break the fundraising bottleneck – How Middle East Charities can raise money

CrowdfundingI come across charities regularly that are struggling with fundraising. Crowd-funding offers a good, and relatively easy way to get money online. You share your stories and needs with the world online and the crowd responds by sending you money to your account.  There are some basic steps to follow:

  1. Locate an online crowd-funding platform that is suitable for you. I recommend Just Giving because they’re in the region and their site is easy to use. They need your registration paper, a bank statement and an application form. The folks are very easy to work with and responsive.
  2. Recruit a student from a local university who understands social media market.
  3. Get your volunteers to take good photos or a short video (1 min or less).
  4. Write a script describing your cause, your beneficiaries, the way you will use funds and share photos/videos.
  5. Post your script and photos on and / or your site. (They have great how-to videos)
  6. Your intern can help you share your campaign content on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Pinterest, Instagram).

Here are a few sample campaigns that I think are cool:

Stop Bullying

#GiveWater #GiveHealth

Cycling for Gaza

Let me know if you require more support. @rchakaki (on twitter)

Other resources:

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Refugees don’t need money, they need engagement!

Thanks to Salma El-Yassir the director of Welfare Association Lebanon Branch (WA-LB), I visited Burj El Barajneh Refugee Camp in Beirut. I visited to support the launch of a Youth Employment Service (YES) Program. To promote the project among camp residences, WA-LB commissioned Graffiti artist Yazan to work with camp residences to create an attraction for youth.

YES will have a profound impact on youth in the camp, and I’ll dedicate a post to it at a later date.  What I’m sharing is what struck me as a desperate need by youth in the camps to connect with those of us outside. I’m sharing a story and calling for action for those outside the camp who can inspire, mentor, uplift, to support. We only conserve what we love. We only love what we know… here’s what I saw and heard:

As we walked through increasingly narrow alley ways lined with trash I wondered how it was possible to dream of another reality.  Not a single street was paved.  I glimpsed a person in a wheelchair at his front door and wondered how he moved around in the camp. Alleys  are too narrow for a wheelchair,  have steep inclines, sharp turns.  But what is most striking is the exposed and extremely dangerous electrical and water pipes.

Mohamad our guide explained “if one wire gets cut, the entire neighborehood goes dark.  neighbores go out with candles and torches to find their wires and reactivate them. At times we have week long blackouts.  Students are forced to study on candlelight. When there’s a surge of water in the pipes, they burst. located next to the wire mesh, you get an electric shower. these allies become inaccessible.  In 2012 14 young men had died by electrocution.  The last one was a person the entire camp loved.  He was a good man who rallied residence to volunteer and better their community. During his funeral, his friends and loved ones took an oath to prevent such tragic deaths.  Me and a few other young volunteers erected homemade troughs around areas of the camp.  The project is still ongoing, we only finished a few areas of the camp.”

We are all influenced by our surroundings. We see beauty and it reflects within.  Nature heals. When we gaze at the horizon, look out at a green mountain, a blue ocean, even a tall beautiful building or an urban garden, we get our inspirations. In Burj Al Barajneh, there are areas where you cannot see sunlight.

Mohamad’s dedication to keep his environment safe, but like all of us, he gets discouraged by the mounting obstacles.  He adds,many of us don’t have jobs, we spend our days pounding the pavement looking for work, we come home to an electric shower in the ally, by the time we fix this, or clear that, it is 11pm. our frustrations, added to that of our families who live in this confine leaves us all in a hopeless state.  Yet we wake up the next morning, and push forward. It is what we must do to survive and give our children better lives.”

In life we all need support.  We have our internal drive, and need external support to keep us motivated, feeling appreciated, remind us that we are doing well and should persevere.  The visiting team offers Mohamad words of encouragement, appreciation, respect, admiration for his courage and determination.   Appreciation reminds him of what an amazing job he’s doing. The Welfare Association does its part.  They offer through programs like YES job opportunities.

More is needed.  It isn’t finance. It is human connections that compels youth to imagine a different reality. Mohamad and other young men/women in refugee camps need acknowledgement appreciation and encouragement .  Young men and women, businessman/woman must visit and offer moral support, encouragement, ideas for making camps a better reality.  If every individual took a half a day to engage with young men like Mohamad can you imagine how encouraging that would be? how much impact that would have on his life?  Connect. Engage. Inspire.

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them.” – Mother Teresa


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Share my Dabba – A small sticker can make A BIG DIFFERENCE – YouTube

Share my Dabba - IndiaAs Ramadan approaches, we’re all thinking of ways to give. Charities and non-profits are looking for creative ways to reach out to the community.  Here’s a 2 minute video example of an initiative that works in India and can be  replicated in our region using local models.


here’s how your charity can replicate their success:

  1. Consider a campaign that builds on an existing food/beverage distribution network.
  2. Define your campaign objectives; keep it simple!
  3. Identify the people who’ll help you make it possible
  4. Create the message to reach them and get them on board
  5. Figure out your distribution channels
  6. Select communication channels where your supporters are likely to be (reach mass audiences of supporters through social media).
  7. Create simple content (photos, home-made videos)  that have a high emotional value.
  8. Start small and watch it grow.
  9. Measure your success and report on it to your stakeholders.
  10. Be patient with your program. Watch it grow slowly, it will have a longer lasting impact.

For a regional example check out the Family Kitchen in Jordan

For more on Share My Dabba check out lighthouse insights

Relevant organizations providing support in Ramadan: PMRS  Nakhweh

#run4life – Day 6

My small victory on the treadmill today

Palestinian children celebrating a true victory in Oslo after winning the Norway Cup.

The charity that is making these victories happen is PACES.  Giving children and youth in Palestine the chance at living their age, building self-confidence and self-esteem through sports, creating positive changes in their lives and helping them imagine a different future.

You can help support this effort by sponsoring my #run4life at the Dubai Marathon.

Sponsor Rama’s #Run4Life

For more on #run4life and why I’m doing it, visit other blog posts under #run4life

#run4life – day 2

Day 2

You can do it!

I kept telling myself while training.. remembered Khalil‘s rehabilitation .. if he could walk after a few days of his prosthetic fitting, I should be able to do this!


Baby steps.. increased my time and distance.  Got advice from a friend to alternate speed.. a faster 5 minute and a slower one.. he committed to training with me.  Ran into my old gym trainer on metro, he advised I train three times a week, and double the distance on weekends.  Your thoughts?


Raise 50,000 USD for the PCRF & PACES

Background on the Run4Life

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Want to help?

here’s what you can do…

  1. please stay tuned to blog updates on my training progress
  2. follow my twitter account @rchakaki and retweet with the hash-tag #run4life
  3. recommend the charities to your friends
  4. volunteer with the charities in any skill you have to offer
  5. donate generously (details will follow)

Where it all began ..

Years ago upon returning to the Middle East, I volunteered at a center for children with special needs and a center for abandoned children.  Those two experiences inspired me to to build KENZ (Arabic for Treasure), a project that would support children and youth. I wanted to focus the worlds attention on children and youth of the Arab World who seemed forgotten by the media, politics and the economic situation. I knew it would be a collaborative model, but I wasn’t clear on how I would build it; it didn’t happen, it wasn’t time.

Instead of KENZ, I find myself today representing two charities the PACES & PCRF, and supporting many causes and organizations working with children and youth in the Arab World.

My vision is to see collaboration among all individuals, charities and organizations working to enable Arab children and youth to live a prosperous and dignified life.

Tune in for more…

The Summit

10-June-07 (6am):

A few minutes later the team was near the summit, lead by Rama, who was guided by Romeo through the easiest terrain that didn’t require holding on to the umbilical cord. Rama graciously waited for Nick, knowing well that he would throw her off the summit to claim he got there first!

As they arrived at the peak, they experienced overwhelming feelings that caused them to cry uncontrollably. Many hugs were exchanged, words of support and congratulations and before they knew it, the Cigars, Vodka and Whiskey where out!

The view was indeed breath taking; standing on top of the world, above the clouds, under clear blue skies and rising sun rays, witnessing awesome natural colors of white, blue, green, orange and gray so harmoniously intertwined, feeling the cold brisk wind after having ascended 4095 meters was more than the sense could take. It was simply divine.

Second Hike – are we there yet?

The last stretch was a particularly grueling one for the team. Having woken up at 2am, after five hours of continuously interrupted sleep, with no access to breakfast food, which was being served 150 meters south in the main lodge and feeling sore from the previous climb, the team was less than fit to move on.. or rather, up! In a brief talk, Victor, our prime guide, reminded us of the distance remaining, and asked us to remain quiet as not to disturb the spirits.

Jacko was coughing, Nirmz cold, Rama scared of heights, and the rest, well, they were on something or another. Irrespective, everyone set their head-lights, no pun intended, on and started climbing.

Despite the steep steps, darkness and depleting oxygen, the climb was tolerable; things started turning ugly when the ropes appeared. The rocks were getting rounder, more slippery and stood at a steeper incline due to weathering. This called for strong rope anchored to the rocks with large metal hooks. We had to abandon our walking sticks and use our hands to hang on to the rope with dear life. The rope was for the reminder of the climb our umbilical cord.

This rope climbing went on for what felt like eternity; dark skies above, wind chill factor of 100 kilometers per hour and less oxygen than an ant’s lugs require made for conditions that would bring The Terminator to tears.

Then, a booth appears out of nowhere to signal the entrance to the summit. This was an encouraging sign for the novices among the group. Regardless everyone was happy to show their badge of honor and sign in the book of Mount Kinabalu Summit for having reached this far.

The climbing continued as the sun began to rise; something that prompted Kermi to get her second wind and call on the rest of the KK-12 to “hurry up, we want to reach the summit before sunrise”! A task that was virtually impossible given that by this time, Nirmz was hugging the rocks, and getting wrapped in the Outer space blanket, Jacko sat firmly on a rock that wouldn’t be shaken by her sever coughing bouts, Rama raised the flag of victory and declared she made it as far as her Ticker can take her, Hussein threw up everything he ate and smelled the past week and billy goat had traded in mountain climbing natural abilities for a massive asthma attack.

Amidst the growing desire among the KK-12 group members to halt the climb, Slave Driver appears to rally the troops; he tries his Gym motivation, it fails, he tries humor, that fails too, he screams a little about something or another, failure again. Finally, Slave driver says a few words about the reason the KK-12 embarked on this journey and reminds the KK-12 of the true beneficiaries of this effort and walks away.

Base Camp – 2nd Lodge

As the roof of base-camp appeared, a rush of energy enabled the remaining team members to accelerate, slightly! It might have been seeing the first signs of civilization, the hopes of a toilet as opposed to a hole in the ground, or a warm meal that wasn’t dried fruits or chocolate! Whatever the reason, the lodge seemed to be approaching rapidly.

The first sign that raised concern about the mental state of the lodge designers was the volley ball court. As if the hike hadn’t been enough of a cardiovascular workout, an architect on crack felt it could be nice to have a game where a penalty shot could have you dangling from 3000 meters, not to mention the performance enhancing levels of oxygen in the air!

The sense of humor of the lodge designer/architect was apparent through the first class, unisex, alternating temperature, mildew infested showers; made comfortable by a paper thin towel and a bar of soap the size of a Tic Tac.

However, the state of the accommodations wasn’t going to deter the KK-12 from getting some rest. We all piled on plastic chairs that were designed for size 2 models, heads on the table, we slept soundly! Well, not so much! It seems karmic debt caught up with us, and the disturbances we caused our Japanese fellow climbers was returned and then some.

The Scottish, well-endowed, marathon talker sat behind us telling her table mates what appeared to be the tale of time. All we heard was “yeah but, no but, yeah but, no but” at 100 miles per hour and 250 decibels! Jacko was most offended by the diarrhea of words coming out of the woman’s mouth as she felt the lady gave Scots a bad reputation. At one point, Jacko was so distraught by the disturbance, she lifted a fork and proceeded towards the lady’s table with the intent to extract her vocal cords. Luckily, the water retention in her ankles kept her from reaching her target.

Furthermore, to take the well-endowed Scottish female down, we needed the forces of all the KK-12 members. Unfortunately, Ali had been paralyzed by a tooth cavity, MouRnir and Mahmoud by the amount of food they consumed, Nirmala by the lack of modern amenities, while Iva and Rana were incapacitated by the absence of a clean mirror to refresh their makeup post shower and the rest couldn’t be bothered!

Despite the strange accommodations and the annoying lodge mates, the deck offered a stunning view of the sunset. One by one, the team stood admiring the cloud formations, the yellow, orange and purple hues of the setting sun and the majestic view s of the rain forest below.

To avoid ruining the “romantic admiration of nature“ moment, none of us shared our deep seated fear of what we had gotten ourselves into and only silently wondered how we might make it back down! It did not need to be said; the fact that most of the team proceeded to drink shots of vodka and Whiskey excessively, gave it away!

When Nick mentioned that the sleeping accommodations were a couple of steps away and without heat, everyone thought he was kidding; forgetting that an ex-royal marine is stripped of a real sense of humor and is solely capable of bullying and sarcasm. We attempted to revolt, however, due to the lack of oxygen, the fatigue and low IQ, Nick diverted our attention using a photo opportunity with our newly acquired head flash lights. We quietly proceeded to climb and after 100 meters found ourselves facing the cabin, under a bright sky dotted with beautiful stars and galaxies.

We quickly off-loaded their bags in the 4×2 meter room with 8 bunk beds, and returned outside to marvel at stars we hadn’t seen in years. While some members had vague childhood memories of starry sky’s, most have lived in light polluted cities deprived of the site of starts for the majority of their lives. We were quiet for the first time since we began our trip; left speechless by the beauty of the velvet black, diamond studded blanket that draped overhead.

This state was apparently too much for the slave driver. Worried that he might have to return alone, he broke the silence by mooning the group!

  • Evening stars
  • Mooned by Nick

Nick names

  • Mounier – Billy Goat and MouRnier a misspelling on his ticket that was carried through to all his official travel documents
  • Mahmoud – Moody
  • Nick – Slave driver/boss/Sputnik
  • Iva – Diva
  • Souheil – Beaver aka Castor
  • Rana – Kermi/Superstar
  • Nirmala – Nirmz
  • Dany – Rambo
  • Rama – There was debate about my name. The initial suggestion “Fart Machine” was suggested by Billy Goat because of my keen sense of smell and my ability to smell gas miles away. The team deliberated, and found terms such as Tant Adele, Ticker and finally Goddess far more appropriate.
  • Jackie – Wako Jacko aka

I was selected one of eight to sleep in the 4×2 room. Having never experienced a slumber party in my life, this was a welcome first. In spite of the Motel 4 accommodations, I was determined to have a slumber party before the age of 40.

It wasn’t long before the band of 8 decided which bed each would claim. The problem was the walking space between the beds could only fit two people at a time. Hence, the team mounted the beds while two at a time occupied the walking gap to extract their sleeping bags and toiletries from backpacks.

Midnight chats

  • Rana wanted sauce, or was that socks? Dany wasn’t sure, cause he was so scared of bugs, he wrapped his sleeping bag tightly around his head.
  • Jackie coughed a lung & had bladder control issues.. truth was, she loved the bathrooms and had to go back time and time again to savor the sights and smells.
  • Mounier couldn’t sleep – he tried to play “house” with Tant Adele; when that failed, he wondered the hall talking to random strangers and moaned the rest of the evening because Mahmoud slept so deeply
  • Rama froze & contemplated slipping into a lower bunk for warmth.. she was also scared of falling over because the bunks had no rails.
  • Being the largest one of the team, Nirmz guarded the group in her door side bunker
  • Diva and Moody slept through it all!

We got told off for being too noisy for the dorm – curfew was at 9.

The two adults, Nick & Souheil slept in the other room with Ali & Hussein; the excuse was, the boys wouldn’t share a room with the girls. Rumor has it, there was a mid-night bag carrying strategy session.