To cut a long story short, someone woke me up and made me realise that it’s time for me to give back three months ago.
So I posted a message on my Facebook page: “Do you know of any charity organisations that are worth helping?”
A good friend replied: “The Kianh Foundation. I visited the Foundation when I was travelling in Vietnam a few years ago. They are really doing some amazing things there.”
I then googled about the organisaiton and learnt that they’re a NGO based in Central Vietnam and were founded by two British women. The Foundation provides special education and support to help children with disability and their families in the local community.
I spent quite consideration time on reading their recent news and posts on their website and Facebook page and really, really like what I see – lots of happy faces and heartfelt, life-changing support for children with disability.
And I saw that they’re looking for marketing and communications volunteers and thought this would be a perfect opportunity for me to give back – to use my professional PR skills to help less advantaged people.
On 17 March, I arranged a Skype call with the Business Development Director, Nick Keegan, to talk about what and how I could support them.
And that’s how I embarked on my journey with The Kianh Foundation. I am devoted to spend half day of my time every week to promote their brilliant work outside of Vietnam, especially in the UK where I am based.
One of the marketing ideas was to organise private events in London. Seeing that the International Children’s Day is coming on 1st June, we decided to organise our very first dinner event on 3rd June (2 days ago).
I have had quite a few experience organising commercial events for my clients and speech contests for my Toastmasters (public speaking) club before, so I thought I was well equipped with this challenge.
I started with finding a suitable venue, putting the invitations and press releases together, finding my truly amazing helper, Timson Lau, to help out, etc. etc.
Everything went just smoothly as planned. We decided to host the dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Kensington, a great central location, and what’s more, the hotel was generous enough to give us a big discount on the food bill as well as three fabulous prizes for the raffle draw.
My target was to attract 50 people to come, which sounded achievable.
Eight weeks before the event, I sent out the invitation and received five “yeses” in the first week and then another five “yeses” in the following week – far less than what I expected and I started to get worried, very worried.
I didn’t realise that it’s so tough to get people to come to a charity event, despite plenty of planning and preparation.
Out of the blue, the hotel PR person, James, called me about the event. We had a long chat and he told me that if I could get 20 people to come, that would be already good, and asked me not to put too much pressure on myself.
I did feel a big relief… but 20 people sounded like a bad turnout for an event.
In the last three weeks in the lead up to the event, I tried to reach out every single person I possibly knew. I asked people and other organisations to help forward the invitation to their network. I sent reminder emails to people again and again. I posted messages on my Facebook, LinkedIn, WeChat, What’sApp, Twitter, website etc. to try to increase the number of attendees.
In the end, magic happened. One week before the event, we got Vietnam Airlines to sponsor two free flight tickets between London and Vietnam. Five days before the event, we got 33 guests signed up. Three days before the event, we got 43 guests signed up.
On 3 June, our big day, we actually hit 50 – our original target! All guests seemed to have a great time and we received so many nice feedback after the event. It was a huge success in the end.
Here are some of the guests feedback we received after the event:
“I must congratulate you on arranging a first class fundraising event for The Kianh Foundation last night. It is a very worthy cause and I will be delighted to support similar events in the future. Well done.”
“Many congratulations to you and your very small team for a successful evening. The amount raised is tremendous. We all had an enjoyable evening. A few good points are: good introduction of the Foundation via short videos; no speeches; finished on time.”
“Very well done and congratulations on organising a very good event. You have put in a lot of effort and hard work and the outcome was a highly successful evening enjoyed by all who attended.”
What I’ve learnt from running this small charity event:
1. Charity PR is really difficult. I have done PR for over 10 years in different commercial sectors but didn’t realise that charity PR is so tough. It’s difficult partially because our charity is remote, distant for most people in the UK, and it’s not cheap – £48 per head. It was a challenge which I didn’t predict at the beginning.
2. It’s all about networking. Like James, the charity PR expert, said: “It’s all about your network.” I totally understand the importance of having a good network but didn’t realize that networking is even so more important for charity organisations. It’s all about who you know and people support the charity work also partially because of you. How true. I am forever indebted to my guests who came to our event on 3 June and I promise I will support your events next time!!
3. Good things happen. Everything does happen for a reason and don’t take things for granted. We have wonderfully raised a total of £2,000 (including the extra £220 donated by a great friend today!) funds as a result of this event. This means we are able to sponsor four children with disability for one year at £40 per month. Good things happen in the end – we hit our target of 50 people; we reached our moderate fund target; and more people now get to know The Kianh Foundation’s brilliant work better now!
4. Humility unites us. Above and beyond, what I’ve learnt is the power of humility. We (50 guests in the room) all come from all sorts of lives with different skin colours, cultures, professions and religions, and yet we are all the same. We are all human beings with a heart and a soul. Humility brings people together. If it is something worthy, it is worth supporting.
All in all, it has been such a splendid journey with The Kianh Foundation within my short three months and I am eagerly looking forward to our bright future ahead!!
We’d love you to get in touch:
Guest Blog by Sally Maier-Yip (@sallymaier).
Sally is the Kianh Foundation’s UK Ambassador and Founder & Managing Director of 11K Consulting http://11kconsulting.com. 11K Consulting is a multi-lingual Europe-Asia communications consultancy based in London. Her original blog is posted here: http://11kconsulting.com/blog-my-love-affair-with-the-kianh-foundation/