Planning a Campaign

Peace Bird Necklace by Saomao

Peace Bird Necklace by Saomao ~ made from Khmer Rouge artillery casings…

Over here at PEPY in Cambodia, we have been wrapping up the planning stage of our Fundraising Campaign. The communications team has culled through the donor data, taken inventory of our email lists, done our research, updated our social media, chosen a fundraising platform, and are ready to roll out our new website & brand at the beginning of September. Most importantly, we have isolated our strongest supporters across the globe. They will be the roots of our network as we seek to reach a broader audience, make new friends and supporters.

The process of planning a successful crowd-funded campaign can be quite complicated, especially for a NGO, where resources are limited and the majority of the staff is unpaid volunteers. At all times we must focus on the primary objective: reaching new and old donors through channels that inspire them to engage, as well as make them feel comfortable. This requires deep insight into our existing and potential donors. What sort of engagement tools will work best to help them feel part of the campaign and greater organization? How can we get them excited about PEPY? How can we take event attendees, convert them into interested supporters, and connect with them year after year? Is the solution: QR Coded invitations or Facebook donation widgets? The possibilities are endless, but which ones are right for us?

At the same time we must account for a multitude of constraints: budget constraints, other scheduled obligations, large donor preferences, staff turnover or shortages, board member preferences, and technological limitations. All of these real-life challenges can get in the way of executing the perfect campaign. Fortunately we live in a time where most of these constraints can be addressed with creative solutions! Work can be crowd sourced at very low rates and there is a software solution for almost any business problem, at almost any budget. So really, the most important thing is that each constraint is recognized and addressed well before the campaign begins. Solutions exist! We just need to give ourselves enough time to find them.

Tamara taking an early morning stroll outside of Angkor Wat

Aside from the Campaign, everything is sailing along smoothly in Cambodia. My health has improved tremendously and I have made many new friends. Last week Tamara, my co-worker, friend, and fellow Notre Dame MBA, and I woke up early and biked out to Angkor Wat to do a photo shoot. That’s Tamara walking along the ancient stones from the Angkor empire. This week I walked around Siem Reap quite a bit, meditated at the Peace Café, and bought a peace bird necklace made from discarded artillery casings left over from the Khmer Rouge genocide. I also discovered several great restaurants. Anna introduced me to a great French restaurant, Boulangerie, that makes incredible, fresh salads. My new friend Heather took me to Il Forno, which serves pizza I can only compare to dinners I had in Rome. All and all it was a pretty restful and delicious week.

Next week I hope to work a bit more on some of the actual content for the campaign, including Campaign Videos – my favorite medium!

Planes, Tuk-Tuks, and Bikes

Arrival to Cambodia was less of a hassle than I had imagined. All, the finals, graduation, my parents visit, and an upcoming move, didn’t leave me any time to apply for a Cambodian visa. Knowing that one can get a visa right at the border made our visas a low priority. On the flight from Seoul to Siem Reap, we were given visa applications requiring a photo which I didn’t have. So I started devising a plan for negotiations with the border control. Reading and hearing about no-so positive state of Cambodia I lowered my expectations and was determined to enjoy my summer experience no matter what. The first scene at the airport made me hopeful and thankful of not having to deal and negotiate with the Cambodian passport control. A visa production line was extremely efficient (I’m sure Prof. Shri would approve it): 1 man was taking applications, another was taking money, a few others were masterfully stamping visas, and my name was called within a min. Paying an additional dollar for not having a picture seemed like an excellent deal.

My colleague, Anna, met us (my husband and I) at the airport and we found a local taxi, what I learned was a TUK-TUK. It is basically a modern coach with a motorbike instead of a horse, a cheap (($1.5-2) and very popular way to get around the town. Pleasant night breeze and unusual taxi felt very welcoming – “Cambodia will be great” I told my husband as we continued our ride to a hotel. Next day, not even 5 min passed since we started our walk I received around 20 solicitations from Tuk-Tuk drivers who lined up along the road promising to take me to any place in Siem Reap and if I didn’t wanted it today, they offered booking them for the next day. Their determination and confidence that they can get your business only if they keep asking and following you still amazes me. It is quite a competitive business especially during the low season.

Back in my home country, Kazakhstan, people drive horribly (many just buy a license) and multiple accidents per day in Almaty serve as prove to the statement. What I saw in Cambodia completely blew my mind. Cars, tuk-tuks, bases, motos, bikes all are moving into different directions and often times a direction opposite to the flow. The first day I couldn’t really understand what was going on, as our tuk-tuk driver was maneuvering around other vehicles. It just didn’t make sense. However, such chaotic motion still had some logic behind it and I am getting used to it, while still have hard time understanding why people prefer to drive in between two lanes. Getting around in tuk-tuks is fun but costly to do it everyday and everywhere. Walking on the other hand is feasible, but too hot and takes time. So, we headed to a market to pick up bikes. Refurbished Japanese bikes are plentiful and quite affordable. $70 dollars later we were riding along the streets of Siem Reap. OK, I know how to ride a bike even if my last time doing it was 17 years ago, though the traffic was freaking me out, especially those guys choosing to ride directly at me. Do i go around them to the right or to the left? Can they see me? My confusion was freaking out other people on the road (and rightly so); a few times I had to break fast stopping basically head to head with motos. It was really frustrating the first few times, now I pose less danger on the road and just go with the flow. If you want to take a left turn, it is better to get on the other side of the road before the turn (going against the traffic for a few moments, then gradually merge to your lane. Given the low speed and niceness of Cambodians, people slow down if they see I need to get get over, so it all works out. The lack of traffic lights in Siem Reap ( i counted 4) leave it to a driver to figure out who has a right of way, so being on the look out is extremely important.

Motorbikes are definitely the most popular transport. Seemingly small, they manage to transport whole families. I once counted 6 people on one moto including 3 kids between ages 1-5. Something tells me that safety is not among the highest priorities for most Cambodians, but again – safety is privilege.

For the past two weeks we already did a fair share of traveling outside of Siem Reap (went to a Thai border and Phnom Penh)and I got to experience the outside of town traffic. It is a completely different beast. Not that it is busy, but traveling speeds are considerably higher than in the city, though the logic of driving is same. All of that makes you really hold on for your life. From what I saw, country highways are two way roads with only one lane for each direction. I have been impressed by the quality of main roads in Cambodia, may be some of the international development money were put to a good use (all the corruption aside). Though outside of 3 main roads, it is pretty challenging to reach most locations.If a road is clear from the opposite direction, drivers choose to drive in the left lane until the incoming traffic gets REALLY close, or between the lanes. People who travel by motobikes or bikes get really pressed to the side of the road and often get almost ran off the road. The use of horns is quite a norm and a way of communicating between the drivers. Our van driver on the way to Phnom Penh didn’t let the horn go even for a second until it got dark and then he switched to headlights signaling. After dark driving gets even more fun, as not all vehicles have properly functioning lights oftentimes they are buses and trucks. In that case, it is easier to misjudge the size of a vehicle coming right at you. So far, our drivers delivered us to our destination in one piece, but every time I wonder if we make it with no accidents
More travel is awaiting us. This long weekend when all Cambodians are celebrating the Queen’s birthday, we are heading to a former french-colonial town, Battambang, about 3 hours away.

Post MBA Summer in Cambodia

Aloha, from sweet (and often sticky) South East Asia. This summer I am working with the communications team for an NGO headquartered  in Siem Reap, located in the Northwestern region of Cambodia near the famous Angkor Wat Temples (pictured above.) This small organization focuses on improving education in the nearby rural commune of Chanleas Dai.

The government’s Ministry of Education Youth and Sport mandates and regulates curriculum throughout Cambodia, so PEPY finds that it can be be most effective working outside, but in conjunction with, traditional government schools. This is primarily done through community based programs, as well as supplemental education programs. Through these programs PEPY provides Chanleas Dai children with creative learning, computer science, and leadership education.

My job this summer is to develop a digital fundraising strategy to gain new donors through social media, crowdfunding platforms, and PEPY’s website and blog. Through this process PEPY is developing a new logo, new website, changing many of it web platforms, and revamping all of its digital communications. Our goal is to drive a lot of new traffic to PEPY’s website, raise awareness, and overall donations. Ultimately, these donations will contribute to PEPY’s 2012-2013 annual budget and supplement donations raised through grant writing and existing donor relations.

So far I have developed a map of PEPY’s existing digital resources and have begun to isolate the areas where I can make the most improvement. For instance, did you know that the majority of web conversation around Non-Profits happens on Social Media platforms – but primarily Linked In and YouTube?

Next time I’ll write a little more about my personal experiences in Cambodia and Cambodian Education in general. For now, it is enough to say that South East Asia has always been one of my favorite parts of the world. It is one of the friendliest, most hospitable places I have ever been…