As the Customer Success Lead at CauseVox, I get to have a front row seat to some incredible campaigns. One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to hear the ins and outs of these campaigns and how they’re making a difference in a vast array of issues.
I had the privilege of hopping on a call with Ivan Dimov, the Founder of Single Step, a start-up nonprofit that seeks to provide resources and support for LGBTI youth in Bulgaria. After raising $15,000+ on their first ever fundraising campaign that ended back in March, I got wind of a new campaign Ivan’s launching and I had to find out more about his new groundbreaking initiative.
Hear from Ivan about his big plans and his groundbreaking work, and learn how you can apply these same strategies for your organization’s next fundraising campaign.
- Staff size: 2 plus some volunteers.
- Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
- Fundraising goal: $30,000
“Hear from Ivan about his big plans and his groundbreaking work, and how you can apply these strategies…” tweet this
Can you tell me the Single Step story?
After spending 25+ years outside of Bulgaria, primarily in New York, working in investment banking and venture capital, I decided to come to my native Bulgaria to establish Single Step, because absolutely no resources are available to LGBTI youth, their parents and friends.
The specific incident that started it all, was an encounter at a party 2 years ago, where a young guy approached me, visibly very nervous and disturbed and asked if we could talk.
He shared that he had told him mother that he was gay, and she had taken him to a psychiatrist (!) who told him not to worry and that they can cure him.
As a result the young man thought that there was something wrong with him and seriously contemplated suicide. Thankfully he did not act on it, but this powerful story really affected me and thus Single Step was born.
I relied on several friends, successful Bulgarian-born entrepreneurs, to launch the foundation. But the most powerful ally were my communities: friends and family, my CrossFit community, etc.
What is the Help LGBTI Youth in Bulgaria campaign all about?
We have 3 very pragmatic and specific goals:
- To launch a helpline / online chat so that LGBTI youth, their parents and friends can get access to qualified psychological help (very similar to The Trevor Project in the US)
- To establish an LGBTI Center, which will provide psychological and medical counseling, suicide prevention, legal advice, peer networking and support, a “safe house” to youth at risk, and a venue for community events, and
- Run public awareness-raising campaigns, similar to “It Gets Better” in the US.
What are you trying to fund specifically?
We are trying to fund our 3 initiatives relying on the power of community and the kindness of strangers.
On the surface, there’s absolutely no reason why someone in the US, for example, should care about LGBTI youth in Bulgaria, but I have found that when you do something with passion, with all your heart, when you involve your community, whatever it may be, like-minded people try to help you, because they put their trust in your determination to affect real change.
What are your fundraising goals, and how do you plan on meeting them?
My initial thought was that we have to work on two fronts in order to ensure the sustainability of Single Step as an organization: internationally and within Bulgaria.
On the international front, I partnered up with CauseVox, because of a personal relationship with its founder, Rob, who embraced my efforts full-heartedly.
In Bulgaria, the situation is a bit trickier, because there’s no strong charitable culture. But because of my background and personal relationships and probably because of my stubborn, naive optimism and determination, I am reaching out to what I consider our natural allies: young professionals, the start-up community, the VC community, etc.
In a way, I’m looking at Single Step as a start up business: there’s a huge pain in the market, I have a solution, I’m putting together the right team, and our product will help change lives.
This is a very unique approach in a country, where the very few LGBTI organizations are solely campaign-based, relying on funds from the EU, which may or may not be addressing real issues.
What have you learned from your first fundraising campaign that you’re putting into practice with your second campaign?
For the first campaign, I decided to make a statement with the first fundraising and relied on “Friends & Family”.
I ran 12 marathons in 12 weeks in cities around Europe in order to raise awareness and funds.
I didn’t do any major promotion- I wrote on my Facebook page and shared the experience after each marathon. I just talked about what really affected me and my friends, people from Crossfit, and people here in Bulgaria donated.
The most important lesson learned, which is actually a lesson confirmed, is that if you are thoroughly committed to your cause, if you put your heart in it, and rely on your community, results follow.
It definitely served it’s purpose because it helped me register the organization and get the startup funds I needed.
But this campaign is much bigger, the approach is much more structured and it’ll be promoted on social media and across various channels.
A lot of the donors from the last campaign are family and friends, so I won’t be as aggressively targeting them this time.
With CauseVox, the idea is to use Ambassadors (peer-to-peer fundraisers) to reach out to their networks. We are looking into partnering with several organizations that are able to drive their community to the campaign. That’s the underlying idea of everything and so far it’s worked.
How are you promoting your campaign?
We have partnered up with Havas Bulgaria, a member of one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, with PushPull, an innovative production house, in order to produce the overall marketing strategy.
I do believe that the CauseVox community will also gather behind my cause. We became a partner of Benevity, a corporate matching program, and we will utilize various channels within those corporates.
I was invited to speak at DigitalK in early June (one of the most influential digital tech events in Eastern Europe. I’m thinking of introducing some sort of a challenge in order to raise funds from the participants.
Additionally, for every $1 raised, I’ll do a pushup- it’s a fun thing to do and it’s an original way to raise money — and at the same time, do something stupid that people will love.
What tips do you have for other campaign organizers/fundraisers?
Rely on your community, whatever it is. It’s your most powerful ally. And don’t take no for an answer.
“Rely on your community, whatever it is. It’s your most powerful ally. And don’t take no for an answer…” tweet this
You can view Ivan’s campaign at http://singlestepbulgaria.causevox.com/ for a closer look at his newest fundraising initiative.