Les Gebhardt's Birthday & Kiva Fundraiser

This is the fifth in a series called Using Your Birthday for Good.Monday was Beth Kanter’s campaign for the Sharing Foundation in Cambodia; Tuesday with Matt Rosen’s campaign for Operation Gratitude; Wednesday with Denise Wakeman and Kiva and Thursday with Meg Brogan and 9th Ward Field of Dreams.

Today, I’m interviewing Les Gebhardt who had a 45th birthday fundraiser to benefit Kiva. Les is someone who I first came across when I got a google alert for my name from his blog. I clicked on the link and wouldn’t you know, it was about a birthday campaign. It was such a nice post and reflection on how Cause It’s My Birthday had inspired him and moved me to get in touch with him, connect and say hi. Because that’s what this crazy internet is for. Connecting and saying hello. I’m glad I did.

Les graciously answered my questions below. Check it out and then stay tuned for MORE birthday fundraiser interviews next week. That’s right, more good info and personal stories coming your way!

1) Tell me about your birthday and fundraising campaign. When was your birthday? Was it a milestone? What was your inspiration? What nonprofit did you partner with? Did you tell them in advance? What was your fundraising goal (if you had one) and did you reach it?

My birthday was December 1.

I turned 45.

My inspiration was 3-fold: your “causeitsmybday” campaign, the Movember campaign to raise money for childrens cancer research and the Lance Armstrong foundation which a friend and part of the Nashville “geek” community joined as a team to grow mustaches for the month of November with “support” via donations, and my HS aged daughter and her own activist work to get the presidential candidates to pledge to get our troops out of Iraq as well as her new commitment to environmental awareness thru a campaign to get families to pledge to live a greener lifestyle.

I chose Kiva.org and created a Kiva Team: Team Forty Five.

My goal, initially, is $450.00 by the end of the month. I plan on carrying this forward to raise, hopefully, much more than $450.00 for the whole year. I just figured $450.00 was doable by the end of the month since I’ve never done this before. I have yet to reach the goal.

2) Did you use online tools? Did you have a birthday party in person? What was your way to connect with people and tell them about this?

I used the following: my blog, where I set up a special page with links to Kiva, my Kiva team and a paypal donation button for folks that didn’t want to donate the minimum $25.00 to Kiva directly.

I also used the Causes app within Facebook to get the ball rolling.

I have used, and continue to use Twitter to relink to my blog posts and my page to try and spread the word. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan any parties although I would do this if I was better organized.

3) What have you done for past birthdays?

I’ve never done anything like this. Mostly, I have celebrated the traditional way either with friends and/or family.

4) Would you do a fundraiser for your birthday again? Was it easier or harder than you thought it would be?

Absolutely!!!! I plan on doing more “activist” celebrations going forward. I have enough “stuff”, I want to give back and make the world a better place.

It has been both easy and hard. It was easy to set up the web stuff and paypal buttons. It was easy to get involved with Kiva and create the team. Where it was hard is in getting the word out and creating any kind of “buzz” or awareness outside of a few friends and family members.

5) What was the best part? Did you connect with someone you had lost contact with? Any one story you’d like to share?

For me, the best part was knowing that I’m doing something, no matter how small, to directly affect the lives of people elsewhere in the world. I am blessed to live in the United States where our lives are pretty easy in contrast to folks that live elsewhere, particularly in under-developed or so-called “third world” countries and I believe that if I can give even a few dollars or a few hundred dollars, it will have an immediate and positive impact for some folks and their families and communities.

For me, it wasn’t about connecting with anyone as much as just standing up to do something and do the right thing. If there was anyone that I did connect with, it would be you. I’m deeply honored that you would ask me to be part of this.

6) What advice would you give to someone else who wanted to throw a fundraiser but didn’t know where to start?

Several things: a) Start planning WELL in advance of when you want to start. I believe one of the biggest challenges has been just getting things organized and rolling.

b) If at all possible, find people that are good at creating networks to assist in spreading the word and making people aware of your campaign. The logistics of the website and donation handling was easy enough for me, as a techie. However, creating “buzz” and spreading the word is definitely my weakness.

c) Don’t go it alone unless you are a whiz at logistics, networking and technology. Enlist the help of others, particularly in the areas where you are weak. For me, getting a “PR” person involved, even if for some initial planning and advice, would have been a plus.

Thanks Les!

More birthday interviews next week! And if you’ve done a fundraiser for your birthday and would like to featured in this series or an upcoming one on The Causemopolitan, shoot me an email at sloane@thecausemopolitan.com, contact me through the contact page on this site or on twitter at @sloane.

I hope you’ve been inspired this week to see ways you too can give instead of get around your birthdays. Give it a try! What do you have to lose?

If you liked this post, you might like: Day in the Life of a Kiva Fellow… New Kiva Borrower Profiles The Story of a Kiva Borrower in Bosnia

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