Sunday, March 16, 2014

The First Pancake

I got a package from my mom yesterday.
The first thing I pulled out was a box of pancake mix.
Which both my roommate and I thought was a little weird... until I was reaching into the box to see what else was in there and suddenly it hit me:
"Hillary, it's the first pancake!!!"

All week leading up to our "An Evening For Africa" fundraiser, I was referring to it as my "first pancake." See, the first pancake is the experiment, and therefore the one that usually gets thrown out. Maybe the griddle's too cold and it's all runny and weird. Maybe it's too hot and then it gets burned. There's no shame in throwing out the first pancake.

As our first official event as a foundation - not to mention the first time I've personally ever tried to plan an event on that scale - I was pretty worried about the outcome of our first pancake.

My anxiety didn't get much better when we had a smaller turnout than I would have liked. There wasn't much of a difference between the number of people in attendance and the number of people we needed to cover the cost of our overhead, so I wasn't overly optimistic that we'd made enough money to justify the time, energy and funds I'd put into hosting this event.

Despite my worries, it was a lovely evening. I was so amazed by the interest and support I received from our guests. They were generous and responsive. Afternoon Delight Cafe provided us with delicious desserts and we had two professional cellists playing duets. My presentation went off without a hitch. I figured that I may not have raised much money, but at least I'd gotten the event-planning experience.

That night I went home and did the math.
Then I did the math again.
Then I made my mom do the math.

"An Evening For Africa" raised over $1,500!

Little did I realize that the fundraiser was only the beginning...
Wednesday was Bonus Day, which meant that Global Giving was matching donations at 15%. We urged people at the fundraiser to wait to pay for their auction items or make any further contributions until then.

As Bonus Day dawned, Karina called me to discuss some things, and told me that we were at almost $3,000 and 29 donors. (Our participation in Global Giving's Open Challenge is threefold: To earn a permanent place on the website we must raise at least $5,000 from at least 40 unique donors, and we also set a personal goal of $7,500.)
By the time I got home from class at 2 pm, I got the news from my mom that we had met the $5,000 and 40 donor mark.  
We were officially part of Global Giving.

I went to work at 3 pm and ecstatically told my boss the good news.
About two hours later, one of my friends who was keeping an eye on the website for me (without me even having to ask!) told me we had broken $6,000.
The texts and phone calls were pouring in for those several hours when we were rising by more than $500/hour. I walked around work in a daze.

By the end of the day, we had raised over $3,500 and earned 4th place for the most donations received for Bonus Day.

Currently we are at over $6,800 - just shy of our personal goal - from over 60 donors, and only just halfway through Open Challenge month.

I am amazed, and moved beyond words by these results. Unless you have lived in a developing community, it is almost impossible to convey the impact this amount of money can have.
More than that though... I cannot describe the feeling of realizing that somehow we have gotten people to care about what we're doing. I have carried around this fierce love for Ghana and my Aflao family for nearly four years now. Suddenly I have come face-to-face with proof that those sparks have somehow set light to a fire. Somehow we have convinced other people to care about my Aflao family too without even having met them - enough to raise almost $7,000 in two weeks. 
That is astounding.
How can I express how powerful that is?
I have worked single-mindedly since July to accomplish exactly what we finally achieved on Wednesday, March 12th: a permanent place with Global Giving, and with it the means to sustain the work we've begun half a world away. We have been given this wondrous ability to make a real impact on this world because 60 people (and many more, really) chose to believe in our vision for our students. I hope I never fail to be humbled by and grateful for that responsibility.

The rest of the package from my mom included a bottle of maple syrup and a card that read, "Sometimes you don't throw out your first pancake after all..."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marvelous Golden Moments

I'm back in Ann Arbor, scrambling to finish organizing our "Evening For Africa" fundraiser before Sunday. And so the day was spent tromping around downtown to ask local businesses to donate to our silent auction, which until today only had 2 items. (Some awesome jewelry from the Silver Crow and a basket of Alaffia body products from the co-op, both in Marquette.)

The day got off to a rough start. For some reason I just felt really unsure of myself, scattered and awkward. It didn't help that most of the businesses I specifically wanted to visit didn't open until 11 (it was just after 9). Or that the first business I approached very dismissively answered my pitch with, "Fine, fine. Just leave me your stuff."

To which I replied something along the lines of, "....Uhhhhhhh, stuff?"

Oy. Smack forehead. Go home and whip up a short letter explaining who we are and why we're fundraising. Print off a couple dozen. Return downtown. Remember to wear gloves this time.

One deer-in-the-headlights moment at a time I will learn how to do this job properly!

I got a lot of maybe's - some of them more promising than others. I'm expecting quite a few calls - some of them more likely than others. Got a handful of regretful no's. Got one or two unapologetic no's, come to think of it.

Then there were the marvelous golden moments when people said YES.

The owner of Elixir Vitae Coffee & Tea handed me two $20 gift cards without a moment's hesitation. I don't think I'd even finished my sentence.
A worker at one shop volunteered her own time as a professional photographer even though all I'd asked about was the store.
Bivouac (Yikes. This is about the 10th time today I have spelled that word and I am still spelling it a different way each time...) didn't even ask who we were or what we do until after they'd handed over a $25 gift card.
Dawntreader gave me a $40 gift certificate as soon as they heard the word "literacy."
The owner of La Marsa Mediterranean restaurant refused to give me a gift card because he wants to run a week long promotion instead where he will donate 20% of the bill of anyone who brings in our coupon.

And at the end of my long day I came home to discover that someone has made the largest donation yet. As a result, we have raised more than $400 in 4 days! 

Today was frustrating. It was tiring and stressful and I am really, really worried my event is not going to be nearly as successful as I'd hoped. No matter how excited I am about our progress so far, I will probably not sleep easy until we hit at least our minimum $5,000 mark and secure our spot on Global Giving.

And yet... there's those marvelous golden moments.

Today was a good day.