Everything is possible, just be persistent

Last week, I read the amazing story of a great joint philanthropic initiative in Kosovo that raised more than 400.000 euro in about 2 1/2 hours. It is an example how people from different sectors can work together and achieve great things.  The fundraising event was for the NGO Mother Theresa from Germany with proceeds going to provide needed medical treatments for sick children in Kosovo.  The event involved both a traditional gala dinner and a simultaneous live televised broadcast of the event on the public broadcaster RTK that solicited donations via SMS.  This event was completely supported by media partners.

The key element was that everyone had fun and everyone was feeling good that they are giving. And that is what it is all about – we can do good job in promoting philanthropy only if we believe in the process and if we believe that anything is possible.

Media is important for promoting everything – products, giving, projects, services… Media is setting the standards if something is good or bad, if a project is successful or not, if some food is perceived as healthy or junk…Media is an important partner to all of us, in doing our jobs better, in promoting the concept of giving or even teaching people what philanthropy really means.

But at the same time, the civil sector can and should play a strong role in guiding media to promote philanthropic values, promote change, both societal and individual, and lead society in a direction where giving trumps receiving. Hopefully, after a few years of this interaction between the civil sector and media regarding philanthropy, a strong partnership will be developed and the media will cover stories full of “broccoli” as well.

Now, I will go back to my personal experience. Media is a business, you need to get ready to negotiate and sell, and give them the best part of your project. Never give up. They need stories to tell as well. Just make and present the story better and show them where their interest is.  We, at the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, have launched what we consider to be an ideal project for media.

The project Stvarno Vazno (Really Important), promotes the shared values of young people in Serbia, the values in life that young people today consider to be really important to them. Well known public figures readily agreed to participate free of charge as promoters of the campaign, were ready to talk, ready to present their values and be part of the campaign/talk shows/radio commercials.

But the job has not been easy.  In a period of 3 months, we held at least 50-60 meetings with different media representatives, made hundreds of phone calls and sent hundreds of emails.  We started a conversation with our potential media partners, learning about them and what their interests might be in promoting our initiative and engaging them at that level.  If we got NO as an answer to our defined requests for pro bono services from a given media house, we would go back to them with different suggestions, offering them different timing for their support.

The result, so far, has been amazing. In a period of 2 months, we have established cooperation with all of the national TV stations in Serbia, with most of the national dailies and a number of radio stations.  On a cash budget of 4,000 USD, more than 600 billboards (large and small) have been printed and installed throughout Serbia and a TV commercial (to be broadcast on all of the above stations for free) has been produced. More than 100,000 USD of services have been donated in kind as a result of our persistence at leveraging the philanthropic spirit of any media entity that would allow us to.  It has been worth the effort and the campaign has only just begun – promoting the positive values than young people in Serbia share.  We are disproving the perception that only bad news is good news in Serbia.  

Everything is possible, just be persistent.

Ana Koeshall is Executive Director of Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation from Serbia. More about Divac Foundation you can find on www.fondacijadivac.org

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Ana Koeshall