Shin Fujiyama is a CNN Hero and the Executive Director of Students Helping Honduras. He lives with 30 former street children in Honduras where he runs a school and international NGO. He lives on a wooden tree house built on a mango tree.
In each episode Shin will be interviewing a proven social entrepreneur or NGO leader in the nonprofit or international development aid industry-- including several CNN Heroes and bestselling authors. They’re going to deconstruct their journey to explain HOW they built up their organizations. They’ll also tell us about their greatest failures, lessons, regrets, and behind-the-scenes realities. We’ll talk about their tactics, philosophies, principles, tools, and motivations to give you inspiration and actionable advice.
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57: Monrovia Football Academy is changing lives in Liberia through soccer—with William Smith
While traveling in Liberia as an undergraduate research student, William Smith played in 7am pickup soccer games. As the captain of the varsity team at the College of William & Mary (‘14), he needed to stay in shape. Little did he know what would happen next.
William’s foot skills impressed Sekou “Georgie” Manubah, a former national team player. A few days later, Georgie invited William to play a friendly game at the national stadium. But it was no ordinary game. It was the Liberian Peace and Reconciliation match where JJ Okocha, Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma, and Roger Milla had been invited. The organizer of the event was the legendary George Weah, Africa’s only FIFA World Player of the Year (and Liberia’s soon-to-be-President).
35,000 fans—including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—came out to watch the game. William was the only non-African player on the field. Though he lost the match that day, William gained an important insight that summer: The potential of football to change Liberia’s failing education system and gender inequality.
Liberia’s challenges were staggering. A devastating civil war had killed 250,000 people of its 3.5 million population. The GDP per capita was $455 (compared to $2,300 in Honduras). It was the least electrified country in the world. In 2013, 25,000 high school graduates in Liberia took the university entrance exam and every single one failed. Then Ebola broke out in 2014.
In November 2014, William asked himself a simple question: “What about a football academy? What if we use this passion and energy that young people have for football as an incentive for kids to improve in the classroom, to break down gender barriers, and to ultimately prepare students to lead positive change?”
He reached out to Georgie and together they wrote out a plan for Monrovia Football Academy.
He began raising money in London while pondering their next steps: “What does the concept actually look like? How many students do we start with? What ages? How many boys? How many girls? Where do we do this?”
There was no time to waste. 58% of 15-24 year olds in Liberia were not completing primary education. “We jump in when ebola finishes,” they said to each other. It was a tough time to start an NGO. People couldn’t shake hands, hug each other, go to school, or play soccer for an entire year because of ebola. In 2015 when ebola subsided, they opened MFA—the first football academy in Africa with a principle of 50/50 gender equity.
William was full of self-doubts. “I had no idea how I was doing any of it,” he said. “You’d be a fool to think you have all the answers.” He tried to convince himself to try and be okay with the prospect of failure while being obsessive about not letting it fail. He woke up early each morning asking himself, what was next? How do we get better? How do we improve?
He gave a fundraising pitch at Saracens Rugby Club but that was not enough. He was asked to do a second and then a third presentation. Finally, they awarded MFA $45,000 for seed funding. Crowdfunding campaigns, meetings with potential donors, and events followed. Like pre-season training at an elite soccer camp, the pace was grueling. But his persistence began to pay off.
Now in its third year, Monrovia Football Academy is showing great promise. President Sirleaf visited, as well as US Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Results from preliminary impact studies demonstrated academic and athletic improvements. Word began to spread. In 2017, 1,062 students applied for the 21 spots available at the academy. “We’re trying to be the best school in Liberia,” said William. “That’s our goal.”
William Smith Reading List Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York City by Jonny Steinberg The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive by Mark H. M
56: How Kentucky students raised $25,000 in one night—with Jacob Dietz
During his senior year at the University of Kentucky, Jacob Dietz made it his mission to raise $25,000 for Students Helping Honduras. He and his classmates wanted to build a school in La Lima, Honduras, where 400 children lacked a middle school building.
Jacob asked himself: “Do I have the ability and time and self-discipline to do this?” It all seemed daunting. The previous year, they had raised $11,000—less than half of what they hoped to raise this year.
He called up his SHH chapter at the university for a meeting. For him, the group was “a team in the utmost sense.” They studied and discussed how other chapters had succeeded in different cities. A few days later, they decided on an event that had been carried out in New York and Maryland. They were going to organize a gala to raise $25,000 in one night. It would be called Brick By Brick, Kentucky.
Jessica Schilling, a fellow student at Kentucky, worked alongside Jacob as the co-organizer. The two had gone to school together since kindergarten. But for Jacob, he would have never imagined such a partnership with Jess. In fact, he never talked to her when they were kids. “Jess was always the smartest student in the grade. I failed 4th grade math,” he said. A shared mission turned them into an unstoppable duo.
The two of them spent hours handwriting invitation letters. They drove around endlessly, talking to businesses to find sponsors. They faced one rejection after another. They created videos for social media but they kept stumbling over their words in front of the camera. When things felt overwhelming, Jacob closed his eyes and imagined the night of the event where all his friends would be there. His parents who planned on missing work to be there. His brother Josh who had tirelessly helped him that semester.
When they paid the down payment to reserve the venue, they knew there was no turning back. One challenge after another awaited Jacob and his team. Guests waited until the last minute to register. They found typos in the posters they had printed at Staples. A video Jacob had spent hours on crashed on the morning of the event. He had to decide, “Do I put the work back in? Or do I scrap it?”
Did Jacob and his team prevail? Find out how the night unfolded by listening to this unbelievable podcast episode.
55: Lessons on impact travel—with Rich Johnson from Spark Ventures
Rich Johnson is the co-founder of Spark Ventures, a nonprofit focused on international community development in Zambia, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Along the way, Spark Ventures began to facilitate engagement trips for the mutual benefit of supporters and partner communities abroad.
In this episode, Rich discusses his past challenges, fundraising, creating a separate business venture called Ignite, Board development, trends in impact travel, voluntourism, and more.
Rich Johnson Reading List The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change The World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan
Rich Johnson Show Notes In 2006 Rich Johnson was hanging out with two friends when they decided to go to Africa They went to Zambia and found a community organization there called HOPE that was helping children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis Previously, Rich had been doing marketing consulting with Fortune 500 companies Shortly after, Rich returned to Zambia with 16 students at the university where he worked HOPE lacked resources so Spark began to raise funds back in the US “What is it do you need? How can we support you?” they asked HOPE Spark Ventures helped HOPE with strategic planning, leadership development, and capacity building A friend become a major donor They organized a fundraising bar night where 300 friends showed up They raised $25,000 at the event “What systems and process can we put into place?” They started with weekly calls, monthly reports, quarterly visits, annual audits with their community partners In Nicaragua, they spent too much money on buying land that they ran out of money to start the farm project they had intended to start. They struggled because they lacked expertise in agriculture The farm in Nicaragua now has 70,000 plantain trees and 40,000 cacao trees. Disease has been a problem Rich was running Spark Ventures part-time for four years before it became full time In Nicaragua, many children were devastated during the civil war. Las Tias was an organization that helped them in the city of Leon. Las Tias didn’t have just one leader. They used a co-leadership model with 3 leaders. During their ten year anniversary, Rich did an internal asset audit and re-examined trends in the social impact industry Over 500 people had traveled with Spark during its first 10 years Companies and friends wanted to participate in impact travel, adventure, and cultural exchange Rich Johnson created Ignite, a separate business that specializes in impact travel. The separation prevents mission creep and also allowed him to invest more into marketing and sales A portion of the trip fees for Ignite go to support the partner organizations 60% of the trip fees are poured into the local economy Ignite raised money in the beginning to make the initial hires Some nonprofits are better geared for grant fundings. Others are more geared towards corporate funding or government funding. Many grassroots organizations working in international development aid, like Spark, focus on individual donations Spark has learned to focus on their major donors More than 50% of the funding for Spark comes from events and individual donations Spark supports students in Zambia who can’t even afford the “free” government schools Ezran, a child in Zambia, walked two miles to school every day and passed a cemetery where his relatives who had died of AIDS were buried. Spark recreated that 2-mile journey in a warehouse in Chicago using images and provisional buildings The event raised $40,000 through ticket sales and donations The Board of Directors at Spark has played a critical role Many Board members want to be engaged with the mission and not only in the fundraising. The challenge is, the work is being done in another country. Spark encourages Board members to travel to partner countries. Spark has a Board job description that requires attendance to three meetings and one major event. They also have
54: How to raise $25,000+ with a charity gala, step-by-step
Alex Altman and Zeke Copic are longtime supporters of Students Helping Honduras. They have been organizing a charity gala each year in NYC called Brick By Brick to benefit SHH. In this episode, we discuss what it takes—step-by-step—to organize a gala that can raise $25,000+ for your favorite nonprofit organization.
The first thing to do is to understand the audience One of the biggest costs is the event venue They wanted to make sure the cost was as low as possible A friend of Zeke organized a charity casino night but ended up spending way too much for the overhead cost Brick By Brick has gotten the event venue spaces donated Sesame Corporation donated the space in 2016 and 2017 Venues need to be reserved months in ahead They had a leadership council made up of 6 volunteers who had been down to Honduras and were dedicated Alex Altman and Zeke Copic did the first Bricky By Brick without much help It’s hard to hit a broad social network if all the organizers come from the same place The marketing happened mostly via email The invitation email was sent out 30 days before the event. They have done it 60 days in advance in the past They created a Facebook and LinkedIn event Zeke emailed all of his friends directly with a personal note Zeke was obsessed with checking Classy About 90 people showed up to the event Most people waited until the very last week to buy tickets. It was “harrowing” They charged $75 per ticket for presales and $100 at the door Only 3 people bought at the door The event space had a cap of 100 people Almost all of the guests were colleagues from work Many relatives donated auction items Many people have come to the event three years in a row There is a short presentation about the cause during the event It’s important to keep the email lists from each year The first Brick By Brick sold tickets at $50 but people had to pay for drinks They had food and an open bar at the event. The food was donated “Do your silent auctions yourselves.” It’s not a good idea to have a company run the silent auction because they take the vast majority of the profits and will likely have items that won’t sell There was a diverse price range for the silent auction items ($20-$300) They bought 40 cardboard bricks from the internet and sold them. 20 of them had a prize hidden inside. They had come up with the idea just a few days before the event. The bricks sold for $20 each Someone from the leadership committee walked around selling bricks Alex was focused on the logistics during the event, like making sure there was a coat check and making sure the food was changed, video was prepared, etc. Zeke went around spending time with as many people as possible even though it is hard for an introvert like him $7,000 came from ticket sales, $14,000 came from a few large donations, and the rest came from item sales Corporate matching grants were important People don’t realize that the companies they work for may give match grants They used www.Doublethedonation.com to find out if their companies gave match grants Getting corporate sponsorships can take a lot longer than you think Sending thank you cards after the event is important Donors love seeing update photos from Honduras, which sets them up to donate for the next year The organizers can expect to absorb some of the costs to run a gala
53: How nonprofits can leave the treadmill of financial survival in 5 steps - Kathleen Janus
Countless nonprofit organizations are stuck on the treadmill of financial survival. Most of their energy is spent trying to make payroll at the end of each month—which means less time is spent maximizing their impact. Does that sound familiar to you?
For five years Kathleen Janus traveled the country to find out how successful organizations like Teach for America, City Year, and Charity: Water broke through their barriers. She conducted studies and interviewed 200 social entrepreneurs.
She documented their secrets to success and wrote down the five patterns that got them there. Soon, a playbook was created. In this episode, Kathleen talks about her new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference. She is a lawyer, lecturer at Stanford, and founder of Spark.
Kathleen Janus Reading List The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman
Kathleen Janus Show Notes Kathleen Janus grew up in Napa, California and began volunteering at a very early age Her parents sat on many nonprofit Boards She noticed early on how nonprofits struggled to survive financially Kathleen in her twenties got together with her college friends and started SPARK to support gender equality They organized a fundraising event in San Francisco and raised $5,000 to help women in Rwanda $5,000 seemed like a lot of money at the time SPARK doubled its revenue every few months Kathleen was a practicing lawyer at the time They were able to hire an executive director when they hit a certain size The organization hit a wall When Kiva went on Oprah, they raised $11 million overnight Of the 300,000 nonprofits in the US, ⅔ of them raise less than $500,000 per year There is a desert of failed pilot nonprofits because they were unable to sustain themselves A nonprofit that raises $2 million per year has likely hit financial sustainability Organizations that scaled quickly first went into a quiet phase where they tested different strategies to get proof of concept “It’s about improving the model as you grow.” “Innovation becomes a part of your organization’s DNA.” Wishbone was started by a school teacher who asked her low-income students to write essays about their passions. She forwarded those essays to family and friends to raise a few thousand dollars to give these kids summer experiences. She updated the donors and decided to scale. Wishbone now allows students to raise money on their online platform “Impact measurement is absolutely critical.” Measuring impact allows an organization to collect data and figure out if a program is working “It’s not just about proving your program is working. It’s about improving the program. 75% of the nonprofits surveyed collected data. But only 6% of them felt they made “good use” of their data. An organization needs to figure out what indicators to measure, such as attendance rates of a scholarship recipient; feedback from students’ mentors, etc. Such data gave confidence to donors and can lead to seed capital Some randomized control trials can cost six figures Very few nonprofits carry out randomized control trials early on You can give incentives to survey participants (including control participants), like gift cards Many nonprofits test earned income programs. Hot Bread Kitchen provides job training for low-income women looking to enter the food industry. They created a cafe and also sold their produce to local markets Hot Bread Kitchen started to provide childcare to their participants by raising funds. They now operate on 65% earned income and 35% philanthropy capital “We tend to revere celebrity heroes. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Mohamad Yunus.” “It’s actually not about the leader at the top.” “Senior leadership was really critical for them.” Only 15% of Boards are involved in fundraising for their nonprofits! Many nonprofits complain about their Bo
52: How to fundraise $45,000 on campus for your favorite charity - Steve Sexton
"Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong," said Steve Sexton. His first major fundraising event as the chapter president of Students Helping Honduras at UMD—a 5K— was a, "disaster that barely broke even."
“I wanted to deflect the blame at first," he said, "But I took a long look in the mirror and said it is my fault. I can’t let this happen again.”
He dusted off and said to himself, “You can’t let some naysayers put you down. You gotta keep going!”
Steve wanted to improve the team's unity and morale. Soon, barbecues, rollerblading nights, and paintball outings were organized. His biggest focus as the leader was simple: “to look out for my friends in the chapter.”
In this episode, Steve deconstructs how they raised $1,500-$2,100 per day selling Krispy Kreme donuts at metro stations and through their campus thrift shop. “Every waking moment I had to do something," he said, "Planning, organizing, talking to somebody.”
During the spring semester of 2017, the UMD chapter raised $45,000 to build two schools in Honduras. In this episode, Steve Sexton explains step-by-step how it was done.
Steve Sexton Show Notes Steven Sexton found out about Students Helping Honduras at UMD’s First Look Fair Students Helping Honduras was Steve’s first experience volunteering abroad Steve got many of his friends to join SHH When Steve was elected, he asked himself, “can I do this?” “I have a lot to do,” he said to himself and got to work “We had to plan ahead and be prepared,” he said at the beginning of the year The UMD team created a calendar of events, deadlines for tasks, and small milestones “What would differentiate our table?” he asked for the First Look Fair They gave out juice bags at the First Look Fair When they organized a 5K, “everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong.” They had problems with the t-shirt orders, signups, and delays. “It was a disaster and we barely broke even.” He realized that a lot more planning had to happen Upon returning from Honduras, the UMD team started fundraising immediately Steve spent many hours organizing weekly meetings for the general body and for the exec committee. He also held many one-on-one meetings with his officers. The team organized barbecues, parties, rollerblading nights, and paintball outings to keep the group united and engaged He mixed down-to-business meetings with fun activities The Students Helping Honduras chapter focused on selling Krispy Kreme donuts at metro stations each week. They started with four stops but eventually were selling in ten stops simultaneously A box of 12 donuts cost the chapter $4. They sold each box for $8-$10 The first Krispy Kremes sales day was “chaotic” They bought $1,000 worth of donuts They woke up at 5am to start selling. They need supplies like tape, tables, Square credit card readers, etc. The chapter organized one, large event per month like a thrift shop, gaming tournament, soccer tournament, Easter egg hunt They chose the metro stations through trial and error The best stops had the best foot traffic They always went in the mornings. They would meet up at 5:30am and drive to their respective stops. They were out selling by 7am and be back on campus by 11am Friday was the best because members had less classes Thursdays were the best selling days since on Fridays some people don’t work The chapter made $1,500-$2,100 per day selling donuts At the height, they had 17-18 people participating per day “You can’t be afraid to get a no.” Many people ignored them but others are super friendly and ask about the cause “You can’t let some naysayers put you down. You gotta keep going!” Sometimes after the Krispy Kremes sales, the team went out to celebrate at the local Denny’s for a family brunch Steve helped set up fundraising pages for his members and held letter writing workshops. During one week, the UMD-SHH chapter had the campus-wide easter egg hunt AND
Love the variety of guests and topics covered! Definitely worth the listen
Inspiring and Practical
Shin highlights the work of individuals in a way that inspires AND prepare his audience to take action. Love the show!
Great show. And really wonderful podcast artwork.