A buck here, $5 there

Nov 152010
Authors: Andrew Carrera

SaraJoy Pond was 13 years old when she first became mad at God.

News of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 had just hit the TV screen in her northern Colorado farmhouse.

“It completely changed my perspective,” she said. “I grew up in a farm in this idyllic little world in Colorado where people were kind and good and everything seemed fair… I was just like, how, how, could a loving God let (the genocide) happen? How is that okay?”

The traumatic incident never left Pond’s memory.

It inspired the 2004 CSU graduate to create TippingBucket in Provo, Utah, a non-profit organization that raises money for and provides suggestions to other non-profit projects that do social good.

“To us, it’s not just fundraising,” she said. “We really are trying to become a place where ideas get launched, where you can come together to a community and get constructive feedback so that your idea ends up better than it would have before you started.”

Essential to TippingBucket is the Internet. The organization uses websites like Facebook, Twitter and an iPhone application to ask people for a donation of $1 to causes they are showcasing after determining their projects to be doable, ready, impactful, appropriate and sustainable. Each dollar acts like a drop in a bucket leading to a financial “tipping” point, representing the fundraising goal set by the group featured by TippingBucket.

Pond said soliciting donations from individuals is more effective through the Internet.

“You can form communities across all sorts of geographies where there may be half a dozen people in any given high school, or a couple hundred in a college that really care about a certain issue. That in itself is not all that powerful,” she said. “But when you can combine that across the country and you get several thousand people who are passionate about that same issue, you have a lot of weight.”

Since its conception in 2006, the group has raised more than $65,000 altogether and worked with 21 projects. Their first project was Sowers of Hope, which brought a K-6 school in the Democratic Republic of Congo solar panels to power buildings after their electricity grid was destroyed by the ongoing civil war which has claimed more than 5.4 million lives.

Pond started working full time on TippingBucket after it won a social venture competition at Brigham Young University in 2009, which raised $22,000 for the organization. The group’s first office was in her living room with two close friends, but that was only half of her troubles at the time.

“I actually wasn’t there because I broke my foot last October, so I was home in Colorado having four different surgeries. We worked over Skype for like five months,” she said. “Most of the presentations I made for the first six months were in crutches­.”

Today, TippingBucket has a fulltime paid staff of four individuals with many volunteers and interns in an office in Provo. The crew is currently working with a project called ThaiCycles, which aims to provide bicycles to children who currently have to walk four-hour roundtrips to get to middle school.

TippingBucket’s website says it only chooses to work with organizations like ThaiCycles, that carefully consider the thoughts of the people in the community in which they are working –– a selection criterion that makes the group unique, said Pond.

According to the founder, solutions to injustices in developing countries are best found on the local level. One of the greatest challenges that the underserved face “is a prevailing thought that they are incapable of helping themselves,” she said.

The organization looks to remedy this problem by continuing to turn itself into a village in which large amounts of individuals contribute through others’ success.

“A member of that community reviews and makes comments on projects happening in areas he or she knows and cares about, helping those projects get better,” she said. “He or she contributes to projects on a regular basis, $1 here and $5 there, and then gets regular updates from those projects; video postcards, impact reports, etc.” This way, local solutions to problems are found.

In order to help, TippingBucket has applied to receive $250,000 from the Pepsi “Refresh” Project, which gives grants to organizations that provide innovative solutions to problems around the United States. The nonprofit is the 31st most popular out of more than 330 organizations in the competition. The two that receive the most votes receive the grants.

Staff writer Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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