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The Communicause Blog
Charity Spotlight: Children of Uganda
The mission of Children of Uganda is to support and empower orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda to lead successful and productive lives. Since 1995 they have provided services to hundreds of children and built a passionate group of sponsors. They are currently in the #6 spot on CommuniCause’s Top Ten charities.
We had a chance to speak with Children of Uganda’s Executive Director, Pamela Brannon, to discuss her work with the organization and how they use social media to reach their audience.
Q: Please tell us little bit about your charity.
A: You’ll probably have to tell me to slow down because this is my favorite thing to talk about! The organization itself grew out of a group of American volunteers who went to Uganda to help with the AIDS crisis in 1993. They were working with homeless children at a couple of orphan homes run by an incredible woman named Sister Rose. A true pioneer, Sister Rose would take the children around Uganda to sing for money or in-kind donations.
The Americans knew if they could bring these talented children over to the U.S. that they could make a lot more money to help pay for food, clothing, shelter, and school fees for Uganda’s most vulnerable population. And so, in 1995 the charity was formally founded and a year later they began their first Tour of Light – an East African cultural music, drum and dance tour that initially visited only a few cities. From then on it grew until they could travel across the U.S. and this became a cornerstone of Children of Uganda’s outreach.
The number of children who needed care continued to grow and today the organization supports hundreds of vulnerable youth from nursery school all the way through university.
Q: What Other Programs Does Children of Uganda Provide?
A: We have three primary programs and the Tour of Light is but one of them, which brings awareness to American audiences and is our main fundraising vehicle every two years. Our education or sponsorship program goes on year-round to provide orphaned and vulnerable children in Uganda with all of their basic necessities.
Our children attend a variety of boarding schools and our individual child sponsorships pay for them to attend these schools. They receive uniforms, school fees, lunches, and when they’re not in school they go home to extended family members. Our newest program is the Family Empowerment Program which aims to strength the communities in which our children live by empowering child guardians with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to better care for their family.
We don’t try to be all things to all children, but we do try to be the missing link in the family chain. We want to give our children education, life skills and the ability to lead a successful and independent life.
Q: You’re obviously very passionate about what you do. How do you use social media to connect with other passionate people?
A: I love social media! When I first came into my position I dove right into the deep end of the pool and was trying to teach myself everything. It’s been a slow learning curve, but what I’ve found is that it’s like nurturing any valuable relationship – similar to how we approach our donors, sponsors and children. We are not a huge organization, so what we really want to provide is a bond between the donor and a child that their gift supports. Wouldn’t that inspire you to give again? We understand the power of connecting people. For example, I could tell you all the great things about Children of Uganda, but if one of your best friends was a sponsor and personally asked you to give – wouldn’t that mean so much more to you? It’s not just about fundraising, but “friend raising”!
Q: What advice could you share that you think would benefit other similar organizations regarding tactics to promote your organization, both on and offline?
A: That’s a good question. We really have started to think more like the donor. On Facebook in particular, we want to turn the microphone over to our supporters to get them to share their story. We have wonderful stories about our children and now we’re starting to gather stories from our sponsors, volunteers, donors and online supporters. On Facebook, we’ve also started posting inspirational quotes and we’ve had more likes on them than anything else ever!
Donors come to you with a need. There’s a reason they’ve chosen your organization, so be prepared to get to know them. Ask why they give and how they want to communicate with you. Be able to show where their money is going and what they’ll get out of it, too. It can be quite a task to let people know where their money goes, but social media gives you an instant and cost-effective platform to communicate.
We recently used a platform called Give Forward, which is kind of like an Indiegogo page that is specifically designed for medical emergencies. We’re raising money now for one of our girls who is recovering from a life-threatening surgery and “Calling All Angels” to donate at https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/6bc2/callingallangels
Q: What do you feel is the most exciting part about CommuniCause?
A: I think the most exciting thing is that it’s a community! People can learn about us and we can learn about them. I think one of the most exciting things for all of us is sharing our experiences and resources even though we might be doing entirely different things and serving different populations.
Communities that survive, survive on sharing. Together we can share our stories of success and challenges – both of which bring opportunities for positive growth. I think we’ve reached a point where it’s not about “what can I get” but “what can I give”.
Tips for breaking into the Top Ten: Part 6
If you’ve come this far, it’s likely that you’ve already sent emails out to your close contacts and asked them to vote for your cause. And if you have an email database, subscribers have probably already seen the message or will soon, right?
Those are both very good and effective tactics - in fact, they’ve been powerful enough to help boost a couple of our leaders into the Top Ten. But what about everyone else that you communicate with via email? Do they know about CommuniCause?
Why not try inserting a link into your email signature? Or even better yet, why not see that it is inserted for your entire team. Think about all of the people that you and your team members email daily. Not all of them are going to be on your mailing list. Whether they are vendors, supporters or just friends, there is a good likelihood that they would be interested in helping you out - and it can’t hurt to ask!
Advertising 101 teaches the importance of repetition. As each email goes out to your contact, they will passively be subjected to your message, and hopefully before long they will be visiting our site to vote. And think about your time commitment - how long will it take to tweak your email signature? It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
If you have any questions on tactics, or if you would like to share what has been successful for you, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.