There are so many social businesses and impactful projects I stumble across which sorely deserve to be written about, but I’ve always found the lack of a ready and suitable publication for these to be a major pain.
Which is why I’m starting the CatchImpact blog series. It will be a more or less monthly Q&A showcase of the inspiring changemakers I’m lucky enough to meet while travelling or at home.
And it starts today with 24 Good Deeds — a German non-profit putting a novel twist on the festive favourite of Christmas calendars. I spoke with project coordinator Lisa Strauch.
- Can you tell us what 24GoodDeeds is and why it exists?
24GoodDeeds is an advent calendar that raises funds for 24 social and environmental projects around the globe. The idea is simple: you donate €24 and discover what your donation achieves behind the calendar’s doors. For example, you might plant a tree in Uganda on one day and vaccinate a child on another. Why do we do it?
We believe that fundraising should be transparent and fun. However, many charities – especially during the Christmas season – pressure you to donate money by appealing to your guilty conscience but fail to give you concrete information about their projects and intended goals.
All projects we support with the calendar are carefully selected; we make sure that each donation has a concrete effect. Apart from that, the calendar also offers an alternative to traditional crazy Christmas consumption patterns and aims to raise awareness for social and environmental causes around the world.
- Where did the idea come from and who is behind 24 Good Deeds?
The project was founded by the siblings Johanna and Sebastian Wehkamp and the idea for 24GoodDeeds was born when Sebastian was looking for an advent calendar for his girlfriend. He was walking around Düsseldorf and soon became quite annoyed by the aggressive fundraisers that tried to convince him to donate money with pictures of hurt animals or suffering children.
He had the idea that giving should be fun, and that’s how he came up with the idea to combine an advent calendar with donating for aid projects.
- When did it launch and how many good deeds have you facilitated since then?
The organisation was officially founded in 2011. Since then we have created an advent calendar each Christmas season and this year is already the sixth time. In this time, we have:
- Raised more than €750,000
- Supported 120 projects in 47 countries.
Through this, we have enabled a lot of good deeds, for example:
- 66,000 people received a medical treatment
- 88,000 people received a nutritious meal
- 600,000 square metres of rainforest were protected
- 980,000 kilogrammes of CO² emissions were avoided
- Hurdles & setbacks: what were the biggest & how did 24GD overcome them?
Especially in the beginning, there were a lot of unexpected operational costs we didn’t think about before and in the first years everyone worked voluntarily — it required a lot of personal time and commitment. It was also a learning process to identify who our target group is, who would care about our product and how many people might want to support it.
- What is the biggest current challenge facing 24GoodDeeds?
Visibility! Every time I tell someone about the project, I receive really positive feedback. People tell me, “Wow, great idea. Why didn’t I know about this?”
I think there is still huge potential and many people would really like the calendar. So our biggest challenge is visibility and outreach – especially given a limited marketing budget.
- On that note, what’s your craziest stress-busting or burnout avoidance trick?
To be honest, I don’t have a special trick or strategy, but I talk a lot about the challenges I face and seek advice (or complain like a typical German, aha ha). The Impact Hub [impact innovation network] is the perfect environment for me to work in because there are always people around who can support with new ideas that I didn’t think about before.
- Some people have distrust in how money given to aid projects is used; how does 24GD approach balancing operational costs and good deeds?
Transparency is key, we disclose an overview of our revenues and expenses in our annual report.
75 % of the donations finance the good deeds and right now 25 % is used for the realisation and marketing of the 24GoodDeeds calendar. This rate, of course, also depends on the amount of money we raise. If we manage to raise more we will be able to cover operational costs with a smaller percentage.
- What kind of projects does 24GoodDeeds support and how do you choose them?
We support 24 projects in the fields of environmental protection, health, education and nutrition. Each year NGOs can apply to be part of the calendar – we have an open call for applications.
24GoodDeeds developed criteria to assess if the proposed projects fit into the framework of the calendar and if the organisations work transparently and impact-oriented: we examine if the organisations can clearly identify their target group, define indicators that help assess their short, medium and long-term impact and whether their projects are part of a long-term strategy.
We also always check that the organisations are not motivated by religious and political ideologies.
- If 24GoodDeeds could connect with any organisation or person then who/why?
Our next application round will start early next year. We are always happy to get to know new, innovative projects who want to be part of the calendar!
Apart from that, we want to reach out to more companies who want to support our organisation by sending the calendar as a Christmas gift to their partners and customers.
24GoodDeeds calendars can still be ordered for Christmas 2016, in German or English, here.