An NGO in Germany creates an advent calendar, with each day corresponding to a charity helped.
by Portia Ladrido
Doing good for other people’s sake can be both a responsibility and a burden. We get caught up with our daily lives, our own problems, fears, worries, ambitions and dreams, and that makes helping those who are in need often the least of our priorities.
24 Good Deeds, an NGO based in Germany, has set out to make it enjoyable and easier for people to donate, while also hoping that they create a habit out of it since they are committing to 24 good deeds when purchasing a calendar. Conceptualised in 2011, the main goal of the NGO is to raise awareness on social issues, efficiently collect donations for carefully chosen non-profits, and make advent donations a positive experience.
For the source and use of their funds, their website states: “Donors support a good deed every day during Advent thanks to their donation to an aid organisation. The donation is of €1 per day (for the €24 donation calendar). From this daily donation, 75% are directed to the aid project, with 25% going to the production of the 24GoodDeeds calendar.”
INKLINE talks to the chairman of 24 Good Deeds, Sebastian Wehkamp, to learn more about how it all started, the type of challenges the NGO faces, and the core of why they do what they do.
INKLINE: Can you tell us a bit more about you and how you started 24 Good Deeds?
Sebastian Wehkamp: I work as a director in TV advertising and so I don’t really have an NGO background … When I started making serious money, around Christmas time, I was really annoyed by all the people that wanted me to donate, pushing their donation cans on me. I thought that, just coming from an advertising point of view, it wasn’t really charming. Normally, donating should make people happy, but the experience that you have on the street, when people force you to kind of donate was usually a really bad one and I was complaining about it and I thought I can’t just know any better and not do anything. So then the project was born.
I: Why did you choose the advent calendar as the project out of all the other formats that you can execute?
S: I think it was the perfect format. One of the challenges with donations is you give the money away and it’s gone really quick! Most of our donations are small for Europe compared to other NGOs’ donations, but the calendar gives people a chance to create a really long experience. I read that if you do something for 20 days it might become a habit, so I thought that’s really cool so if we kind of split up the donation then maybe people can get used to doing good things on a daily basis.
I: What are the challenges that you usually face when running the operations?
S: I think the normal challenges that come up with any online project, like in the third year, we had a WordPress blog, and some hacker hacked and rerouted our website to some porn website. It was only for a very short amount of time but it was like two nights of finding the hole and fixing everything.
There are also always little moments where things don’t work. There’s one time during the year, around December 1st or 2nd usually (now that we know it we’re kind of emotionally prepared for it). There’s always that [situation] when you mail out around 10,000 calendars, [there is a] statistical chance that there might be 20 people that don’t get the calendar. And it has nothing to do with us, it’s just that sometimes someone puts in the wrong address, it happens.
I: Can you expound on the non-profit organisations or charities that 24 Good Deeds support?
There have been some studies about what makes NGOs most efficient and what good criteria is for donating: showing what the non-profit has done, something that has a measurable impact in 3 or 5 years, writing a good compelling story and putting it all in a nice package.
“You have all these different cascading effect that you can trace so that’s always really amazing to see!”
The challenge for the advent calendar is to always break it down into little projects that we can do for each day with little money. So one day it might be a bowl of soup for a homeless guy. Actually, the stories that I have found impressive is when you pay for a meal in a school, for example, in Brazil, and it’s not only the meal you pay for, but the meal is also the reason why kids go to school because otherwise they stay out of the school. You have all these different cascading effect that you can trace so that’s always really amazing to see!
I: Who usually purchases your calendars?
S: Normal people, families, everyone basically! We have a small percentage, maybe 10% of businesses, that use the calendar as a gift for their clients. Then we have some schools where teachers use [the calendars] for their class so that children have a playful experience and some concepts to talk about.
Portia Ladrido is a multimedia journalist specialising in social justice, culture, and the arts. She is a human rights journalism fellow at the Philippine Human Rights Information Center and the Metro Manila hub coordinator of the Solutions Journalism Network. She currently writes speeches for the Philippines’ first female socialist senator. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at CNN Philippines.