If you are a dedicated reader of this not-updated-nearly-enough-to-expect-loyal-readers blog, you know that Greg and I founded and run a nonprofit organization called Pro vs. GI Joe. There have been times when I've written about how proud we are of it - and that's true. I've also written about progress we've made - and that's true. But I've never elaborated on just how difficult it is to get a NONPROFIT (meaning, NO PROFIT) organization up and running. Especially one that requires advanced technology, access to celebrities and professional athletes (often times with annoying and aggressive publicists and managers in the way), and cooperation from our military at war. Oh, and there are just two of us working the beat - in addition to other jobs that actually pay the bills.
Now, I'm not saying this to warrant pity. I'm just not sure, based on conversations I've had recently, that people realize how much work it is. Because we are a nonprofit, we rely solely on donations, contributions and more than anything else, a belief in what we are doing.
In case you don't know, this is what we do: We set up real-time video game competitions between professional athletes in the states and troops stationed overseas via the internet using XBox Live. Basically, we connect soldiers to athletes in real-time for some good hearted and fun competition!
Sounds like it should be cut and dry, right? Not so much.
First you have to have a website because when you talk to people about your biz, they understandably ask to be directed to it. Good websites, the kind that give you some cred, are not cheap. So then you have to basically pitch your nonprofit to a company that produces them and hope they believe in what you do - and HOPE they donate it out of the goodness of their heart. We found that with AWS Sports (our FIRST believer!!), though there was some cost to us. Then you have to file for the 501c3 status with the Federal Government and it is not easy - especially when you have little to no experience in the nonprofit world! That also costs hundreds of dollars - and there is no donation for this!
So once you're a few thousand dollars in the hole, you can start making calls to companies and corporations you feel would appreciate what you're offering people - in this case, our troops. That is about as easy as getting a professional athlete on the phone. It's incredibly difficult and requires tenacity, persistence, and a certain amount of bravery. You also have to be on your game because their time is valuable and if you do get them on the phone, your first pitch has to be a good one. I've spent a lot of time speaking in front of people, but it's daunting knowing that if you don't sell it quickly, you will lose them quickly...and you NEED these people because you are hoping to use THEIR resources (product and money) to grow your organization.
Bottom line is, a year after coming up with the idea, we are now planning our first competition between professional athlete and soldiers stationed in Iraq. The road we've taken to get here has been challenging, frustrating, tiresome, and awesome...and we've got a lot of people and companies on our team...but we need more.
We need donations. We need financial sponsorships. We need athletes. We need celebrities. We need more website traffic.
I'm not expecting people to open up their wallets and purses and give it all to us! I guess I just want people to know that when you dedicate yourself to improving the lives of others, it's a lot of work - and in the nonprofit world, there is little to no compensation for the work you do. And trying to figure out how to get money in order to make your vision a reality is trial and error...and soooo hard to figure out. You basically have to go to a company and/or corporation and tell them why they should spend their money on you instead of the hundreds of others that ask for it.
AND WE HAVE A SUPPORT-THE-TROOPS NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION DURING A VERY UNPOPLULAR WAR!
Most people know the difference between supporting the war and supporting the troops but believe me, some people don't!! And when you finally get someone on the phone and you say you're from a "nonprofit organization" [translation: "we want free stuff"], they are immediately skeptical!
I could go on and on about the challenges and I probably will as we plan events and travel the country connecting our GI JOES to our PROS. It's incredibly rewarding and we do it because we KNOW we are unique. We KNOW you will love it. We KNOW the athletes and celebrities will love it. We KNOW the companies/corporations will love it.
But most of all, WE KNOW OUR TROOPS DESERVE IT.