Guest post: Alison Hayward MD is the director of a small nonprofit organization with an all-volunteer board, who is always looking for opportunities to creatively connect with our supporters and show them how small donations are important to us. Uganda Village Project is a public health-focused nonprofit which serves a rural area in eastern Uganda. As a part of our core Healthy Villages program, we work with some of the worst-off communities in this area in terms of basic health indicators, such as latrine coverage. All our Healthy Villages communities had less than 60% coverage with latrines when we began working with them. We worked with a number of local partners and have formulated a very effective model for increasing sanitation in our 10 partner villages.
What’s a sanitation push campaign?
Our goal is to inspire households in these villages to construct sanitation improvements which, in turn, will help prevent infectious diseases that can cause unnecessary illness and deaths, particularly amongst vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and people living with AIDS. The community members are by and large subsistence farmers, who must work hard in the fields during the day for household food or income. This fact makes creating lasting behavioral change even more of a challenge than it typically is. Many of the people we serve have lived with infectious disease as a fact of life, and accepted that it is a common and tragic occurrence in their lives. They are skeptical that making lifestyle changes such as sanitation improvements will alter these facts. Our sanitation push campaign is an effort to use a variety of local partnerships to motivate and ‘push’ the communities to change.
How the push works
Our staff works closely with a group of respected community members who we have trained as community health workers, known as the Village Health Team. Initially, our staff demonstrates how to construct the sanitation improvements at the Village Health Team’s own households, ensuring that all team members have all the sanitation improvements installed and can act as ‘model households’ in the campaign. New faces visiting the village always attract attention, and neighbors become interested in the improvements being made as they watch our teams in action. Even in Uganda, peer pressure can inspire neighbors to ‘keep up with the Joneses’! In the next phase of the campaign, we bring in a larger team composed of our diverse partners, such as the Village Health Team, Uganda Village Project staff members, local governmental officials, and students from local schools. This team splits the village up into sections and works house-to-house over the course of a few days, making demonstrations on how to construct the sanitation improvements, and sharing the hard work with their neighbors and friends. All the sanitation improvements are made from cheap locally available materials. A tippy tap, for example, is a simple handwashing device in which the user can step on a lever to tip a can of water onto their hands for washing.
A bar of soap can be attached with string. In communities with no running water, a tippy tap represents a lifesaving innovation that greatly decreases the barriers to good sanitation.
Our sanitation ‘push’ campaigns have been remarkably effective, harnessing the energy of a community to churn out large numbers of small, simple, but lifesaving sanitation improvement devices. Thus far, we have run ‘push’ campaigns in 7 of the 10 Healthy Villages communities. We constructed 953 tippy taps improving hand washing coverage in our villages on average by 81%. We also constructed 62 latrines. We built over 473 plate stands, to aid households to sun-sterilise their plates and get their eating utensils off the ground. Over 565 rubbish pits were dug to reduce fly infestations, the cause of many eye infections in children. And using Causes, we were able to share this success with our supporters one household improvement at a time.
Using a Causes Fundraising Project
We created a Causes Project to provide our supporters with an easy way to see how we could turn their modest donations into lifesaving sanitation devices. A tippy tap only costs $2-$3 dollars to construct and can be made from string, nails, a plastic bottle, and wood pieces. The major challenge with latrines is the hard work of digging, which is provided during the push campaign by young enthusiastic volunteers. Once we were able to translate each item into a dollar amount, friends of our organization became interested in how they could help us make those things a reality in the villages.
Reflections on the Causes Fundraising Project
The Causes Project we used to raise funds for our sanitation programs was funded over time, not all at once, but it gave us a nice focal point to communicate with our Cause supporters about our progress towards a goal. We now plan to post a new project each time the current one gets funded, and to communicate with our supporters to give them a sense of how those few clicks of the mouse really are making a difference in Uganda.
My main tip for other Causes users is that the best way to get the attention of your supporters is to create a bulletin that will go into their Facebook newsfeed, which will appear in their feed along with their friends’ posts. Currently it is a bit difficult to determine how to make this happen when creating your bulletin (Ed note: when creating a bulletin, we automatically select to have the bulletin posted to the members’ news feeds, but the admin must choose whether or not to have the bulletin also emailed to members who have chosen to receive emails), but hopefully this will be clarified in future iterations of the Causes platform. Until then, one secondary strategy that has been very successful for us is to create a public event and invite all our supporters to it. This raises the profile of any project we’re currently fundraising for and attracts attention and discussion from our supporters, although not all of those who signal that they are ‘Attending’ the fundraiser will donate funds, it is still a good reminder as the fact that supporters are Attending will pop up at the Event’s start time on their friends’ news feed.
For more information, or to join one of the causes supporting The Uganda Village Project, visit their Causes beneficiary profile page.