The authenticity of such statements is diluted by the regularity with which you hear them. It doesn’t stop. Charity has become a cog in the relentless PR machine, fuelled by perception and opinion. There is a distinction between surface-level charity and a genuine willingness to make someone’s world a better place.
But where is the line?
We caught up with Friedl Basson, founder of Dando Coffee and the driver of the Dando Ambassadors campaign, to clear up the confusion.
- 1) What is the Dando Ambassadors project?
I’ve been looking for a Dando brand ambassador for a while. The idea is to get people, or corporations, to sponsor our athletes and donate the proceeds from events like the Two Oceans, Iron Man and other endurance races to a charity that needs the help.
- 2) What makes it different to other charity drives?
I had someone ask me why I’m so upfront about our goals and methods regarding our dream of building schools and providing scholarship funds. He was worried about other companies beating us to the punch. I thought he was mad! If other companies are helping us achieve our goals, that’s excellent. As long as the school is built.
It’s not just a charity drive. It’s a venture within a company aimed at increasing the footprint of our social responsibility. Now, we’re pulling in other people to put in an inordinate amount of effort to show that it can be done. These are not famous people or professional athletes. They’re ordinary people putting in the extra effort.
- 3) What motivated you to do it this way?
I love sport, so i’m investing in something that I enjoy. But we’re showing that normal people can go out of their way to make a difference. We’re putting in huge physical effort to encourage a contribution and to demonstrate that it can be done.
The people I’ve roped in are friends. We share opinions about charity and have a common vision. I’ve had celebrity athletes involved before, but I don’t like it because they’re usually just the face of a campaign. Their involvement generates traction, but it’s more meaningful for us to show that a normal person can achieve the extraordinary.
- 4) Anyone following the campaign will have heard Lindie Steyn’s name mentioned; the lady next to you in the headline image. What is her connection to the project?
Lindie is a theatre nurse from PE who spends more than 12 hours in a hospital every day. When she’s not saving lives, she’s training for the gruelling events that we participate in.
She’s an amazing woman, a wonderful example, and she’ll be in Cape Town in July to conduct a few interviews. You’ll learn more about her then.
- 5) How do the public get involved?
Donations and communication. Money’s what keeps charities going. The other thing is exposure. The more people talk about it, the more real it is and the more traction we get.
There’s also sponsorship. For example, we’re running a race in November that requires a specific type of GPS watch. Garmin have come to the table and offered two of our athletes the watches at cost price, but that’s still R13 000 that needs to come out of Dando’s account, or my own.
For corporates, we’ll put their logos all over the place if they make a significant contribution. But, at the end of the day, donations are the most important thing.
- 6) What is the ultimate goal?
The aim of the scholarship fund is to build schools in the rural areas that need it most. There are people that have no access to any of the things we take for granted. If you look at the type of funding required to make that happen, it needs to come from multiple sources. We’d have to sell more coffee than we have the capacity to make in order to build a school.
Think of it as crowdfunding, like Kickstarter, but building schools and clinics instead of business concepts. The people that need our help need more of it than we can provide.
- 7) What’s in it for you?
There’s a CEO of a company that I know. Sometimes, he personally delivers flowers that people have ordered from his company. He does it because he loves to see people’s faces in that moment. It doesn’t matter how terrible their day has been. When they get those flowers, the joy is effervescent.
I’m not sitting back. I’m the founder of a small coffee company getting out there. I’m serious about this. And it’s not just about giving charitable people an avenue to give back. It’s also about converting doubters into believers.
It doesn’t matter what we do if we don’t get help. We could run a marathon on the moon, and it would mean nothing if we don’t get the money. You can’t build a school with sweat. But you can sweat to raise awareness about a cause bigger than yourself. At the end of the day, we’re just tools. The real heroes are the ones making the donations.