We had carefully planned our work before coming to Sri Lanka. Analysing potential problems and opportunities from a distance is difficult but can help get a first impression. But as with our first organisation most of our plans had to be reworked.
Talking to the people face to face and developing a feeling for where an organisation might need some support is a core part of our concept. We want to talk to the people and let them tell us where they see potential – they know their work best.
Volunteering as a business model
We have a couple of friends who have volunteered in countries all over the world in different projects. But we were not aware what a business volunteering can be. Agencies charge up to 2000€ to place volunteers with organisations for a couple of weeks. Our research showed that petting turtles and elephants seems to be the most popular among young people. SERVE has hosted some volunteers over the past years that have been working in projects following long-term goals and provided the organisation with new perspectives.
Fundraising with a long-term strategy
Convincing people to donate via the internet is tough. In personal conversations with family and friends it is much easier to express feelings and describe emotions. But equally important is the attractiveness of the project advertised. People want to see results from their donations. Donating the salary of an arts teacher in a community centre can be less attractive than buying the paints for the children to allow them to create art. But what about crowdfunding for projects that will only show results in a couple of years’ time? This is next to impossible.
Making our concept fit SERVE’s potential
Most of SERVE’s funding comes from large organisations that have the patience to wait some years before seeing results. But within these long-term projects there is always room for improvement. What if we could locate additional funding to support these long-term projects? But fundraising needs a network of people who can see and recognise the necessity to give donations. As SERVE has not been focussing on individual donors this network does not exist.
We need a network
We located the problem and had to decide how we can create this network that can support SERVE’s work empowering the communities. But we had just about three weeks to create and develop a network. Finding people that are interested in the work of an organisation and developing social media networks can take months if not years. Establishing this network is hard work and might only translate into donations after a long time. So how can we create a lasting improvement within the framework SERVE is offering?
Welcome to Moratuwa!
The setting is ideal: Just next to the office are rooms that SERVE offers to volunteers (we are staying in one of these rooms right now.) With the accommodation available, hosting volunteers is easy and affordable to do. Employing someone from the local community to prepare meals for the volunteers provides a decent salary for a family. The volunteers help in the projects and gain a unique experience of helping deprived communities and experiencing an exciting culture. We identified our task: Convince more people to volunteer for SERVE and enable SERVE to motivate the volunteers to use their personal network for fundraising.