#35 carried more weight than most items. I've been dying to get involved with a charity for a long time now, but I never really knew how to go about getting involved and trying to combine it with the things I was already doing and building. The thing I always knew though, for me to feel genuinely fulfilled at the end of the day, I needed to feel like I was making an impact more significant than myself. Two years ago I began to really understand this about myself and since I've been trying to shift everything I'm doing to keep me headed in that direction. Making a consistent direct impact is the capacity in which eventually I want to be working in full-time.
This item fell underneath both lessons my grandmother taught me: to make a positive impact on people and to figure out how to do the things you've been dying to do. When I made this list I had no strategy as to how to accomplish everything, and figured as many of the big items (mostly travel) that I could do at the beginning of the year would take pressure off of the end. So I had been to Milan, to Venice, witnessed a Tom Brady comeback, and actively planning my second trip to Europe for the end of February, but something felt off, and I was losing fire for the project.
I hit my breaking point. I realized though I was applying the lessons my grandma taught me, I needed to do something MORE with what she was really good at: loving. I knew I needed to figure out item #35 as soon as possible.
That night I went on Instagram and asked for help, posting two questions on my Instagram story:
- What are your favorite charities?
- Does anyone have experience with crowdfunding to raise money as I want a way to get companies involved and donate per item?
And I got so many amazing responses from people really passionate about charities having various hands in worthy causes. And then I got my dream reply from Makena Cunningham, a brand partnerships manager at charity: water, saying,
"1. Obvious Answer!
2. Literally my job. Let me know if I can help!"
Now I knew Makena because last summer I attended a tour of charity: water HQ's down in Tribeca with Andy, who was trying to do a project with them at the time. Makena lead that tour, and we stayed in touch through Instagram.
charity: water had been my favorite charity shortly after I first learned about the water crisis happening in the world a few years ago. When I thought about being involved with a charity, for me, I knew it needed to be trying to solve a necessity: water, food, housing, education. I was actually introduced to the water crisis through another company doing similar things to charity: water, but I fell in love with them specifically for a few reasons:
- They were directly helping with a necessity: water. The water crisis is most severely impacting developing areas in the world that don't have any access to clean and safe drinking water. This problem isn't small either, it affects 663 MILLION PEOPLE in the world. And though the problem starts with water it directly impacts the progression of the entire community of people. The burden of responsibility to fetch the water, as dirty and germ filled as it may be, is on the shoulders of women and children. Time spent getting water, which can be up to 3 hours a day, is time they don't have to be spending on making an income or getting educated.
- charity: water developed what they call the '100% model'. This means 100% of your donation goes to the field to directly help people in need of clean and safe drinking water. All of their internal operating costs are privately funded so all of the money you donate can go straight to the reason you're donating it.
- They prove exactly where your donation goes to. Every water project includes photos and GPS coordinates on google maps.
I wish I would have just started here but for some reason I just never thought I had a chance partnering with such a big charity that was doing so much good already. Either way, the universe interjected, and after Makena's response we set up a coffee meeting two days later.
Early that morning I was wide awake thinking about the potential of partnering with charity: water, and how - if that's what ended up happening - powerful it would be to document each important moment from the beginning through the year and the eventual impact we would be able to make. Then it popped into my head, a few days earlier I had connected with a videographer on Instagram, named Bram Vandermark, that I had a good mutual friend with. I had asked to grab coffee after we both got back from our European adventures (happening the same time, in different parts). He was incredibly talented, and I wanted to see if there was anything with Bad Wolf Club he wanted to be involved in. I sent him a text early that morning to see if instead, he could meet today, before our trips, because I had another idea.
At noon I was down in Tribeca meeting Makena at a coffee shop close to charity: water HQs. I told her how thankful I was that she was sitting down with me and to put it out there first: if there was any chance of accomplishing #35 by partnering with charity: water that would be a dream come true. She said she loved the project and what it stood for and that charity: water would absolutely love to be involved. I had mentioned some of my ideas about the partnership including that there was another item #78 Fundraise and Donate a Five-Figure Check that I would like to dedicate to the Project87 x charity: water campaign fund if there was an opportunity to keep the campaign period open until the end of the year. She explained they've only ever extended the typical 3-month deadline a handful of times and would need to discuss it internally, but she would be in touch.
Right after that meeting I went and met Bram for the first time in person across the street at another cafe. Bram was from St. Louis and brand new to the city. I knew he was talented behind a camera, but since this was a self-funded project his heart would have to connect with my idea and charity: water, and feel passionate about the hand he could have in impacting the lives of a lot of people. We met, and he instantly blew me away with his warmth and kindness. I told him about the project, and his response to it all was an immediate yes. I honestly couldn't have found someone with a heart so full of goodness and love for humanity to join me on this piece of the project. February 22nd was one of the most special and exciting days of my life.
I was in Amsterdam, and I got an email from Makena introducing me to Annalise, my charity: water campaign manager. She sent me an email explaining what the next steps were to making it official and getting the ball rolling on this - which I was so desperately excited to do.
Finally, what felt like forever, Bram and I had both returned from our separate trips to Europe. I had gotten all the information together, and Bram and I were back down in Tribeca at charity: water HQs, together this time, meeting with Annalise to hit submit and talk about what the rest of the year looked like. She mentioned that she and Makena went to bat on my behalf and for the third time in charity: water history they're allowing my campaign timeline to extend past the typical 3-month window through to the end of the year. I was blown away by how much they believed in myself, the project, and giving as much life and opportunity to #78 as possible.
When you create a campaign fundraiser, you set a specific goal number you're trying to achieve. Item #78 only describes it as five-figures, but it's in my blood to take the most ambitious route, so we went from the minimum $10,000 to $50,000, and then I got to thinking...
"What if we made the fundraiser goal $87,000?"
Both Bram and Annalise agreed that seemed crazy, but an appropriate tribute to my grandma and what this project was supposed to be out: reaching for the stars, doing the impossible, sharing an abundance of love, etc. Boom, we had a goal. $87,000 by years end. Woah, this was a lot, but man was I excited to get my hands dirty and, for the first time ever, feel like I'm actually trying to make an impact more significant than myself.
This was the first time ever I truly felt the impact this project was having on me. Pushing me to do things and figure out solutions to questions I've been asking myself for years, and always going unanswered. I could not have been more excited and grateful to Makena for reaching out, charity: water for wanting to be involved, and for having Annalise and Bram on my team.
#35 was checked off, but the work was just getting started. If you're reading this and feel any desire to get involved there are a few things you can do:
- Donate to the campaign fund, which you can find above or below this post!
- For Companies: We developed a pledge style fundraiser. Each item is broken down into a tier (1-5), which is directly associated with a price amount/ how many people you'll be providing clean water for. Once you pledge to items, we only ask for your donation once the item is complete. There's more information below if you're interested:
- For Individuals wanting to do more: We turned PROJECT87's campaign page into a 'Team Campaign.' What this means is under the Project87 umbrella, you make your own campaign page, set your fundraiser goal, and fundraise on your own with everything going back to the $87,000 goal. If interested the link is below:
If you want to physically donate or just tell your friends about this, I just want to take a moment and thank you from the bottom of my heart. This means so much to me, and I'm not ignorant to the fact that it's a massive goal, but together we can help so many people.
Thank you! Let's get to work!