Monday, November 20, 2006
Why we decided to start this non profit
Well, it's 10:00, and I can't go to sleep, and so I thought I'd write a bit about why Heidi and I decided to start our own nonprofit.
I actually didn't initially want to start a brand new nonprofit. Because I am in charge of putting together the business plan and organizational structure (Heidi does the bulk of the fundraising), I didn't really want to have to start from scratch. So, I approached a variety of organizations with a rough proposal. Heidi and I wanted to raise money specifically to renovate the girls' school in Khane.
I first contacted the Colorado Nonprofit Association because they help new nonprofits by dealing with all the financial and business needs for the first few years. However, they only work with Colorado-based organizations. I then contacted the folks at the dZi Foundation (www.thedzifoundation.com) because they "develop sustainable programs that positively impact individuals and communities located primarily within the Himalayan region." Heidi and I have raised money for dZi before, working with their knowledgeable and dedicated executive director, Jim Nowak. Unfortunately, the board of dZi has decided not to work in Pakistan at this point. So, we tried connecting with the folks over at Central Asia Institute, which is doing excellent work promoting education primarily for girls in Pakistan (see http://www.ikat.org/ for more information and see http://www.threecupsoftea.com/AboutGreg.php to read more about CAI founder/exec. director Greg Mortensen's new book.) I spoke with them a few times regarding our project, but because they were more or less overwhelmed with proposals just like mine & Heidi's, they couldn't help us out.
I became slightly discouraged after being denied over and over again for the first few months after I returned from Pakistan. But then I met a young man who had just started a nonprofit himself. He's raising money for Sudanese refugees. After talking to him for a few hours I began to feel like it wasn't such a huge task after all, at least if I just took things one day at a time. So, I registered the nonprofit with the state of Colorado, started this blog, and am now working on two primary projects: getting the website up and running (I still have to finish the text), and finding $500 to apply with the IRS for 501(c)(3) status, so that people who donate to our organization can get tax deductions and so that we can get other nonprofit benefits (I have three slide show fund-raisers planned where I will talk about our attempted climb of the Ogre's Thumb and also the village Khane and children there).
Another reason I decided to just go for it and register our own nonprofit was because if CAI was overwhelmed with proposals such as ours, then obviously there was more room in Pakistan for another organization that empowers girls through education.
Heidi and I have been talking about giving back to the world community for years now. We've been friends for more than a decade, and five or six years ago, both of us began to feel that we could use our selfish pursuits (climbing walls in foreign countries) to raise awareness for certain things. First, we raised money for a variety of organizations through "She Sends", the women's climbing magazine that seeks to build community and create a forum for women and men to express alternative perspectives of the climbing world (www.shesends.com is going online December 1 with all new content). We've both volunteered at events such as HERA Climb For Life, which raises funds for research of ovarian cancer, and we've both done miscellaneous things here and there to "give back." However, our efforts were inconsistent and somewhat disjointed--a fundraiser here, paying for the education of a couple Nepali children there. Now we'd really like to put our heads together and do something beneficial for the long term--something that will make a big difference for a large group of people, specifically the girls and women of Khane and possibly other villages in the Shigar Valley. Who knows what will happen with this project. I certainly don't. But we're going to have a good time trying, and I'm sure we'll both learn a lot along the way.