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From launching an annual grassroots peer-to-peer campaign to developing a gift box for the holidays, Mark Dombkins and his team at Forever Projects are on a mission to help Tanzanian women break the cycle of poverty and create a self-sustaining future for their families.
Inspired by his own journey of adopting 3 children and wanting to create a big impact, Mark and I dig into the seeds of his story, from the early days of hosting small fundraisers at cafes to large-scale campaigns generating $176,000 with just 285 advocates!
Lean in and get ready to take some serious notes on staffing, internal goal setting, taking calculated risks, and staying curious when it comes to digital marketing. Mark was so generous in taking us behind the scenes that I left this conversation with so many takeaways!
Have you ever heard the term “flearning”? Mark thinks of it as a combination of failure + learning. An important lesson Forever Projects realized early on is the simple principle of getting in the trenches with your users in the early stages. They are the ones who will show you the way and help you create a longer-term impact.
This concept came into play when Mark and his team crafted a fun unboxing campaign around the holidays called “Box of Delight.”
Inspired by their close relationship with Canva and merch they had successfully sent their team to be unboxed, they thought, “why not connect this idea to a corporate giving model?”
The initiative didn’t go as well as they had hoped. Instead of packaging up their existing merchandise, they could have incorporated products that women in Tanzania are making with their businesses, or taken a step back and asked themselves:
Who is the persona here?
What will they love receiving?
Going forward, they’ll keep the holiday gifting concept, but rework it. There’s an amazing opportunity for collaborations here! I know I’ve subscribed to a bunch of subscription boxes and when I find things I really love, I’ll continue to buy from that business and support their mission. It’s a beautiful way to continue the cycle forward.
Behind every great nonprofit is an incredible team that’s making everything possible.
Everyone on Mark’s team works part-time – they have a videographer, a copywriter, a community manager working on their social channels, and their other co-founder who has a knack for all things digital advertising. Each person is skilled in their zone of expertise.
Inspired by Cal Newport’s appearance on Tim Ferriss’s podcast, Mark takes a slow and sustainable approach to team goal-setting and has open and vulnerable conversations with his team. Together, they map out their key objectives and results. Every goal is tied back to their mission and organizational goals.
Having this transparency has empowered their team to say yes to the right tasks and ensure their priorities ladder up to Forever Projects’ ultimate vision.
One of Forever Projects’ successful campaigns was My Kilimanjaro, which raised over $176,000 from 285 advocates!
Inspiring their community to take on physical challenges at the distance or elevation equivalent of Mt. Kilimanjaro fueled support and shareable content. When people step up and do something brave and are vulnerable enough to share it publicly on social media, people will give to those people.
To make the user-generated content that much more accessible and frictionless, Forever Projects collects each participant’s photo and story upon sign-up and then their Community Manager builds on that connection. In re-sharing their content, it not only fuels the culture around the campaign, but the momentum becomes a snowball effect as they continue to update their supporters.
Never underestimate the power of Instagram when it comes to building deeper connections with your advocates. In your monthly giving forms, ask for their Instagram handle. Follow them, send them an occasional DM and strengthen that connection. They are the ones who will show you the way.
“If you’re not in the trenches with your users in the early stages, you’re not going to build anything that’s actually going to scale because they are the ones that will show you the way. I think that’s a really important lesson for anyone running a campaign.”
“If there’s a capability you’re lacking, you can either buy it, hire someone, you can borrow it in client support, or you can build it within the existing team. That’s a good framework to think about capability gaps in your organization. Buy them or borrow them or build them.”
Learn more about Mark Dombkins and Forever Projects here. Your monthly gift will fund projects in Tanzania and provide local partners reliable and unrestricted funding.
Check out Forever Projects’ campaign, My Kilimanjaro, which raised $176,000 with 285 participants.
Hear Cal Newport talk about “slow productivity” on Episode #568 of The Tim Ferriss Show.
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