Pencils of Promise is a great example of what I think of as charity 2.0, which I'll write more about later. Generally speaking, it used to be organizations would ask for money and that was all the interaction you had as a contributor. These days, it's proving to not be good enough. Pencils of Promise are an exemplary example of what it means to give. They're not just helping, they're partnering with the communities they serve to help them have something that is theirs. Not a gift, but a community product.
Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise started this journey accidentally. He was backpacking in India when he came across a small boy and asked him what he wanted more than anything in the world. The boy said a pencil. When Adam handed the boy a pencil, he realized the impact of the potential this simple object gave to the boy. Adam continued traveling and handing out pencils. As he did so, he talked to locals and came to realize that what was really needed were schools that were locally-owned, supported and maintained. So, he started Pencils of Promise
The main thrust of what Pencils of Promise does is help build schools in communities where they don't exist. Heard it before, right? Well, they don't stop there. They understand that the 'build it and they will come' mentality doesn't cut it in the field. They have five steps in their process for success:
Following these five steps compared to some traditional charity methods is like the difference between and on-ramp and just a ramp: One supports you as you enter traffic, the other serves to get you airborne, but doesn't consider the landing. Let's go through how they do what they do:
Understanding that you must have a need before you build, Pencils of Promise sends a team comprised of locals to discuss the needs of a community. They are looking to see if it's a right fit by talking to teachers, parents, community leaders, and local government officials. They then create a village profile which matches against five criteria (Need, Sustainability, Cost Efficiency, Impact, and Commitment), and look at size of school needed. A Promise Committee is then formed comprised of eight local women and men who are charged with the shaping of the project. The goals and specs come from this committee based on the community's need. A contract is signed by the Committee who are now responsible for the support of this project. They make sure the schools will have whatever they need. After that, they work with the Ministry of Education to make sure that there are teachers and government support for this new school.
And now they're ready to build.
Communities work to provide between 10 and 20% of the build costs, so they are invested in this portion as well. Material and labor are the form this takes usually. This is great for the community because it helps solidify the ownership portion of the Promise. They are building something that is produced locally and they are vested in. Using the materials locally-sourced also helps the local economy and ensures they are using quality materials at a good price.
After the school is built, Pencils of Promise (PoP) begins implementing the process of community support. They train the teachers students in a program about health called SHINE (Sanitation, Health, Identity, Nutrition, and Environment) so that they can lead healthier and stable lives that make education a key component. They also are starting a scholarship program at some schools to help students who are at risk of dropping out. The final piece of support is a Sister School program where they have a PoP school connect with a school in the US. The main point of this is to show the kids in the PoP school that with education, you can do anything.
Pencils of Promise hires and trains local staff and teachers so that they can best help the communities. The staff receive professional development training so that they can be better leaders and mentors for the community. investing in this type of human capital is important because it shows the community that they matter. I think this helps underscore that the most.
Finally, PoP tracks student progress. They have a database of the students and monitor their overall performance, including their understanding the SHINE curriculum. They monitor attendance as well to make sure the students are engaged and have parental support. Here is a view into how they more accurately monitor the students.
How You Can Get Involved
Pencils of Promise needs your support. They have many different ways you can lend a hand:
1. Create a Fundraising Campaign - Develop your own fundraiser with your own definition of success and outcomes. They've built 12 schools this year because of the individual efforts of people like you.
2. Buy Something - We all love buying things, right? They have three distinct shops for your tastes:
- PoP Shop which offer things like a pair of specially-designed shoes with PoP branding to PoP necklaces.
- Auction Gallery, which is an online auction of items made with pencils.
- The Pencil Shop lets you buy a pencil to support a school. They cost anywhere from $25-25,000. Essentially, support one student to support an entire school being built.
3. Donate - They offer individual donations to corporate tier donations. They've also announced 100% impact donating as an option as well. Typically, when you give to organizations they have to use some of the money for operational costs. This is a way to ensure your money goes directly to the schools.
4. Take Action - Don't see what you were looking for above? Go to their take action page to find out other ways you can help.
5. Addendum: NURU Project - I wrote about the NURU Project this past Monday and didn't realized that they'd support Pencils of Promise as well. Fifty percent of your purchase of one of their beautiful photos goes to Pencils of Promise.
In short, I am very excited about what Pencils of Promise are doing and looking forward to seeing them reach the 100 school milestone. This is exactly the type of effort I feel non-profits should make in the future. It's sustainable, responsible, integrated, and measurable. Tremendous work from Pencils of Promise. Support them today.