Photo by Saint Ann Foundation/Abel Robert

Diane E. Phillips is an associate marketing manager at an all women’s coding bootcamp, Hackbright Academy, in San Francisco. She is also a photographer and philanthropist who has utilized Razoo to raise over $55,000 for children in developing countries through her fundraising initiative, Operation Give.

Her latest fundraiser for Saint Ann Foundation, Operation Give: Uganda, aims to raise $24,000 by December 23 to provide meals and educational support to 50 children living in the rural village of Nakanak, Uganda. Diane is headed to Nakanak on Christmas Day to spend time with the orphans supported by the Saint Ann Foundation. She will be taking them on a explorative and educational trip to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in late December, as well as handing out Christmas gifts and school supplies to the kids alongside the Saint Ann Foundation’s staff.

Diane chose the Saint Ann Foundation after being introduced to the the organization’s founder, Abel Robert. “At age twenty-six, Abel has already established himself as an incredibly gifted and impressive community developer and national leader. Abel was himself an orphan, then worked his way through college and started the Saint Ann Foundation as a mechanism for supporting those in need throughout his national community.”

Diane emphasized, “his story is incredibly inspiring. Abel has sacrificed so much of his time, energy and talents to give back to the women and children in these rural communities.” The Saint Ann Foundation is still a relatively small organization, and when it came time to choose a program to stand behind and support in 2017, she said, “We need to make this happen.”

Abel Robert, Founder of The Saint Ann Foundation

Diane first developed a passion for international humanitarian aid when she was young, having extensively traveled throughout Central and South America, and in particular Guatemala, which has some of the worst poverty, malnutrition and infant mortality rates in Latin America, and is also home to Diane’s mother, who is a native resident with extensive familial ties to the country. Diane couldn’t reconcile the differences between what she experienced as a child in America, and the lives of economically disadvantaged communities in Guatemala.

“Seeing such disparate levels of economic sustainability and progress,” Diane explains, “was a catalyst for me personally. I decided that if there was any action I could take, personally or corporately, that would aid in providing greater levels of access to educational resources, institutions, and standardized resources in the agricultural and water sectors” — all of which Diane classifies as the “basic necessities for decent human life.”

In the summer of 2012, Diane worked on an international aid project for Common Hope, a nonprofit that seeks to increase accessibility to education, health care, and housing needs in Guatemala. Common Hope currently runs the only educational institution in the K-12 space in San Rafael el Arado, where Diane’s project was centered. Diane takes great personal satisfaction in uplifting the needs of others, she states: “I fell in love with the bright, vibrant children at Common Hope, they continue to fill up my heart well after our project was complete!”

When Diane returned to California after the Common Hope project, she immediately established her next initiative. She spearheaded her first Operation Give fundraiser that fall, with an initial goal of raising $5,000 to buy Christmas gifts and food for the 500 children she had spent time with while volunteering abroad.

Diane chose Mightycause because she wanted a platform that allowed for the flow of funds raised to go directly to Common Hope and they were already set up on the platform. All nonprofit donations on Mightycause are disbursed directly to the organizations by the Mightycause Foundation, so the organizers don’t need to take any additional steps to ensure the funds get to their intended destination.

Diane put all her effort into fundraising for Common Hope, reaching out and promoting her cause through a hybridized methodology of social media, online applications and live, in-person events. “We did a mixture of silent auctions, educational conferences and allowed people to get creative with the donation process, such as taking donated miles through American Airlines.”

She more than doubled her original goal of $5,000, raising $10,020 for Common Hope.

Once the funds were raised, Diane traveled back to San Rafael el Arado to host a huge holiday party with all her family, friends and Common Hope staff to celebrate 1,000 women and children from the village, where she was able to see the effects of her efforts firsthand.

Students and parents at the OpSanta Luncheon in 2013. Photo by Diane E. Phillips/Give Photography.

In 2014, she came back to Mightycause for an additional fundraising round for Common Hope, by which time the school in San Rafael el Arado had expanded to 600 students.

Mightycause’s small but dedicated customer support team was a pivotal reason behind Diane remaining with the platform. “I loved the attentive customer service,” she said. “Any glitch or any little thing, someone immediately called or emailed me directly. This is incredibly important when you’re working on creating impactful initiatives, as you need solutions quickly. You can just pick up the phone and they’re ready and eager to help. I have yet to experience this same level of personal support with any other platforms.

She set out to raise $26,000 to provide school supplies, bags of food for the students’ families, and lunches and snacks during the school day … and ended up exceeding that goal too, raising a grand total of $27,500.

Diane with her mom, aunt, best friend and students on supply day, January 16, 2015. Photo by Give Photography.

With less time to plan offline events this year, Diane has had to adjust her fundraising strategy for Operation Give: Uganda. “This time it’s been all social media and word of mouth.” Her friends, Celeste Richmond and Erin Lord, who are accompanying her on her trip to Uganda, have been indispensable in gathering support for the children in Uganda. “They’ve reached out to their networks to raise money!”

One of the primary reasons that has led Diane to be so successful at fundraising for the causes she cares about is that she’s made it a community effort. From enlisting friends to help organize events, to calling on friends to tap into their social networks, to asking her family to chip in and spread the word (“They are my biggest supporters ever,” she says), to helping the Saint Ann Foundation get a fiscal sponsor in the U.S. with her friend Chris Clark’s organization (Redstone Veteran Service Initiative), Operation Give is all about bridging collaborative gaps and bringing like-minded people together for a greater cause.

Her biggest advice to others looking to get into philanthropy and charitable fundraising? “Rally your friends, start a group, and get your local community at home involved.” The will to create change is contagious, she’s found. “People really feed on that energy, a lot of people want to do good in this world and make a difference so coming together is really powerful.”

“The biggest component in fundraising is a powerful video,” Diane said. She has worked with her friend and digital media producer Brooks Knudsen, who has donated his time to film and direct all of three of her Operation Give fundraising videos. She also got help writing content and the script from another friend and copywriter Paul Boutin. “If you have a fun uplifting video that people can easily digest information about your cause, it really helps.”

Maintaining a positive attitude and focusing on the cause is also a key to Operation Give’s success. “Don’t let anybody put you down or tell you that you can’t do it. It doesn’t matter whether you hit your goal, you’re not doing it for yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about whoever you’re trying to help and doing your best to make a difference in the lives of others.”

When she’s not volunteering for Saint Ann Foundation or Common Hope, Diane works full-time in marketing at Hackbright Academy, an all women’s coding bootcamp in San Francisco and runs a photography company called Give Photography. She’s even turned her business into an opportunity to give back, donating a portion of her company’s proceeds to helping the children of San Rafael el Arado.

Diane’s Operation Give project proves that anyone can make a difference in the world, if you just make the effort. If you’ve been wanting to get more involved in charitable giving and fundraising, Diane says, “Just do it!”

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