A Story of Overwhelming Generosity

Aug 4, 2011   //   by JoshShiode   //   Compass News  //  2 Comments

Fundraising thermometer as of August 1. Less than $650 to go!

We’re one week from the end of the line, with the top of the thermometer square in our sights. If you told me three weeks ago we would raise over $4,400 in the first week of our fundraising campaign, or that we’d be seeing donations of $10s, $100s, even $1000s from all our parents, colleagues, and even undergraduate students(!), I would probably have applauded your optimism with a condescending pat on the back and a “Sure, we’ll see…” Today, the only word I can use to describe the campaign: overwhelming.

Back in June, the Compass Project leaders were debating whether or not to spend all our personal and financial capital for the summer on a 2011 Summer Program, knowing that, at least for the time being, our bank accounts were empty. During these conversations, every time we moved away from having a program, we were pulled back. The Summer Program is really the cornerstone of our efforts, the time and place where the foundation of our diverse student community is laid. But we still faced the all-too-real problem of having no money.

Even with everyone generously donating all their time to organize and teach, we were still looking at a minimum of $7,000 to house, feed and supply the students for a one-week program. If we called in all the money we had left over from past years and old, unallocated donations, we optimistically had $3,500: $2,500 in past donations through the now defunct Big Ideas Marketplace and $1,000 in contributions from the Center for Integrative Planetary Science–thanks to a conversation between CIPS Chair Professor Geoff Marcy and myself. So half our estimate for a shoestring budget and no foreseeable source for the other half, with just a few months to go.

Earlier this summer, I realized that, independent of our Summer Program concerns, Compass needed an easy way to accept donations. The fact was, every similar organization I knew on campus was collecting online donations via websites and Facebook (at the very least). We needed a donation button! Of course, it turns out those little buttons are attached to an account, which must be linked to another account, which must be approved by several people and then correctly listed on the Give To Cal website. So much work for such a little graphic! It took most of June, but after a few handslaps for my bureaucratic missteps, we had our account and our button. Now.. how to use it?

Compass has flirted, in the past, with the idea of asking friends, family, and colleagues to contribute small donations to help the program stay vibrant, but we’d never organized around the thought. That changed in early July thanks to an incredibly generous friend of Compass. This friend, who shall remain anonymous, said during a meeting, as we all struggled over our financial situation, “Well I was planning on donating [BIG NUMBER] dollars, and my company will match that.” Putting aside that we were all floored by our friend’s generosity, this declaration switched on a lightbulb: we can raise this money! With nearly a hundred active members of Compass, if each person could generate just $100 among all their friends and family, we could fund our Summer Program complete with field trips and experimental supplies, and have money left over for our semester-long programs. Scheme hatched.

At this point, Nicole Carlson and I both decided to focus our attention on Compass’s finances and decided our campaign should shoot for a nice round number: get to $10,000 in one month. On July 7th, as I drafted and re-drafted an email appeal for the Compass leaders to send to their friends and colleagues, Nicole set us up with a Facebook event page for the campaign. We then conscripted the help of one of Compass’s tech gurus, Nathan Roth, to put together a thermometer graphic to track the progress of our campaign–a crucial gimmick! When Nicole created the event page, she made it an event to give the campaign a deadline to encourage people to act soon, and to leverage the fact that Facebook reminds invitees when an event gets close (so maybe we could generate a big push at the end). This decision to make it an “event” caused quite a bit of confusion, but this only served to generate our next greatest (if accidental) idea! But we’ll get to that soon enough.

When we set out, we were told not to worry about having to send too many thank yous because we’d probably only have about 20 donations… We reached that in 4 days! By the end of the 5th day, we were halfway to $10k! That first week was a blur of generosity that totally blew us away.

As the week turned over, our donations slowed considerably, and Nicole and I found the major sticking point in our plan: how do we get everyone to ask their friends for money? Particularly, how could we get the students to ask? We knew that Gina’s Compass testimonial added a lot to our cause, telling the story of Compass from a student perspective. So we thought that a request from the students would carry the most weight. We sent email after email, and tried asking one student from each year to ask their classmates to chip in. We ask so much of our students, but they always come through.

As we tried to get Compass students involved, we also reached out to the Physics, Astronomy and Earth and Planetary Sciences faculty, asking everyone to help with what they could. One such letter was forwarded along to the faculty, complete with her own glowing words, by the chair of the Physics Department, Professor Frances Hellman. Her endorsement helped us generate more than $1000 in donations!

The outpouring of generosity and support we’ve experienced over the last few weeks from all those around us has been overwhelming. Where we thought we might get donations of $10 or $20, we got $100s and sometimes $1000s. And to top it all off, thanks to a conversation with Leona Chen, bar manager of the Indian restaurant Mint Leaf in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, we will be celebrating the culmination of our campaign with a happy hour on August 8th from 5-8 PM, with 50% of the profits going directly to Compass! So come on out and celebrate with us!

From the bottom of our hearts, we really want to thank everyone involved for making this campaign such a resounding success and making the Summer Program a reality for the sixteen incoming freshman heading our way in just a few weeks! We’ve never been able to lead Compass without the support of our friends and family, but this time, you’ve all outdone yourselves viagra gratuit.


  • Josh, you are a true Compass Hero. So are all the generous folks who have supported this project by donating and making the 2011 summer program possible!

    • No, you aaaahh. But seriously, we couldn’t have done it without your help either, Nathan. A fact which will be proven when we do this again soon!

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