Interview with Kate Harris, Operations Director of One Day’s Wages
“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” – Mother Teresa
Nicholas Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New York Times, created a documentary about the Congo called “The Reporter.” In it he cited research which reveals that people are more inclined to donate money to a single child than to 20 million people in poverty. Psychology professor Paul Slovic, from the University of Oregon, calls it “psychic numbing” – the tendency to care less about global atrocities when people are bombarded with statistics.
So what does that mean for non-profits? It means that they have to get personal. Donors want visual proof, not just pie charts. Therefore, a growing number of grassroot organizations are utilizing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various social media platforms to provide transparency and one-to-one dialog with current and potential donors. Among them is One Day’s Wages, an international grassroot movement dedicated to eliminating extreme global poverty. The idea isn’t too far of a stretched. Jeffrey Sachs, American economist and author of “The End of Poverty,” argues that global poverty can be eliminated by 2025.
The founders of One Day’s Wages, Eugene and Minhee Cho, were inspired after traveling and witnessing first hand the disparity in the world. Their vision for ODW is to inspire others to donate one day of their wages (0.4% of their annual income) to people in need. ODW promotes awareness, invites giving and supports sustainable relief through partnerships; especially with smaller organizations in developing regions. 100% of the donations (minus transactions) go to projects and causes. Donors select the project or organization they want to invest in and ODW will show how these funds are used via reports, photos and videos.
Kate Harris, Operations Director at One Day’s Wages, graciously granted me some of her time for this exclusive interview.
How did your career path lead you to One Day’s Wages?
Prior to coming on staff with ODW, I worked for a Seattle-based non-profit that focuses on sustainable development in Africa and India. There, I trained and managed volunteers who were traveling abroad to work alongside local organizations on a variety of community development projects. For the past few years, I’ve also served as a co-founder and board member for an organization that focuses on community development and education access for children in Southeastern Uganda. Both of these positions, combined with time spent volunteering abroad and studying theory and practice of international development during college rounded out my journey prior to coming on staff here at ODW.
What did you learn about yourself and about the world from your experiences working in East Africa?
The most impactful lesson from my time abroad has been to learn that the West has many lessons to learn from countries that we often see as ‘poor.’ They are incredibly rich in culture, practices of hospitality, joy, faith, and much else. Both developed and developing nations have issues that we need to come together as a global community to address – the most significant, in my opinion, being the overconsumption of many Western countries, and subsequent under-consumption and lack of access to basic resources of developing countries.
There are resources and protections such as clean water, education, healthcare, the right to work in fair conditions, and more – which every citizen of the world deserves, no matter where they happen to be born. As an international community, we agreed that everyone deserved access to those through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in 1948. Sadly, we have yet to come close to actually achieving the rights set forth in that declaration.
Can you describe one life changing moment you had while working in third world countries?
I got to know to a beautiful baby boy named Sam during my first trip to Uganda. Sam’s mother had died shortly after his birth from a similar complication – excessive bleeding – that my own mother had when I was born. However, in the U.S., it’s a highly treatable complication, so my mother lived. Sam’s mother didn’t have access to the medical care or medication needed to treat it, and so she died at the age of 18.
Sam was suffering from severe malnutrition when we met, as his extended family didn’t have enough money to buy milk for him. After spending weeks with Sam in the local hospital, some days watching children in his ward being carried to the morgue literally every hour, it finally hit me: that watching children die of diseases such as malnutrition, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases was a complete normality in this hospital, and for the local community. Sam wasn’t able to recover from the malnutrition, and died at the age of 4 months.
Further than that, if we look at statistics from UNICEF and other aid organizations, we see that Sam’s story is happening all over the world, to somewhere around 25,000 children every day. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking.
About One Day’s Wages:
What distinguishes ODW from other NPOs that raise funds to allocate to various projects?
Amongst a culture that constantly elevates the new and the better, I think one of the most unique things about ODW is that we’re not claiming to be either of those. We’re new as an organization, but there are many other great organizations that have done similar work for decades. We hope to work alongside other NPO’s that are doing great work in the fight against global poverty, learn from them – and hopefully, they from us.
What is the most valuable aspect of the organization?
I think that the most valuable aspect of ODW is the accessibility. It doesn’t matter your income level – everyone can make a significant impact in the fight against global poverty by donating 0.4% of their annual income.
What are some of the obstacles that inhibit fundraising? How has ODW overcome them?
We definitely didn’t originally plan to launch the organization in the midst of a severe economic downturn. I think that has been a huge struggle for all NPO’s right now. An encouragement for me personally is to see the smaller donations – $5, $10, that arrive in our mailbox with notes of well wishes. We hang them up in our office to remind us of the growing community of support that has come in from around the world. We’ll continue to invite folks to join in the fight against poverty in whatever way they’re able.
What are some of the 2010 goals for ODW?
One of our main goals for 2010 is to continue to build our presence as an organization. We’re barely 2 months old, and have been fortunate to receive some great support and media attention thus far. We’re hoping to continue building on that, as well as complete the 3 $25,000 grants that we’re currently raising funds for. We’ll work towards being able to regularly award grants to smaller and lesser-known NGO’s and CBO’s around the world. We’re looking forward to highlighting some great work being done around the world that those in the ODW community may not have heard of before.
About ODW in Social Media:
As more and more NPOs migrant to various social media platforms, how is ODW staying ahead of the curve?
I think it’s important to note that we aren’t looking to compete with anyone. The more NPOs that choose to utilize social media, the better. Increased awareness and support for the important work that non-profits are doing is vital to the entire NPO community. That said, I think ODW is actually relying, in part, on the social media users through the community we’ve already built to help connect us with new and innovative ways to get the word out about how truly simple it can be to get involved in global issues of injustice.
What has ODW implemented on Facebook and Twitter to help raise donations? How successful have they been?
A commonality between FB and Twitter is that we’re utilizing both to share stories. Stories of injustice, stories of hope, stories surrounding issues of extreme global poverty. It’s in sharing those stories through both mediums that donors are able to journey alongside ODW by making a donation, reposting a blog entry, or sharing their own stories of fighting poverty. Success can be difficult to define in the world of social media, but I’d say that we’re seeing increasing website traffic and numbers of donations, which are good indicators that FB and twitter are continuing to grow the community of supporters.
What mistakes and best practices has ODW learned working with social media platforms?
I think a best practice for us has been to simply keep the conversation going. To keep sharing our journey and continually inviting others to join us will be a vital component to the long-term mission of ODW. I think a difficulty in social media usage is that it has a steep learning curve for NPOs who haven’t integrated it into their normal marketing strategies. With that, I think it’s easy to make the mistake of not investing the amount of time and resources into utilizing social media well. We’re still learning.
For additional information about One Day’s Wages, check out the following:
- Recent Media Coverage: New York Times and Seattle Times
- ODW Website: http://onedayswages.org // Founders’ Story
- ODW Twitter handle: @onedayswages
- Videos: ODW Launch Video can be found on both Vimeo and YouTube
- To imbed the video, you can simply go to the respective links above to copy/paste the code. You can also use these formulas to put in the videos on your blog:
- Join ODC’s Facebook Page. They currently have about 790K fans.
Will you be a part of the movement to end global poverty?