The WOW moment (part 2)

Published by Julie Verhaar on

In part 1 of this blog post I referred to a presentation by Karen Osborne ….in which she addressed the (lack of) WOW-factor in fundraising. In the mean time I did have a WOW-moment of my own that I would like to share with you.

The other day I was surfing the web and stranded on a crowd funding website called Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter, unknown to me at that time, is a platform for artists to publish their projects in order to raise a specified amount of money, necessary to realize their goals.

As I am interested in photography, I saw this great and compelling video by a photographer named Larry Towell, asking me to support his project financially in order for him to make a last trip to Afghanistan and finish his photo book. (I didn’t know him either.) I backed the project with 25 USD (I know that’s not a lot of $, but I didn’t know the organization and just wanted to check it out.) My contribution would only be collected if Larry would have raised the total of 12.000 USD in pledges before a specific date.

I received the EXPECTED acknowledgement of backing the project. But then one day I received an email from Larry in my mailbox with the following text: ‘I woke up this morning to the best news I’d had in a long long time. At some point in the night, my kickstarter target was met. I want to thank you all for your belief in this important and timely project. You’ll all be hearing from me in about two weeks…………’

And then Larry took me on a journey: he informed me that he was making his plans to go to Afghanistan. Then he mentioned he had set the dates. He shared in an email he was late because of the other work he had to do in Haiti after the disaster. He answered questions from other backers and explains more about the challenges working in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Then the moment came for Larry to leave and he writes to us (his backers): ‘I am writing to let you know that I am leaving for Afghanistan tomorrow, March 16th, for seven weeks. I want to thank you all before I depart, because you made it possible. I have been busy the last couple of months making travel plans, researching, and communicating with organizations and contacts in Afghanistan. I am planning to travel to areas I have never worked, including Herat, Bamyan, and Kandahar………… A bit of good news is that the London Regional Art Gallery and Museum in London Ontario, has confirmed a first exhibition of the work in January 2012. Again, thank you for your generosity, support and solidarity.’

In the mean time he was asking me for my home address. I was entitled to a picture by Larry, which he promised to send me for which of course he needed my address. Knowing the business I’m in I was not to keen on sharing this, but he kept sending me personal reminders. So in the end I gave in. I totally forgot about this, but was really pleasantly surprised to receive the picture with a personal note from Larry on the back. WOW!!

Then comes the email with the title: HOME: ‘Sorry for the delay & thank you for your patience. I returned from Afghanistan on May 4 after seven weeks in the field. I am now settling in at home and all 200 rolls of film have been processed, but not yet contact printed. From what I’ve seen, the film looks very good. I worked harder than I’ve ever worked, partly because of the personal nature of the support. It was an expensive trip and I went well over budget, but I was able to flesh out the story on the level I had hoped for……..’

At the end of this email, which contained a lot more details on his 7 weeks trip, he says the following: ‘Thank you again for your generosity and support. Of the $14K committed, I received $11,900 and spent $18,500. —–Now the work of public dissemination begins. I hope you enjoyed the gifts. I tried to make them as meaningful as your support was to me.’

I was WOW-ed many times up to now and never regretted the 25 USD I donated to this project. If I regret something it was that I did not give him more. I cannot recall ever having felt this way before when donating to other charities. I am looking forward to hearing from Larry again, hope the book will be an absolute success and I am ready to buy it and back any new project he will be engaging in.

Recently I have supported another Kickstarter project, just received the email that they have met their financial goal. I cannot wait for the next journey. So far Angella and Todd have not disappointed me. WOW!

Julie Verhaar

Julie joined UNICEF International at the end of 2010, from Greenpeace International. Before that she had built up the fundraising unit at the Netherlands Red Cross. She has experience across a wide range of fundraising disciplines and was responsible for a number of innovative cross media campaigns. At UNICEF Julie works to help integrate, develop and support the fundraising activities of UNICEF across the National Committees and Country Offices worldwide. Currently, Julie is based in Geneva.

1 Comment

Vera de Hen · July 5, 2011 at 17:32

Thanks for both of these WOW blogs, it’s great to read about the personal experiences of someone who is in the field. Gives the comments that much more credibility. It’s wonderful to be moved when reading a success story, really gets the message across.

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