Tuesday, 22 July 2014

#FBBCON14: David Smalley

Dogma Debate host and former Christian musician, David Smalley. (source)
It must be all that time as a songwriter and in radio, because David Smalley really knows how to cut through clutter, get to the point and then nail it down with elegant succinctness.

His talk at the Humanism at Work conference last weekend was all about keeping it simple (aka KISS). This is the most effective way of using media to communicate a need and to successfully show them what they can do to help.

The presentation was just 30 minutes long, but in a flash of inspiration, it opened my eyes about what I was doing wrong in my own fundraising efforts up to this point. Keep it simple. It's the idea of having an...
"... aligned non-threatening dollar amount with a specific goal..."
Large, vague dollar amounts shown in progress meters are daunting to the average giver. Imagine yourself going to a website that has a $35,000 goal with just $15 contributed so far.  The project goal is lofty -- Build a School In Uganda! -- and the quip on the page 'Every little bit helps' does little to dissuade your concerns that your little piddly donation is not even close to being significant at all. That was my last fundraiser.
"Every little bit helps... What does he mean by 'a little bit?'"
David gave one of his own stories. He did all the complex research to figure out how to best help seniors at a long-term care facility who were cut off from two meals a day due to the Republican-caused government shutdown last year. After days of research, he boiled the details down to a simple message for his potential donors: $2.50 feeds a senior citizen for seven days. That's the message. Now how much can you help? One of his co-hosts put it brilliantly.
"That's crazy. None of this know this. And so, if more people knew it. I'd be like 'Ah, I guess I'll not buy that Starbucks today and feed six people."
With simplicity, Dogma Debate raised enough to feed the seniors for the whole year and even had enough money left over to purchase a freezer for the seniors facility.

It might seem obvious, but this was a bit of a revelation for me. Yes, you need to communicate the need in the simplest way possible, but many people are already painfully aware of so much need everywhere. The true key here is give people easy to understand opportunities to make a tangible difference.

Thanks to David's presentation, I will change my strategy. My new goal is to build a sort of web-based marketplace where people can go and actually buy individual chickens for the coop, feed bags, bricks for the new classroom construction, new uniforms, tuition for a year for a child, etc. Large projects are achieved by breaking them up into small achievable goals that help to build people's enthusiasm and momentum. I'll likely start with a WordPress theme but if anyone has any suggestions about how to do this, please chip in!

A big thank you to David Smalley for what he does and his inspirational talk at Humanism at Work!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Where Are The Foreskins?

Due to travel snafus, I had to miss Leo Igwe's talk at last weekend's Humanism at Work conference about the real damage superstition is doing to lives in Africa -- namely women and children trapped in witch camps in Ghana. Ideas of witchcraft and magic are part of what's holding this continent back. I hope to be able to see this on video soon.

On a related note, I just read a bizarre news article that demonstrates how superstitious beliefs in witchcraft can take the already controversial topic of circumcision to a whole new level of complicated. Remember, I'm pretty against circumcision. I don't really think it's the religious right of the parents to snip off a large portion of someone's penis.

So, when I heard that a senator in Zimbabwe is proposing a ban on all circumcisions up to 18 years old it sounded pretty good. I'll admit that in places like Zimbabwe there might be a real argument for circumcision to deal with AIDS but condoms are the real answer here.

So this idea sounded pretty cool until I realized this wasn't to combat AIDS, but rather witchcraft! The title of the article is 'Where are the foreskins?'
She said children's lives were being put at risk and that circumcision could affect their reproductive health.

Mlotshwa demanded that those who carryout circumcision should give back their patients the foreskins.

"There is a case of witchcraft in Zimbabwe," Mlotshwa said.

"We so much want to use the parts of a body of a person to pursue finance, marriage or work.

"What happens to these foreskins of 100 boys that are put in a basket by this doctor?

"What happens to these foreskins of these children, colleagues?

"Is it not better to give each person his foreskin to dispose the way they see fit?
... I can give only a silent stare ...

AIDS? Not a problem. The real issue here is what we're doing with all these foreskins! THINK OF THE FORESKINS, PEOPLE! Just think about them! Sitting in a basket... somewhere... ready to be mixed into whatever sort of magic mix people use to get money these days... to increase the chances of getting married... and decreasing the reproductive powers of the boys... or whatever.
"We so much want to get married nowadays and we want to use the young boys' foreskins to mix with whatever we mix with to get more money," Mlotshwa added. 
The real concern is that these foreskins are not being properly disposed of and doctors are selling them off!

... I sit, dumbfounded, mouth gaping open ...

Luckily though, through some kind of wild and improbable convergence of random events, she does have a few reasonable grounds for her idea. She recounts a story about a boy in sixth grade who bled profusely and suffered swelling after his circumcision. I'll admit that this likely had more to do with the execution of the procedure and his age, but still, better than all the witch talk. Although I oppose circumcision without proper consent -- therefore until legal age of consenting to a medical procedure -- I'd choose this procedure done safely over this being done by unsafe, unlicensed people.
"I urge the government to leave the small male organs alone, the owners will decide when they are old enough to know the reasons why their organs are being reshaped or modified," she said.
Yes! Right on!
"It is noted with concern that the statistics of young boys being forced to circumcise shows that it is higher than of mature men.
I wonder why that is. I would bet that the older the man gets the more attached he becomes to his foreskin.
"The government must concentrate on mature men who indulge and have enjoyed the other side of life.
Ummm... Okay this is where I think we part ways again.
"We should see ministers in a queue to circumcise so as to inspire all men who have not done so." 
Damn straight! Let the clergy line up to get snipped. See how strange discussions like these get when we throw in superstitious mumbo jumbo?

#FBBCON14: Winners of KidsHeartKids Gift Basket Draw

Just a quick post to announce the winners of the two Gift Baskets that were raffled off at the Humanism at Work conference yesterday. The basket on the right contains a book donation from CFI Canada, The Science of Shakespeare.

A Facebook message from KidsHeartKids' Mario Mouton:
Noelle George won the Science Basket and James Nguyen won the Humanist Basket with the Dan Falks book.   Noelle was present and James is being contacted by email.
Congratulations to both!