The mission of the Eat So They Can campaign is to end global poverty and hunger - one meal at a time. Eat So They Can is an initiative of Global Volunteer Network and GVN Foundation. The concept is simple - by hosting a dinner party, you can help bring an end to global poverty and end.
The GVN Foundation
PO Box 602
Bellefontaine, OH 43311
Check out Eat So They Can opportunities on VolunteerMatch.
By Cris Bautista, Communications & Social Media Intern
International volunteering was practically programmed into Eliza Raymond from the very beginning. She was born in the English town of Bath to a French mother and English father. Her family spent a lot of time traveling, and she even spent her third birthday in Tibet.
At 18, Eliza took a gap year between high school and university. She spent that year traveling the world and volunteering at a Guatemalan orphanage. Following the gap year Eliza migrated to New Zealand and attended university there, studying in the tourism department and specifically focusing on international volunteer programs.
Following graduation, Eliza started working for the Global Volunteer Network, an international volunteer organization that supports community development programs across the world, including Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Ghana. She was based in the Peru program, interacting with volunteers from every corner of the world.
In 2009, Eliza began at the GVN Foundation -- an organization that focuses on fundraising for the Global Volunteer Network. Within the GVN Foundation, one of Eliza's most important programs is Eat So They Can (ESTC).
"Eat So They Can is my love," she says. "I spend a lot of time on it."
As part of ESTC, volunteers host dinner parties that also act as fundraising and advocacy events for organizations the Global Volunteer Network financially supports. "We want fundraising to be part of people's everyday lives," she says. "It's all about empowering people so they can make a difference."
Eat So They Can started in 2005 when the founders of the Global Volunteer Network, Courtney Montague and Colin Salisbury, wanted to develop a fundraising program that was easy, fun and accessible. "Everyone loves a good dinner party," explains Eliza, "so why not host one for a good cause?"
There have been ESTC dinner parties on all seven continents—even Antarctica. Supporters in the United States have hosted the most parties, but developing countries — such as Kenya, Nepal, Uganda, and Haiti — have participated as well.
ESTC dinner parties involve small get-togethers that raise $50, and larger events that have raised as much as $10,000. Any host who raises at least $500 gets entered into a raffle that will allow one person to go on a GVN distribution trip.
"It's definitely been a learning experience for me," says Eliza of managing a program like ESTC, and a nonprofit with a global reach like the GVN Foundation.
The GVN Foundation has a strong presence on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and on other sites like Idealist. "We have to do everything online," Eliza says. "A lot of donors we will never meet." Much of the social media activity is handled by younger volunteers and interns who have grown up using social media and have had more experience with sites such as Facebook and Twitter than their older counterparts.
The GVN Foundation's social media strategy is that they don't directly ask potential volunteers for money, but use social media to post videos, statistics, and quotes, which in turn motivates potential donors to share this information with others and to ultimately give money or host an Eat So They Can event.
This strategy has been wildly successful — in 2009 ESTC raised $193,000, more than tripling the $60,000 raised in 2008. Since 2007, ESTC has raised $539,160.
Eliza emphasizes the importance of social responsibility when it comes to global volunteering. "I have a lot to say about that," says Eliza. She wrote her master's thesis on effective international volunteering. "I do believe in international volunteerism and that it can have a positive impact in both host communities and volunteers."
However, Eliza says, the sending organization has the primary responsibility of being aware of the needs of the host community. "The sending organizations have a really big responsibility in making sure volunteer programs are beneficial to the community and not just the volunteers," she says.
One of Eliza's most memorable experiences was working with a woman in Peru named Daniela Cabrerizo, who wanted to host her own Eat So They Can event. "I was a little surprised," says Eliza. Most of our hosts are from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Although we support many projects in Peru, we had never had a Peruvian host an ESTC fundraising event."
When Eliza asked Daniela why she wanted to host an event, Daniela answered, "Living in Peru we see poverty around us, but we are so used to it that sometimes we forget we can do a lot to help. I love the ESTC & GVN programs because they don't hand out money, they teach the communities to be better, and they give them the tools to be able to support themselves and come out of poverty by themselves, with hard work. If the people ESTC help is smart enough, they will take advantage of the opportunities offered to them and will improve not only their lives, but their whole community and the whole country."
Daniela ended up raising $870 initially, and then later was able to make another contribution of $2,377.
"Daniela taught me that anything is possible when you set your mind to it," says Eliza. "She reminded me that helping others is a privilege, and that anyone can play a part in fighting global poverty."
From interacting with volunteers throughout the world, Eliza is ripe with advice for working with donors and volunteers. "Encourage donors and volunteers to set goals and help them achieve those goals," she says. "And when they send you money, don't just thank them. Let them know where that money is going."
When working with volunteers who serve in countries and communities not their own, Eliza recommends awareness of the volunteers' skill sets and setting realistic expectations for them. "You as a volunteer have the belief that you can make a huge change in kids' lives and change the world, but you might not have the skills," says Eliza. "Volunteers need to have clear expectations for what they can contribute. Make sure they're placed in the right position for service." The Global Volunteer Network requires an application so the Foundation can screen potential volunteers prior to accepting them.
"Build relationships with volunteers," Eliza concludes. "Provide value for them."