Children and Youth First is a Nepali NGO that helps marginalized kids and teens access their right to quality education at the progressive boarding school Life Vision Academy. This USA division of the NGO is a registered 501c3 nonprofit that directly connects Western donors with this dynamic and unconventional school.
Life Vision Academy (LVA) started out as a tiny school building with 14 students and is now a multi-building facility with 34 students, a holistic critical-thinking curriculum, and a young creative board of directors. However, LVA is on a rented plot of land with skyrocketing fees, a facility too small to accept new kids who want an education, and a terrible landlord who even locks students out of the school. These children want to build a safe, sustainable, new Nepal, but first they desperately need to build a safe, sustainable, new facility.
Starting with $75,000 for the initial construction process, we can start building LVA 3.0: a safe space for creative young leaders, an inclusive home for marginalized children, and a facility that can open its doors to 200 students.
Goals and Needs:
My goal as the Executive Director in the US is to connect this school — which is low on funds but high in potential — to Americans who want to invest in this young generation, defend the right to education, and participate in a community making exciting visible change. Right now we have four main team members: Jenny in Florida is our Director of Fundraising for LVA, while Morgan in DC and Priya in NYC came on board specifically to market CYF’s women’s cooperative (explained further below).
Nepal team’s website: cyfnepal.org. This is the one master CYF website, and CYF USA has a page tab but we do not have our own autonomous website. This has been a point of contention between our division and our parent organization, but the Nepal team is absolutely unwilling to budge on the idea of CYF USA having our own website, due to web abuses that the former CYF Finland team committed before closing their division. Because we do not have direct access to editing cyfnepal.org, it takes a while for them to post our edits, and the language/aesthetics of the site itself are not a 10/10, my team and I are pushing to make the most of what we can out of other websites and tech resources that aren’t specifically a “cyf usa” website. For example, we have free reign over running a donation website that is specifically committed to LVA 3.0 (lifevisionacademy.org).
Sample template for lifevisionacademy.org: We own the domain but haven’t activated this site yet, as it is an incomplete prototype. We use TicTail as the web platform for making this draft site. See #3 below for how we’d like to improve this; you can see the very rough draft of the current website at lifevisionacademy.tictail.com if you want to see what we’re working with (which is minimal).
Online donations: We have a PayPal account (accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org) to which we currently have our TicTail sites linked. We also have a GoFundMe crowdfunding page (gofundme.com/cyfusa) that links LVA 3.0 donations to the PayPal account, but we are pretty inactive on the site. All our funds go securely into our US banking account, and then we wire to our Nepali bank account.
Social Media: We are way behind on social media, as our social media intern last summer stopped in August and we have not been able to hire a new one yet (or stay on top of it ourselves). Our Facebook page is the most active platform (facebook.com/cyfusa), and we have fairly inactive Instagram and Twitter accounts set up (@cyf_usa) but that anyone rarely posts on. We definitely need to revitalize our strategy here, and we absolutely need someone focusing their time and attention on this more than we currently have.
Team communication and project management: Our team just switched from Trello to Podio to organize all of our combined project management processes, reminders, and calendars. We also have two master Google docs we rely on, one for meeting minutes and one for women’s cooperative merchandise. We have conference calls with the four of us weekly via Google Hangout.
Outreach to mailing list/donors/sponsors: This is something we haven’t started at all yet, but we have a MailChimp account established and plan to start utilizing it soon.
Women’s Cooperative eCommerce store: We have two new team members specifically working on the Haushala women’s cooperative, which is employed by CYF in Kathmandu and ships merchandise to us in the US to sell. Half of the profit from these items returns to the marginalized women who are building economic and social independence through the cooperative, and they donate the other half to LVA. The eCommerce store is not a big current priority of mine, as we have two team members dedicated to it and my priority is the LVA capital campaign, but we do have a store right now via TicTail at www.haushala.com and are in the process of switching to Squarespace.
Thought into Action was built from the bottom up, starting with one alumni entrepreneur and 10 students. We now have over 100 students participating in the Student Incubator alone, supported by over 100 alumni mentors. In addition we are officially now the Entrepreneurship Institute for Colgate and have launched the Entrepreneurs Weekend, Entrepreneurs Fund, and the Summit Speaker Series.
Two main philosophies drive what we do.
a. The only way to learn about entrepreneurship is to do it, i.e. start creating something from nothing NOW.
b. The best people to learn from and be mentored by are people who do it every day, our alumni entrepreneurs
We accept for profits, non profits, local initiatives, campus clubs, etc. This makes for a very rich group of passionate student entrepreneurs.
Goals and Needs:
We built a web application from scratch that serves our Student Incubator. This has gone through thousands of iterations.
We use a lot of Google docs and email for the logistic side or organizing mentors for our Weekends, pretty ugly but it works.
Entrepreneurs Fund: We use F6S.com, Google docs and email to run our Entrepreneurs Fund.
Colgate Website: We just revised all of the pages on www.colgate.edu/entrepreneur around entrepreneurship to tie things together.
Social Media: we do a crappy job with social media, such as Twitter, with all of the above. We should be using Instagram creatively, but don’t. Don’t do much on Facebook, etc. And could even be doing more interesting things with video from our program, students pitching a progress over time, mentor know how. See startupclass.samaltman.com.
Technology could help us deliver on a huge opportunity in extending TIA and our methodology beyond students to: the large Colgate community: many alums and parents out there starting businesses that could use help
The Hamilton area; local business owners, Hamilton students, and even the region…refugees and poor towns
Better scheduling tool / workflow for the Student Incubator would be great, but small in vision
Crowd funding student ventures I still think is a great opportunity but there is some sensitivity to this. Middlebury does it well with middstart.middlebury.edu
Funding for the program, not life or death, but more how it’s supported (University, Endowment, etc.)
Resources…we are effectively three people running it, with support that we are EXTREMELY fortunate for
Awareness in the Colgate Community
Recognition nationally for the unique and innovative approach to entrepreneurship that Colgate has developed over 6 years
Constantly tying entrepreneurship into the Liberal Arts and proving their mutually beneficial relationship