Cisneros’s medicine cured The Santa Fe Cancer Institute Foundation
of a moribund annual fundraiser. Recalls Cisneros, “We told them they
wouldn’t be approving the concept or the creative product. They agreed.”
The results were transformational, attendance in 2010 is up 400 percent
since Cisneros assumed creative direction of the Sweetheart Auction.
Eff’n fantastic.EPIC: THE NAME OF ACTION
you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em.’ If you can't join ’em, invent. That’s
what Erin Huizenga did when she created EPIC in Chicago—an unusual new
approach to philanthropy that is capturing a lot of attention.
Huizenga, “In 2008 I was working full time at VSA. I had enjoyed many
experiences through my career, but felt unfulfilled. I was tired of the
way we [creatives] are always ‘talking to ourselves’ at award shows,
conferences and other gatherings. I wanted out of those airless rooms. I
wanted action. I wanted insight. I wanted progress!”
she get it. Unable to find an organization that could turn creative
capacity into positive change, Huizenga invented one. She began
canvassing friends and acquaintances to find out what they missed in
their professional lives. She identified what philanthropic works might
bring them joy. She rewrote her business plan twenty times, sharing it
with no one until she was satisfied. “Then, I started to ask people to
lunch or coffee to tell them about my idea. I called perfect strangers
whom I’d never met, but respected.” Her model resonated. Her enthusiasm
was contagious. By January 2009, EPIC was a legal 501(c)(3). Soon after,
it had its first client, Girls in the Game.
EPIC pairs several
teams drawn from pools of volunteer copywriters, designers, art
directors, strategists, account planners, project managers, public
relations experts, programmers and photographers. Eligible nonprofits
apply online and submit documentation. Their annual budgets cannot
exceed $1M and must focus on education, children or family services.
Creative teams are led by the director(s) of one agency or studio, a “host” where work “rallies” are held one night a week for eight weeks. A
non-profit representative attends every rally. In its second year, EPIC
has helped fourteen nonprofits.
EPIC is a model worthy of
replication. First, it puts creative capacity to good service. Second,
potential volunteers are peer reviewed to ensure quality. Third, it
offers surprise and variety. Fourth, rallies have tight schedules and
produce results. Fifth, host agencies provide safe, educational work
environments. Finally, it pairs younger designers with mentors. The
Perfect Chocolate Giving Cake. Huizenga says the recipe will be
available soon.TRIAL BY FIRE
Wednesday August 31, 2005, two days after Katrina struck, broken levies
inundated New Orleans. Leif Steiner of Moxie Sozo was walking down
Boulder, Colorado’s famous Pearl Street Mall. People shopped, dined and
relaxed while TVs everywhere displayed corpses of black folk floating in
the streets of a deluged American city. The jarring juxtaposition of
comfort and chaos shocked Steiner. He rushed back to his desk and came
up with an idea for hurricane relief on the spot.
Poster Project was born. (The donated posters were sold online and all
profits went directly to the Red Cross.) It led Josh Higgins to create
the So-Cal Fire Poster Project in 2007. Three years later, it led
Higgins and Steiner to create the Haiti Poster Project. A project
started on an angst-filled whim became a model for fast, effective
creative relief action. Has the idea run its course? There’s more...
the early morning of September 8, 2010, Leif Steiner noticed ash and
embers falling from the sky like snow. His house was filling with smoke.
He and his companion managed to get out of his house with the clothes
backs and a few things in their hands.
The fire raging
outside would consume 10 square miles and 169 homes in three days,
including his own (and the entire archive of Katrina Relief Posters).
Firefighters said flames rose up to 10 stories and temperatures exceeded
6,000º F. Steiner remembers, “Going down my mountain road, I was afraid
my tires would melt, but it was drive or die. My home was incinerated.
When I returned, I saw a row of books I loved in the basement. I could
read their spines. When I touched them, they crumbled to ash.”
ash-grey ghosts of one thousand memories could drive a person to
insanity, inward, numb. When a liberal giver becomes a survivor in need,
is he materially transformed?
“It’s interesting,” says Steiner, “a lot of people are focused on all that they lost. But I keep thinking
about all the people offering me help...to lend me a car, or give me a
book or some cherished object. If the fire had not happened, I would not
have that gift. This horrible fire has rekindled friendships. Rather
than loss, I am thinking about new directions. I’ve taken a fork that I
otherwise would not have taken. It is my nature to take quasi-dangerous
vacations. This year, I’m thinking of a relaxing place where I can just
sit and read and reflect on what life has in store for me next.”
You get back what you give. Today is a gift to give. Give it to someone. CA