campaign to watch: project 320

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Campaign: Project 320
Start date: Nov. 30, 2009
Campaign leader: Julie Carson
Amount raised to date: $10,840
Campaign mission statement:
“Is it fair that today I whine & worry over trees & toys,
when today 4500 moms just like me are worrying whether their
children will live or die? Over contaminated water?
When I think about how healthy and safe my family is, I have no worries.
I need nothing.
I am so blessed.
But those other moms need us.
Together, we can relieve some worry.”

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Julie Carson lives in Southern California with her husband and three daughters, Alley, Lucy and Janey. In November, she started a campaign on mycharity: water to bring clean water to developing nations. We talked to Julie about the success of her campaign and how it’s changed her life:

Your campaign approach was very unique — can you explain what you did to raise funds for water?
“When Jody [Landers] did her Water for Christmas campaign, we had this idea to make a Water for Christmas Etsy shop and donate the proceeds to charity: water [Etsy is an online community of artists that share tips and sell their handmade goods online]. But then I thought, ‘Why not try to reach out to other people?’
I reached out to five of my blogging friends, threw it out there like, ‘Let’s get all our Etsy friends across the country to donate one handmade item and just have a raffle for them.’ I sent a bunch of emails. Then packages [of donated gifts] started showing up at my door. We had more than 300 items donated, mostly hand-made, though there were some Starbucks cards or other gift cards. We divided them up into 15 bundles of 20 gifts or so in each. Every $10 donated bought a raffle ticket for the gift bundle of [the donors'] choice. We got together — one girl flew from California and one from St. Louis — to bundle the gifts. We didn’t open the packages until we had all 300 items to raffle.
I had done handmade gift give-aways for businesses on my blog for half a year. I was burnt out on give-aways for no reason. But $10 is hardly a sacrifice. So I though, why not do a give-away with actual purpose and the goal of saving lives? That’s what we did. I really didn’t think we could ever collaborate and build a well. But God just put it on my heart to trust that this could happen.”

What inspired you most to start your own campaign?
“My husband’s been to Uganda but I’m in a position now with the little ones where I can’t travel overseas. I take things for granted where I live. With Jody’s $10 gift campaign [which raised more than $100,000]… I was floored by how simple that was and how much of a difference it made with such small sacrifices.
Then I watched the September birthday video and fell apart. I thought, ‘Ok, what can I do to make this happen?’ I fell in love with charity: water right then.
As a parent who has lost a child… that experience in my life can be used to change another life. That’s everything I am. I wrote a blog post about this on Nov. 13 when I first asked for donations for water. I knew that anyone in my life would’ve done anything to save us from the experience of losing a child — so why wouldn’t we do that for another mother?”

We were blown away when we saw that your campaign received more than 380 donations in less than a month, with your first 100 in the just two weeks. How did you get so many people involved so fast?
“I had a ton of scarves to sell in boutiques and said [on my blog] that I would send a free scarf to the first 10 people to donate to Jody’s campaign and then email me. I posted that at midnight and the next morning at 6:30 a.m., my inbox was overflowing with 40 emails.
[When we started Project 320,] I honestly thought funding one well, getting 100 items donated to raffle, was impossible. We funded a well in the second day of our raffle campaign. The second I got the email on my phone that we’d met our goal, I was floored — crying, amazed. I took a screen shot of the email on my phone and blogged it as ‘the best email I’ve ever received.’
I thought, there’s no way we can do a second well, but we didn’t want to stop it. So we decided to go for the second well. People kept donating and by Friday we were just $2,300 or $2,400 away [from our new $10,000 goal] as we raffled our last bundle.
I realized the email I sent to all the people to donate didn’t give them much time, so after we’d put the bundles together, stuff was still coming to our house. We did a bonus bundle on Dec. 21 to get that final push, to get that second well funded. We changed the raffle ticket amount to $25 and I thought I would have to leave that prize bundle open until we sold all the tickets, sometime in the new year, but it funded our goal in a day.”

Are you closing the campaign sooner than expected?
“No, we’ll let it go. We don’t have another bundle, but there have been a handful of people who have stumbled upon [the campaign] and there’s been a trickle of donations since then.”

So it was very different Christmas for you this year.
“Oh, yes. We gave water to tons of people instead of gifts [to each other]. I look at everything now through this lens of, ‘We don’t need anything, we really don’t need anything.’ My friends and I decided to give our kids a bottle of dirty water and show them the charity: water video… they’re little but they instantly understood why we were doing this and they weren’t sad they weren’t getting all the toys this year. It’s changed their lives. It’s been the best Christmas my kids and my friends’ kids have had. I wish something like this had happened to me when I was little. My worldview really didn’t expand until my 30s, and I wish I it would’ve been different.”

Do you have tips on starting a charity: water campaign?
“Use what you love and trust that it can be bigger than you could ever imagine. For me, it’s blogging and crafting or sewing. When I was deciding whether to go for the second well, I was worried it would fail and it would take away the joy from the first well… but you just have to not be afraid of that. And we thought, even if we didn’t fund the second well, all the money goes to water so why would we stop if people still want to give?
90% was all of our blogs. And the people who donated items were also blogging and linking to our campaign page. We had a little blog button made so people could put it on their blogs.
It was important to use the charity: water assets. I love the baby bottle one, it breaks my heart. And we used a lot of the photos of actual people needing water from the website. The photos are beautiful.”

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