Raising money, watering Africa, becoming last – with Matt Windley

I’ve followed Becoming Last, a blog about putting God and others first, for over a year now. So when Matt told me he was organizing a fundraiser for charity: water and asked me to get involved, I knew I needed to.

See, I’ve loved charity: water since I first heard their story. But, you know, I got lazy and never really did anything to support them. Matt reminded me.

So anyway, I have some other projects planned in the future. For now, I wanted to support Matt with his ambitious goal of raising one-million dollars for clean water in Africa. And along with supporting him, I wanted to get his insight on managing a project like this. What works? What doesn’t?

I asked if he’d let me interview him, and he graciously agreed. So with that, I’ll let him explain what his project is all about.

(Photo: charity: water)

Marshall: So why charity: water? Of all the organizations asking for money, what particularly inspired you about them and their project?

Matt: First, I knew I wanted to do a clean water project. The most vulnerable among us are children, and they suffer the most. Of the 42,000 people who die each week from unclean water and unhygienic conditions, 90% are children. That statistic staggers me. As a parent, I can not imagine watching my child suffer from something as simple as not having clean water.

From there, I chose charity: water because of their innovation, their transparency, and their passion. Visit their website, and you quickly feel their passion for what they do. To top it all off, 100% of the donations given go directly toward clean water projects. They have private donors that fund other costs, so they truly use every last penny that people donate on projects. In that respect, they are truly unique in the non-profit world.

[For a more indepth answer, read Matt’s post here.]

Marshall: You’ve shared about it on your blog, but what was the motivation for setting your goal at $1,000,000?

Matt: Hope. All along, I have known that $1,000,000 would take a movement to catch fire or a miracle to occur. I set the goal high because I did not want to get to $2,000 and be satisfied. I think we too easily become complacent with a little charity.

The fact is the Christian church has millions compiled in bank accounts around the world. The money is out there. The question is, “What will we use it on?” $1,000,000 was set as my way of recognizing we have the resources. I pray we hit that number. Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I felt like I wanted to put it out there because I know how much good that would do for those children who are suffering as we speak.

Marshall: So what was your planning process? What did you do ahead of time to prepare for the challenge?

Matt: I’ll be honest. It started practically spur of the moment. I’ve thought about doing something like this for awhile, but had never acted.

One day I just decided I was tired of waiting and thinking and never acting. I sent a few emails to some from blogging friends of mine, talked to my church, and got the ball rolling. I knew this would be a learning experience, but I was prepared to fail and make mistakes because I knew I’d learn and grow from them.

Honestly, my preparation for this was nothing to learn from. If anything I’d say, if you feel God calling you to do something, do it.

Marshall: You’re right on with that. I wish I followed that advice better. It’s awesome that you were able to jump into it like this. Now, what’s worked? For anyone else who wants to set up a my charity: water account, what has been the best way for you to spread the word and raise funds?

Matt: Three approaches have worked the best for me.

First, asking people to be involved in a smaller step (sharing on FB, blogging about it) gave people a chance to buy into the project. Those people were much more willing to give after they got involved in a smaller way.

Second, I am not the type to ask for money, but I quickly found out that good old fashioned asking was extremely effective. I just told people what I was doing and asked if they would share and/or give. Many times they did both.

Third, sharing your heart goes a long way. When people can tell you truly care about what you are doing, they are more receptive to giving.

Marshall: What would you do differently if you were going to do this again?

Matt: This was an intentionally spur of the moment fundraising adventure. That led to many moments of “if only I had thought of that earlier!” For example, local news would love a local story of people trying to raise money for charity. I missed out on getting some publicity there.

More planning would have helped. I think if I had a couple of months to rally some more people around helping, we could have launched larger and made more of an initial surge.

Marshall: Yeah, that’s a tough call. On one hand, you don’t want to delay because, like you said, it’s easy to lose the moment. On the other, some strategy, especially to get others involved, can go a long way.

What about charity: water itself? How could they make the my charity: water process easier for people giving or raising money?

Matt: I have two ideas I wish they could incorporate on their giving site.

First, if they could make it possible to grab a live update of the donation total and put it on a blog or Facebook page, that would be amazing.

Second, I wish there were more ways for donors to interact with the giving page itself. You can put comments when you give, but they are all the way down at the bottom. I would love to see a forum update gadget where people could share why they gave, encourage others to give, or just express excitement for what we’re doing.

Marshall: Okay, let’s switch gears a little: Your blog, “Becoming Last” – I’m a big fan of that title. Is there a story behind it? Why did you choose it?

Matt: For me, it’s the essence of a Christian’s life. For the first twenty some years of my life, I was a Christian, but rarely did the idea of laying down my life ever cross my mind. I began looking at most of the people around me, and it seemed like Christianity had become, “Be a nice person, don’t swear, do the church thing, and you’re good.”

I set out to read through the New Testament, and I could never escape this idea of Becoming Last.

Christianity boils down to putting God first and others second. Jesus said that. Becoming Last is about taking that call seriously.

First Corinthians 9:19 speaks volumes to me. Paul says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” We are completely free, but because of Christ’s sacrifice we lay down our lives so that more people may know God and He would be glorified.

Marshall: That verse is a favorite of mine too, definitely part of the foundation for bondChristian. I think it’s fascinating to see how this verse plays out in different people’s live. Like for you, how would you say the charity: water challenge fits in with what you’re doing in general on Becoming Last?

Matt: It’s an opportunity for us to widen our view of ‘neighbor’. We are no longer ignorant of what happens around the world. For the church to sit idle, while 42,000 people die a week from something so preventable, is crazy.

It’s not as if we don’t know how to get them water, and it’s not as if we don’t have the money. We simply just haven’t done it.

I believe in missions, taking the name of Jesus to the nations, but why on earth would people listen to our message if we are indifferent to such suffering? This challenge is just a small way to make people aware that we have a responsibility to love the nations, that neighbor love doesn’t stop at our borders.

Becoming Last means to all, not to those whom we find convenient.

Marshall: I get pumped reading stuff like that. So how can we help on this project specifically?

Matt: Several ways. First, pray. I know people always say that, but it’s true.

I highly recommend the biography of George Muller. The man cared for thousands of orphans throughout his life. He never asked for a dime. When their was a need, he prayed and God provided. That is remarkable. I believe God hears the prayers of his people and I hope you’ll pray for our challenge and for those around the world without clean water.

Second, donate. Even if someone gave a $1 or $5, it helps. I’m asking for everyone to at least give something. I believe in the power of small donations. When people give and they share, those donations multiply exponentially together. So start small and if you can give more, that’s great too.

Finally, please share with your friends. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever. Highlight our opportunity to show the world that the church cares about the hurting and that even small donations matter.

Marshall: Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Serving Suggestions:

(1) Like Matt said, spread the word. If you have a blog, write about this. If you have a Facebook account, ask your friends to help you. Point them here.

(2) Buy drinks. Twenty dollars gives someone clean water, which is pretty much life-changing.

(3) Lastly, check out what Matt is doing over at Becoming Last. He has some fantastic insights and suggestions. Thank him for sharing.

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