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Leng Sopharath


This case study summarizes my learnings using the ChipIn badge to implement a personal fundraising campaign on my blog to support the college education of an orphan in Cambodia named Leng Sopharath through the The Sharing Foundation's educational program. It provides the background, describes planning and campaign activities, the results, and offers some lessons learned for raising money a blog for good causes with a personal fundraising campaign and the ChipIn tool.

Prelude to An Action Learning Experiment

Almost six months ago, blog posts about the "widgetization of the web" started cropping up in my news reader. My blogging software, typepad, also launched a widget gallery . My first reaction: What's a widget? (A widget is a cut and pastable piece of code that you plop down on your blog to provide content or a service. Some widgets chronicle the weather; others monitor the top YouTube videos or your latest Flickr photos. ChipIn helps you raise money for a cause.) My second reaction was that they were probably required significant technical skills to use. (I was dead wrong.)

Last October and November while researching a screencast for NTEN last October and November, I explored how to use widgets to build community and enhance content on a blog or web site. In addition, I interviewed a number of colleagues in the nonprofit technology field (using a voice mail widget no less), including online fundraising and marketing experts Katya Andresen and Michael Stein who spoke about the yet to be explored potential for using widgets as a tool for online personal fundraising.

When I received the email announcement from ChipIn, a web-based service that simplifies the process of collecting money from groups of people, about the launch of its beta product, I designed an action learning experiment to figure out how a blogger might raise money for a good cause implementing a personal or group fundraising campaign , a term coined by Peter Dietz in his research on micro-philthanthropy.

The term personal fundraising campaign means:

An individual or group creates a page on a website or fundraising badge on a blog and sets a fundraising goal on behalf of a non-profit organization or project. The initiator then emails friends and family requesting financial support for the cause.

My questions:
  • How can "fundraising widgets" like service provided by ChipIn be used most effectively for modest personal fundraising campaigns launched by an individual on behalf of a nonprofit organization or social change cause?
  • Are there particular ways to effectively incorporate the use of social media tools as part of the strategy?
  • What works and what doesn't work?
  • What would a checklist for running a personal fundraising campaign for a blogger look like?

The Non-Profit Recipient

I've been involved with The Sharing Foundation, a small nonprofit organization with programs designed to help meet the physical, emotional, educational, and medical needs of orphaned and seriously-disadvantaged children in Cambodia as a volunteer or board member for the past 6 years. I'm also a donor.

A cornerstone project of the Sharing Foundation is the Roteang Orphanage, built in 2000, which represents a new standard of care for children, over half of whom have HIV/AIDS, cerebral palsy or congenital abnormalities and will remain in the Foundation's care indefinitely. Over the past eight years, the focus of the Foundation's mission has widened from offering not only medical care for orphans and other needy children but educational, vocational, safe water and community development programs.

The Foundation has increasingly focused its efforts on ways to create and improve educational opportunities for Cambodian children of all ages, including public school projects, pre-school, Khmer literacy, English language instruction, high school and college sponsorships, and vocational training. Over 1,300 children in Cambodia receive educational support every day as a result of The Sharing Foundation initiatives. These projects present what might be the only means for the most disadvantaged children to lift themselves, as well as their families, out of poverty conditions, become self-reliant and lead more productive, hopeful lives.

The Sharing Foundation's high school and college student sponsorships are some of the most popular donor opportunities, with approximately 50 students being sponsored this year. Individuals, families, or community groups can choose to sponsor a Cambodian student by making a contribution to the Sharing Foundation which in turn covers the cost of the student's college or high school fees and living expenses. In addition to money, the sponsor provides emotional support and encouragement through regular letters and photographs that are exchanged between the sponsor and the student quarterly.

Last year, our family sponsored Leng Sopharath, an orphan from Kampong Speu orphanage, who started her first year at Noroton University with an accounting major. Leng Sopharath was one of ten students sponsored for the college in the inaugural year of the college sponsorship program. The annual donation is a stretch for us ... so we usually turn to family, friends, and colleagues and ask them to donate to the Sharing Foundation in lieu of holiday or birthday gifts. Last year, I made these requests "offline," which is somewhat ironic since most of my work is online! My aha moment came when I realized that fundraising badges like ChipIn gave me a tool to not only take my requests online, but also to seek out new donors who might support this worthwhile cause. It also gave me an opportunity to experiment with seeing how, if at all, social media tools might enhance an online fundraising campaign.