies Experience; it was through this mandatory program that I was personally assigned a placement with a development agency. The agency was directed to give me a mandate to fulfill as a lowly summer intern who had yet to be jaded and discouraged by charity, the international development system, and of course organizational bureaucracy. Their mandate for my summer work involved none other than numbers, data collection, and of course fundraising… basically everything related to numbers and financial accountability that terrified me. To put the cherry on top of it all, they wanted me to target and grow financial resources from “young people”. I thought for sure that I was way over my head!

That summer I traveled to Ethiopia to visit some incredible programs in the area of life skills, vocational training, and income generation. I was so encouraged to see men and women become self-sufficient through these programs and instantly wanted to integrate this model into my summer project. At the time I knew that child sponsorship programs were becoming a model of the past for the younger giving generation, donors of all ages were also becoming more and more skeptical, and in tough economic times the average person looks out for their own interests. Most young people may find it difficult to part with their cash for donation purposes, especially when they feel they won’t receive anything tangible from their gift. I’ve always had a passion for fashion, beauty, and accessories, which led me to combine life skills, income generation, and the creation and distribution of ethical fashion and accessories. You can take a look at one of my first projects in the video below. It features a couple who have been able to change their economic situation and support their family by making scarves to be sold through NationWares in North America as they also produce local traditional clothing to be sold in their own community.

NationWares – Scarf Production from bottledmedia on Vimeo.

Let’s skip ahead 5 years. To say that I learned a ton during the first 4 years of operating NationWares would be an understatement. I tested out the charity model to find that it simply wasn’t enough. It needed to be set firm on a foundation of business and since I have a love/hate relationship with business I needed NationWares not to focus on profit and numbers in a self-interested way, but take the whole triple bottom line concept of people, planet, profit, and push it further. That’s why today NationWares is a social enterprise (a business that exists to serve a social cause) that is breaking the cycle of poverty for multiply marginalized people around the world who have been impacted not only by poverty, but also disability, HIV/AIDS, and other factors that lead to marginalization and vulnerability.

I built NationWares to use fashion as a vehicle to drive sustainable employment for over 2,000 current beneficiaries in 10 different countries as they create ethical products that positively impact their society, the economy, and the environment as we expand their market and share their products with North Americans. Our programs go beyond fashion and fair trade as we provide vocational training, creative education, and mentorship resources through the NationWares International Foundation to ensure sustainability and overall success. By purchasing any of our unique products, our customers transform the lives of those deemed the most marginalized and help us create recognized business people, local heroes, and community leaders.

That’s my personal and NationWares journey as a young entrepreneur in a nutshell. To those who find themselves wanting their dream job in the field of giving and doing good I can’t stress the importance of volunteerism and risk taking. The most rewarding jobs don’t always have the most rewarding salaries (or may not even come with a salary at all). Be ready to innovate, get messy, and challenge the system. To all the givers out there, I encourage each of you to give in whatever capacity you can. Any form of giving is great! If you’re a supporter of charity, continue to support charity. If charity doesn’t sit well with you, don’t use that as an excuse not to give; find something you believe in. Businesses usually get a bad reputation but a lot of them are becoming more concerned with the planet and its people under the umbrella of social responsibility. NationWares profits bring sustainable change and help keep the cycle of employment moving. Find companies like us that use their products and profits to do good things and invest in the greater good for all people and societies around the world.

Time to get giving!

 

Written by Amie Mariana Sider
You can connect with Amie via:
Twitter
 & you can stay updated on NationWares via:
Web | Twitter | Facebook

Guest Post: Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???

I am thrilled to add this new post to What Gives??? by our second guest blogger Brock Warner.  I “met” Brock through one of his many initiatives, Young Non-Profit Professionals (of which he is co-chair).  He is bright, enthusiastic, energetic, and full of knowledge.  I couldn’t be more delighted to have him write for What Gives??? and hope to have him involved more in the future!  Without further ado…

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A lot has, is, and will continue to be said about the need for charities to tell great stories. That’s because good advice bears repeating. Stories tickle a part of our brains that statistics can’t.

Most charities understand this. But unfortunately, just telling a story isn’t enough. You need to do it well. Very, very well.

A great storyteller becomes the story. They look their audience in the eye. They take their audience on a journey. They tell their best stories over, and over, and over. They keep what works, and cut the fat. They carry you up to a triumphant high, and catch you at the desperate lows.

About a year ago I was lucky enough to give a TEDx presentation. And I do mean lucky. I’m just getting started in my career. It should be someone with 25 years of experience on the TEDx stage, not 2.5 years. But I ignored my lizard brain, and went for it.

The 20 second version of my talk is that successful charities are successful because they told great stories and reaped the benefits. In the past there were a handful of ways to tell stories, but digital technology has since changed the game. Now, charities that can multiply the emotional impact of their stories across channels, rather than divide it, are going to be the charities of choice for the next generation of supporters.

If I could do it all over again I would emphasize even further that storytelling is a skill like any other that you need to learn, practice, and hone indefinitely.

So, is storytelling really the answer for your charity??? Of course it is. And of course, you need to do everything else it takes to run an effective and efficient charity, but we’ll leave that for another blogger to tackle.

I’m always on the lookout for great examples. You can get in touch with me on Twitter @brockwarner, or post them right here on What Gives???.

And if you haven’t seen it, here is my TEDx talk:

Note from the Author: Because I am so proud of the video, and while I’ve got the chance I’d love to publicly thank my wife for being so supportive, Frankie Chow for suggesting I submit a speaker application, Margaux Smith for rehearsing with me in my living room, and everyone that has watched it. And of course, thanks Maeve for letting me guest post on What Gives???. You’re all awesome.


Written by Brock Warner

Fundraiser @WarChildCan and blogger at http://iamafundraiser.com

You can connect with Brock via:
Twitter | LinkedIn

Do your prospects know where their dollar will go???

What is the biggest roadblock you face as a fundraiser???  I’m sure this answer is different for all of us and likely those answers touch on all sorts of different aspects of fundraising and philanthropy.  Perhaps it’s incomplete/invalid data on your prospects.  Maybe it’s having a tough time communicating your mission to a larger network.  OR, perhaps it’s that your prospects (or future prospects) don’t know exactly what you’re fundraising for.

I try to keep this blog pretty general, but being that I work in educational fundraising, it’s hard not to write from that slant.  However, I think this predicament happens for all fundraisers.  Your prospects/community may know that your organization has something to do with homelessness, or animals, or building wells in Africa.  They may even know more info about how exactly you help the homeless, which animals in particular you rescue, or which countries in Africa you focus your efforts on.  But, do your prospects know where their dollar goes when they donate???  Do they know what kind of projects their donations fund???

For example, working at an independent school (like I do!) or a university – your future prospects are your current students.  While in school, they’re not thinking about donating/fundraising.  If they’re university students, they’re overwhelmed as it is with tuition, and being asked to donate may even seem insulting.  So maybe we won’t ask you to donate as a current student, at least not until your grad year, but how do we educate you as a student on what exactly fundraising does for you, so that when you’re in a position to donate, you’ll know that it’s important???

That question is what inspired me to write this post in the first place, because schools like Wilfrid Laurier University (my alma mater) are attempting to answer that question with initiatives like Tag Day.  I highly suggest clicking the link to learn more, but in short: Tag Day was created to generate awareness of how donations and philanthropy positively impact Laurier and its student experience every day. Tag Day’s student volunteers attach purple tags to places and objects that are made possible or enhanced through donations.

This initiative is great because it presents a tangible way of illustrating the power of philanthropy.  Annual reports and web articles are all well and good, but a big, purple tag attached to a bookshelf in the library is pretty hard to ignore.  It grabs your attention and makes you think.  Kudos to Laurier for being innovative and inspiring with their fundraising and stewardship efforts.

What initiatives like Tag Day have you seen???  What efforts have you made to overcome roadblocks in your organization???

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What Gives???
Trivia: 

The latin term alma mater, used to refer to any school, college, or university someone has studied at and, presumably, graduated from, means “nourishing mother”.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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