Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Final Countdown: Young Turks Climbing Mountain Kilimanjaro to Raise Funds

Editor’s Note: On August 28, The Hakuna Matata team is taking on Mountain Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for underprivileged students in Turkey. They aim to raise 28,000TL (roughly equal to 15,655 USD or 10,877 Euros). They’ve already raised 17,774 TL. The team takes its name from the Swahili phrase ‘hakuna matata’ which translates "no worries, no problem" in English and, “bos ver, dert etme) in Turkish. The phrase gained international recognition through the movie Lion King which devoted a song to it. The movie takes place nearby the Kilimanjaro Mountain.

We are eight volunteers from Turkey planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at the end of this month. Having lived in the US, UK and Canada for six plus years, we have embraced the custom of philanthropy, and dedicated our climb to a cause that we personally care about. Through the support of Toplum Gonulluleri Vakfi (TOG)'s Genclere Deger (Valuing Young People) initiative we will be hiking for Adim Adim (translates roughly as “Step by Step”). Adim Adim is a young organization, founded by college students and young professionals who are united by the sentiment that “there has to be more to life" than work (in Stacie Orrico’s wise words), and is dedicated to empowering the Turkish youth.

What attracted us the most to this organization is the need to raise awareness and funds for students who were not as lucky as the eight of us. The funds will assist young adults on financial aid, and will enable them to be active outside of the classroom through extracurricular activities. Through this cause, we hope to help cultivate a youth who have a better understanding of what being a citizen of the world means, which we have learned to appreciate during our time living outside of Turkey.

To learn about our personal stories, visit our webpage, and to support our initiative, visit our contribution page. For more information about our team, progress, training, and how close we are to our departure date, feel free to talk us through our Facebook or follow us on Twitter: @hakunamatataTR

with love and gratitude,

Hakuna Matata Team

(Ayşe, Begüm, Doruk, Itır, Jean, Selin, Şirin, and Volkan)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crossing the digital divide or stuck at the border?

by Filiz Bikmen

(Editor’s note: Turkish Philanthropy Funds partners with Global Giving to help Turkish NGOs tap online fundraising networks. In her guest blog post for TPF, Filiz Bikmen discusses the opportunities and challenges of using online giving platforms in Turkey. Filiz Bikmen's post has been cross-posted at Alliance Magazine.)

I commend globalgiving and other similar platforms, many of which are US-based, in their ability to mobilize the power of the internet to help charities and donors cross the digital divide. Needless to say, I was both pleased and frustrated to learn that globalgiving planned a visit with Turkish charities earlier this summer. Pleased because it offers charities the opportunity to showcase their good work and raise funds from donors all over the world… frustrated because Turkey still lacks any sort of similar mechanism – on or off line. Given this scenario, should we focus our efforts on helping Turkish charities cross that digital divide and join the global fundraising movement or focus more on building similar systems at the national and local level? Or both?

Our late and esteemed colleague Olga Alexeeva (A suggestion to improve fundraising in emerging markets: just a technical issue, 27 July 2011) just recently touched on similar issues regarding the pros and cons of fundraising and, in general, ways to make (giving, and) repeat giving easy and accessible in emerging countries. I could not agree more. Bearing great resemblance to Russia, there are practically no credible channels to recruit donors for one time or regular/repeat donations to charities in Turkey. Worse yet, there is no CAF office or any CAF-like organization whose sole mission it is to increase the amount and effectiveness of giving in Turkey. At best there are a handful of charities running limited time fundraising campaigns and a growing cohort of charities which are appreciative but tired of having the EU as their only donor, and are keen to diversify. There have been attempts made in good faith to address this gap, but the honest truth is that we are not very far from where we started. The gap between charities and donors remains.

As such, I was quite curious to learn what globalgiving Field Representatives Shahd AlShehail and Isabel Nicholson would uncover in their meetings with Turkish charities in three cities (Istanbul, Izmir and Diyarbakir) earlier this summer. Both were kind enough to respond to my questions about how charities reacted to globalgiving and online fundraising in general.

They reported regional differences in terms of organizational capacity and English language ability – not surprising and clearly serious deterrents for using globalgiving (and accessing other foreign funds). Yet they also had the impression that ‘Turkey is at the forefront in terms of using social media to engage donors and spread a message’. Having entered that ‘world’ through some programmes I am involved in, I can attest to the explosion of social movements via social media. However admirable it is, these movement are more so about raising consciousness, not money.

Another finding was that most charities expressed a lack of clarity and a degree of frustration about fundraising laws. ‘Public’ fundraising activities (collecting online donations, raising funds through portals, or any other public campaign) continue to require bureaucratically confusing and complicated procedures and permissions at the national level. And while receipt or foreign funds is no longer subject to permission, each donation must be filed with public officials before use. No easy feat if you’re collecting 10 USD at a time! While several years back, the Turkish government improved the charity law, there is still more to do to making giving easy and accessible.

In her post, Olga proposes that this is a ‘technical’ problem, and that we need to ‘decrease’ the asking price of donations. The factors that increase the asking price in Turkey include cumbersome policies/procedures, lack of centralized systems, donor services, fundraising skills and the burden of foreign language requirements – quite similar to most emerging market countries.

While it is not globalgiving’s mandate to decrease the ‘asking price’ per se, for charities in contexts like Turkey, perhaps they could help us both build capacity of charities to join their networks while also sharing their know-how to help build similar local mechanisms.

Note from the author: I would like to dedicate this piece to the memory of Olga Alexeeva whose vision and pursuit inspired me. May she rest in peace knowing that we are all continuing to help make her visions a reality.

Filiz Bikmen is a foundation professional, speaker and author based in Istanbul, Turkey. Currently is the director of programs and international relations at Sabancı Foundation and a regular contributor to Alliance Magazine.

Somalia Relief Fund

As the crisis in the Horn of Africa deepens, we believe that it is our moral obligation to respond to this human crisis.

We have established the Somalia Relief Fund at TPF. 100% of your funds will go to UNICEF to support the funding gap of $120 million for its emergency operations in Somalia. Among the most urgent needs in the crisis response are therapeutic food for malnourished children, safe water for tankering in drought-stricken areas, bednets to prevent malaria, and family kits for people on the move – like the thousands of refugees who are crossing into Kenya from Somalia.

$20 can provide 480 High Energy Protein Biscuits to provide children nutrition in the wake of a disaster.
$140 can provide a Basic Family Water Kit to provide clean drinking water to 10 families.
$256 can provide a School-in-a-box kit to set up a temporary school for 40 students during an emergency–containing a chalk board, notebooks, pencils, erasers, scissors and even multi-band radio.

To contribute to the Somalia Relief Fund online through TPF, click here.

You can also contribute to the Somalia Relief Fund by sending your check to:
Turkish Philanthropy Funds
Re: Somalia Relief Fund
216 East 45th Street, 7th Fl.
New York, New York 10017
Please make your checks payable to Turkish Philanthropy Funds and indicate “Somalia Relief” on the check. For additional information, please email

If you would like to make a contribution from your Donor-Advised Fund with TPF, please call 646.530.8988.