The Story of 1 Million Shoes For Philanthropy
When I met Dan Duffy for the first time back at the American Airlines Admirals Club at Miami International Airport, little did we know he would embark on a mission to collect a 1 million shoes for his shoe fundraising drive. Yes, you read that right!
As a film-maker, we had partnered to travel to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake that ravaged the small island nation and caused the deaths of 300,000, injured just as many and wrecked havoc on the lives of over 3.5 million people. We spent 68 hours in that country and, it’s fair to say, that it was life changing.
During the time we were making the documentary, Dan had already established a non-profit organization, The Half Fund, which was founded to “lift the veil on cancer”. He had been in remission for many years and he created a forum for individuals facing cancer. It’s an innovative organization that looks to support families dealing with cancer through music, film and books.
Even when we went in 2012, a full two years after the earthquake, as Dan has described, “Haiti was everything and nothing I thought it would be.” The sanitary conditions were deplorable and a breeding ground for disease. Putrid water streamed through the streets and shantytowns still housed hundreds of thousands of families. Clearly, the recovery for Haiti was going to take many, many years.
Ever since then, Dan has been partnering with me on a mission to change the world, literally, on so many levels. When he returned he immediately set out to gather shoes for a fundraising drive to benefit The Half Fund and help the children and families of Haiti, among other countries. After that trip to Haiti, Dan collected over 700 pairs of shoes from families at his son’s school.
Dan wanted a creative way to raise money for The Half Fund. Instead of having donors take out their credit cards or write a check, the fund raising is done in the form of a shoe drive. Organizations that have done this type of fundraiser have realized a few incredible things:
- A shoe drive helps to engage donors in a whole different way.
- This type of fundraising for non profit organizations is very easy and fun to do–anyone can get involved.
- Organizations don’t have qualms about reaching out to their supporters, and the broader community, because they’re not asking for money–again.
- As a shoe drive gets promoted, nonprofits have found new people becoming involved in the cause because they connected with the new messaging.
And there’s more. Each year over 600 million shoes are discarded into landfills. Due to multiple and toxic shoe parts when they begin to disintegrate; this is inevitably terrible for the environment and life on earth.
What’s interesting about Dan is that he is never satisfied. Although the 700 pairs of shoes he collected during that first drive was impressive, it wasn’t enough for Dan and The Half Fund. Dan is now leading an effort to collect 1 million shoes, which will make an incredible impact at his nonprofit. Those shoes will fill up 40 tractor-trailers.
You see the formula is very simple. The more shoes Dan and The Half Fund collect, the more money his organization makes based on the total weight of the shoes processed.
More shoes = more money.
Dan is not only helping fundraise for his nonprofit, but he knows that the gently used and new shoes and sneakers he collects are then shipped to developing nations, such as Haiti, where the average wage is $2 per day. In many of these countries, due to systemic poverty, lack of education and meager infrastructure, millions of families are destined to live a life in the margins.
The shoes collected in countries such as the United States are given a new lease on life, in other words “repurposed”. They are repaired, cleaned and then become inventory for families who are unable to find any viable work opportunity and decide to work for themselves in a small “micro-business”. These micro-entrepreneurs then sell the shoes for a fraction of their original cost in their communities.
So, with the 1 million-shoe drive initiative Dan has implemented he is: 1) fundraising for The Half Fund; 2) giving supporters a socially responsible way to help the environment; and, 3) providing inventory for micro-entrepreneurs so they can earn a living wage and find a way out of poverty.
About Wayne Elsey, author:
Wayne Elsey is the Founder and CEO of Wayne Elsey Enterprises (WEE), a company that works with social enterprise organizations, nonprofits and companies on strategy, branding, development and education via the following four subsidiary portfolio brands:
- [email protected] – focusing on leadership and business strategy
- Funds2Orgs – a social enterprise that enables individuals, companies and organizations to raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise opportunities in developing nations
- 501C3U – an online university for non-profit education
- Not Your Father’s Charity (NYFC) – which is a forum that enables social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, non-profits, the media and general public to learn how to succeed in 21st Century social enterprise.
- Author of “The Rise and Fail of Charities In the 21st Century: How The Nonprofit World Is Changing And What You Can Do To Be Ready” and “Almost Isn’t Good Enough”.