Friday, 15 April 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen, the doors are locked.

Twice in the past couple of weeks it has been suggested that I try my hand at public speaking.

Get people fired up about Ridealist, the non-profit sector, what we can do, and more importantly, what they can do!

So why not, I thought.

Now, this is where you come in.

You, dear reader, are my "focus group" as it were.

Be frank, be bold, be generous in your criticism - but do please contribute your thoughts.

Here are the bones, help me put some flesh on them:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the doors are locked.

I'm not joking.

We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.

You can just open your cheque books now and then happily make your way to the hospitality room where tea, coffee and some delicious snacks are being served.

Or I can stand here and sing Justin Beiber songs until you hurl your check books at me in desperation.

Either way, you'll be opening them. (I hope).

And not just because can, or because you should. But in about three minutes, you'll do it because you will want to.

With or without the Justin Beiber.

Many of you have probably sat through so many of these things, with someone standing here trying to convince you to part with your money or resources.

I'm no different, but the people I represent are different. You've never heard of them.

I'm not here for the household names that you are all familiar with, and probably generously include in your CSR budgets and other philanthropic activities.

The ones that get you great editorial copy in the newspaper, and your CEO's picture with glamourous Hollywood types who are lending their celebrity to a good cause.

The folks I work with are small, tiny - and for the fundraising and donor community - they are utterly and completely off the radar.

So why would you good people in the CSR, fundraising and philanthropic community be interested in them?

Because they count, probably more than you can imagine.

Let me put it this way. They are the smaller of the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises that most of you have also never heard of, but are the backbone of the economy, the engine of GDP, the major employers.

These small groups are the backbone of the non-profit sector, out there in the field, at the grassroots level - the volunteers and the organisers, often living cheek by jowl with the local population. In fact, they are in most cases, actually members of the local community.

But believe me, they do remarkable work with almost nothing. I could give you examples...

At Ridealist we try to give them the recognition they deserve, their 15 minutes of fame if you like. But you'd be surprised what that 15 minutes can mean to them.

A few more books, a solar panel, a couple of goats, a donation to repair the roof of the school, or buy mosquito nets. In more extreme cases, buy tonight's dinner.

If you give them the chance to get their head above water, you'd be surprised at how quickly some of them can learn to swim and become self sustainable, expand their operations, and even become net contributors or donors to other groups in their area.

At Ridealist we're not into the aid dependency scene at all. We're into development.

Give people the means, give them the dignity, and they'll get on with things.

Our photography, our video, helps to give them that gentle push in the right direction. That small but important moment in the spotlight.

But unlike the household name NGOs we talked about earlier, they are obviously in no position to pay the expenses of a Ridealist camera crew flying half way around the world.

That, my dear ladies and gentlemen, is where you come in!

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