Nonprofit Radio for March 21, 2014: A Conversation With Adam Braun

Big Nonprofit Ideas for the Other 95%

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My Guest:

Adam Braun: Pencils of Promise

Adam Braun

He founded Pencils of Promise with $25 and it’s now close to 200 schools globally.

His book, “The Promise of a Pencil” was just released! Adam Braun is a Forbes “30 Under 30” and one of Wired Magazine’s “50 People Who Are Changing the World.”

We’ll talk about his journey and the mantras that guide him. He’s got a great story!


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Hello and welcome to tony martignetti non-profit radio big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent. I’m your aptly named host. Oh, and you know that i’m glad you’re with me. I’d suffer the effects of a contra coup injury. If it came to my attention that you missed today’s show a conversation with adam braun he founded pencils of promise with twenty five dollars, and it’s now close to two hundred schools globally. His book, the promise of a pencil, was released a few days ago. Adam braun is a forbes thirty under thirty on one of wired magazine’s fifty people who are changing the world. We’ll talk about his journey, and the mantra is that guide him on tony’s take to roughly halfway through planned giving fund-raising and i’m very pleased to welcome adam run to the studio rather than read his bio, which i would ordinarily do. I’m going to read his auto bio. I have a book coming out in march. The promise of a pencil that i think would really interest you and your readers. I know what he meant. That’s okay, i found it. Pencils of promise. Five years ago with twenty five. Dollars and we’re rapidly approaching our two hundredth school globally, so i decided to write something for non-profit professionals and millennials with the most important lessons i’ve learned in creating a global movement. Anyway, i’d love to be a guest on your podcast to share lessons and insights around the book that is around the time the book is being released march eighteenth. If you’re interested in chatting further, please shoot me an email. Adam run let’s channel further that’s absolutely glad you sent that email. Welcome. Thank you so much for having me. Pleasure. Pleasure. Um, congratulations on the book. A couple days old. Yeah. Yeah. I’m really excited about it. Outstanding. Um, you call yourself? I think so. It’s somewhere or maybe was in one of your e mails. I’m not sure an impossible list. What’s what’s going on with that? Yeah. Actually, i shared that on a couple of speeches, but okay, maybe i saw it on a video then. Yeah, i find that, you know, different people view themselves at different associations. You know, i’m a pragmatist. I’m a realist. And i just realized that the things that excite me, the things that i believe in and pursue they tend to be that which others demon possible on. So just kind of came off the confident and talk, and it seems like it’s resonated with a lot of people, and so i aptly will say that i’m a nim possible ist right that’s, quite admirable school on dh you also say well, in the book that where you start in life doesn’t dictate where you finish. You’ve had you’ve had quite a journey, and we have an hour to talk about it and pencils of promise, but i like that a lot where you start doesn’t dictate where you finish. Yeah, that’s when the foundational beliefs, i would say that i was raised with on one of the things that dictates a lot of the work that i pursue. Now, it’s, just this core idea that where you started life should not dictate where you finish and that where you’re born, i shouldn’t have a bearing on the opportunities and the guess path that you take going forward, and the book is divided into thirty mantra is correct, which are also very cool. I like those let’s, so we’re going to talk about a couple you know? And then we’ll work our way, tio, through your journey and talk some good amount, maybe second half about pencils of promise. Perfect. Um, leave your leave. Your comfort zone is a mantra, and you have a little you have a story for each each mantra? Yeah, and it’s a good thing you came up with a nice even number thirty. I mean, only had twenty seven. What would the editor of with the publisher have taken you with? Only twenty seven or truthfully, i was trying to stick the twenty five, starting with twenty five bucks. I figured the twenty five most important lessons that i had learned with. Yeah, good, but truthfully there that they just kept on kind of pouring out, the more that i would write. And so i ended up china, find even number and went with thirty. Okay? Yeah. Did you have to? It was with a marginal five difficulty from twenty five to thirty. I was stuck on kind of twenty eight. Twenty nine e take you twenty nine way. Can’t work with twenty nine. Exactly one hundred one if you get to one hundred one that’s. A very popular number, but exactly. All right. So one of them is leave your comfort zone. There’s there’s. A good story around that. Yeah. So, you know, when i was growing up, i guess to even rewind and start things from the very beginning. I was born in new york city, but i grew up in the suburbs. I grew up in connecticut and essentially the town that i was raised in, which was granted connecticut. My parents picked because it had the best public education system. They just kind of mapped out their most important criteria when they wanted to raise children. Both of them came from total poverty. My dad was an immigrant living in this country when he was three on a boat. His family post holocaust survivors escaping the hungarian revolution. My grandmother worked in a sweatshop for her first ten years, new york, after surviving just a siri’s of it’s, a horrific atrash cities through her childhood, including being in the concentration camps for about a year and a half, and losing our whole family. And so what they really valued. I think his parents was opportunity attained through education. And so they picked greenwich that’s, where we moved. When i was probably about four, and i was just one of those kids who, because of the two things that were valued in my household, being family and education, i poured myself into the books, and i also played a ton of sports basketball being the main one, and so i ended up moving through high school and just becoming really, really interested in working in finance, actually, because so many people in greenwich, our finance professionals and, you know, you look around and you see who’s, the person with the nice car in the big house, and we’re going, we’re gonna have a chance to talk about bain capital where you were and, you know, you’ve got some good stories from there, yeah, yeah, so so i actually open up any trade account when i was thirteen because you could think that and then started working at my first hedge fund that i started working out and, you know, i wasn’t doing probably very high quality work, but i still have a knopper tune ity that they gave me that to be inside of a head, shawn, when i was about sixteen and so then by the time i was nineteen. I was in the summers working at a fund of funds. But the important thing for this mantra this get out of your comfort zone idea is that i went from, you know, fairfield county. I went to brown university for college, so state in new england and pictured myself going into this financial profession, moving to new york city. And when i was twenty, as a sophomore in college, i ended up seeing a film called baraka that was shot in twenty four different countries, just beautiful, beautiful cinematography. But most importantly, it showed these indigenous cultures and these beautiful geographic wonders all around the world. And i just thought, if these things are existing somewhere, i need to see them with my own eyes. I i need to absorb them myself. And i just got this this mantra, this kind of phrase in my head get out of your comfort zone and this kind of restless voice picked up in may and said, you know, until you leave the comforts of what you know, you’re really not going to discover who you are and so it led me, teo go on semester at sea, which was the first, i would say, a significant experience outside of the bounds of what i was familiar with, and that just changed my whole life, all right? And we’re going to we’re going to continue further, but semesters si has a great story. Uh, where you had quite a quite a harrowing experience on the ss you assess if explorer as explorer. So, you know, one thing i will just say is i am could not be a bigger advocate of semester at sea. It was the best and most important thing i’ve ever done in my life outside of getting engaged. It’s okay, fiance, right? Right. Good. And so i went on the straight see, in spring two thousand five, we left from vancouver headed towards korea, and the expectation was that i would get to see ten different countries. And you have forty six days to travel through each country completely independently as backpacker. Do whatever you want and just make it back to the ship by whatever. Tuesday at five p m and you’re studying about each of these cultures before you get there. So it’s just an incredibly enriching experience and my ship eyes one. Of the kind of more famous voyage is over the last fifty years of semester at sea. Usually if you’re famous on snusz shoretz see it’s because something went wrong. But my my voyage was struck by a sixty foot rogue wave about eight hundred miles from land while crossing the north pacific in winter, and the wave that hit us as we’re going from vancouver to south korea shattered the glass in the area that house the navigational equipment. So we lost all power to our engines, and we were in this kind of mega storm being tossed around by forty five foot swells on each side. And so we had basically this this kind of panicked announcement that was made that said, get to the fifth for hyre help the women, children up the stairs and get to your muster stations, you know, keep on your life jackets and your muster stations there were you evacuate a ship from so that type of call is is not hey, yeah, those of us who’ve been on a cruise, you visit your muster station once exact beginning of the cruise, right? And then you never go back and that’s the assumption for for all cruises and all all sea voyages. Exactly. So we had, you know, we’re college kids, and so we’re messing around, playing with the little lights on life jackets and, you know, you’re looking around thinking, is there someone that i can probably maybe china floor with, like, you know, you’re nervous kid? And so so we don’t pay much attention to the whole muster station exercise, and then suddenly you get this announcement that’s what you mean muster station that’s where we evacuate from and look outside, we can’t evacuate, and so i had what i would call a certain death experience. I really genuinely believed that i was gonna perish in the next few hours, and when you go through something like that, at least in my case, too, things happen. The first was you asked the question of why am i here in the first place if i’m about to perish? Like, what is the reason for my existence? And then the second is when i’m gone, what will i have left behind? And because of that, i just became, i would say pretty obsessed to this these two questions one what is my? Sense of purpose and then too, what are the footprints that i can leave behind amassing significant personal wealth, getting a big house suddenly that became pretty deep? Prioritise, this is all going through your mind as you’re at the muster station way, never even actually made it up there. This happened in my room. Oh, this is all in your room. Things are being tossed around, right and furniture’s falling. This was but yeah, it was it was it was pretty wild. Alright, we went upstairs and then waited upstairs for several owners. All right, we’re going. We’re going to go out to a break right on middle of this great story, deliberately because there’s a good story about a tattoo coming up and obviously he survived and we’ll continue the journey from there. Hang in. There didn’t didn’t didn’t dick tooting getting ding, ding ding ding. You’re listening to the talking alternate network you waiting to get in? Cubine do you need a business plan that can guide your company’s growth seven and seven will help bring the changes you need. Wear small business consultants and we pay attention to the details. You may miss. Our culture and consultant services are guaranteed to lead toe right growth for your business. Call us at nine one seven eight three three four eight six zero foreign, no obligation free consultation. Check out our website of ww dot covenant seven dot com. Are you stuck in your business or career trying to take your business to the next level and it keeps hitting a wall? This is sam liebowitz, the conscious consultant. I will help you get to the root cause of your abundance issues and help move you forward in your life. Call me now and let’s create the future you dream of. Two, one, two, seven, two, one, eight, one, eight, three that’s to one to seven to one eight one eight three the conscious consultant helping conscious people be better business people. You’re listening to the talking alternative network. Welcome back to big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent. All right, adam braun, you’re you’re in your room. Things are being tossed around. You’re you’re having your having cereal, you’re questioning your existence in pretty serious ways, right? S o i thought, what a cliffhanger believe latto yeah. Eyes high adventure. Yeah. Non-profit radio. Yeah. No, it is. I mean, the i guess the giveaway is that i did survive. I’m still here. So, um, yeah. I mean, the part about the tattoos. I got a tattoo when i was yes, eighteen, which is pretty crazy to think about, but i got a tattoo it’s the mirror image of two words and those two words, i believe. And so there were image of, i believe. Yeah, yeah. So it’s a name? I mean, two words in hebrew and they ii see it correctly in the mirror was meant as a very kind of personal thing. Onda kind of, i guess just reminder that whatever’s in front of you, whatever you think you can’t kind of conquer if you have that self belief that it can be made real. And so, you know, i’m sitting the rumors going around about my tattoo, you know, right now live with i’m glad you took your outer sweater off. Put your shirt up picture that i can it sze literally that crystal and i would really like a picture. All right? I’ll get pictures of you, but not i i will point to where it is on my body. Okay on dh. So it’s it’s a little it’s over my heart, and so i basically, you know, kind of said my prior is ask the big questions and this this kind of knowledge, this calmness, the stillness came over me and suddenly just kind of, i guess knew that it wasn’t my time, ondas soon as i knew that it wasn’t my time that it wasn’t my kind of data. Parrish i recognized right that’s for a reason. There’s there must be a reason that i’m here in the first place and now i kind of value the sense that whatever comes next is probably gonna have a much more depth to it. And that’s after we survived, when the next thing that happened is we fortunately, we’re able to travel through the developing world for the very first time in my life, i’ve never been exposed, teo poverty at that level to just indigenous cultures all around the world, it’s just not part of what we did when when we were kids growing up on dh so fortunately ship doesn’t go down there’s mass hysteria for about four or five hours, but semester it’s, he just did a miraculous job of weathering some obviously tough conditions and then from the administration actually making sure that our semester could continue because most other probably woulda latto just get cancelled or something. And so we start traveling through these different countries, and i had a habit of asking one child per country, what do you want most in the world? And i figured i would get this this kind of material answer of what they want, and i haven’t write it down on a piece of paper, and then i could make a collage in my dorm room back-up college of, like, the different kind of cool things that kids were interested in buying around the world and that’s when i got to india, which is where i wanted to see most before i left on the trip and when i was there, it’s just it’s. Very devastating to see the levels of poverty that you witnessed their cause oftentimes there’s a suffering associated with it, like there’s, just pain on people’s faces and you feel pretty helpless. You feel like you can’t really do anything, especially as a twenty one year old at the time. And so i asked this one boy who was begging on the streets in northern india. He was like my one kid that i decided i was just so interested. Like, what would he want? You know, would it be a house would be a car? Would it be a boat? And i said, if you have anything the world, what would you want? And his answer was a pencil, and it just blew me away. And so i kind of started to ask some more questions, and i realised he had never been to school before and that anything that he was given was taken away from him. Money kind of candy, etcetera. But i guess in his mind, you know, he saw there boys coming back from school with pens and pencils, writing on piece of paper and that the one thing that he wanted to pursue was unlocking his own creativity, opportunity, curiosity, imagination and that access to education would do that. And so i gave my pencil. He lit up, and i just started passing out pens and pencils everywhere that our travel after that because it opened up conversations often times with with young people about their hopes and dreams. And if not, i would give it to a mother in a market so i could ask her about what she wanted for a child, and it just always came back to quality education. And so from that point forward, i just became obsessed with creating world. There are at least helping to create a world in which every single child has access to quality education and r and you site in the book the our global education crisis. Yeah, yeah, right now, there’s fifty seven million children without any access. Teo basic education what’s justus bad, because that really focuses on the access issue, but i’m really happy to see that a lot of the global leaders on education are focusing on second element, which is quality learning on dh. So you have two hundred fifty million children who are in classrooms, but cannot read or write their own name by the end of fourth or fifth grade. And so it’s more than just getting kids in rooms. It’s it’s actually making sure the quality teachers and that learning outcomes are being valued as well. Part of one of the monsters that you touched on in in the story of the ss explorer is andi travels that came after it is that tourists see and travelers seek yeah, you’re clearly a seeker. Yeah, that that was one of my firm for probably two or three years. That was my main mantra that i just wrote on any piece of paper that i could as a reminder to myself. Because when you, when you really start traveling, you take a lot of pride in being a traveller, and you almost disassociate with tourism. Yeah, it’s, sort of well, the tourists will just sort of rattle off the country’s, right? Oh, i’ve been there. I’ve been there. I’ve been there, right? Right. I mean, tourists and my mind are are interested in seeing and and it’s not to discount tourism. Because now i have vacations where i just want to be a tourist sometimes, but that’s when you’re kind of interested in seeing what i would say the quote country has to offer, like the museums, the moss, the churches, the center guys, the most, you know, kind of beautiful sights when i think about being a travel that’s much more about what the people have to offer, and so that’s about, you know, getting into individuals, homes, you know, eating the local food with local people, seeing what actual you know, the regional customs are and how people lived, not how they present their historic artifacts to those that are interested in the tourist elements of that culture. And so, you know, it’s, not the discount either one of them, but i find and certainly when i was in my early twenties and i was traveling country after country after country for extended periods of time, i was interested in seeking and almost finding answer is not just, you know, seeing beautiful sights, you were pretty comfortable at another place where you ended up not doing internship, but working, obeying you had had an internship there first, right? Eso so i don’t i held different internships in the financial industry, so again, since i was kind of sixteen on words most summers, i would work either hedge fund’s fund of funds or institutional banks, and then came back after some of my mike travels and went through interviews with investment banks and consulting firms in private equity, and i landed up. It ended up at bain and company, the consulting firm, which eighty percent of people had been capital to private equity firm are form being consultants. So in my mind, i was going to bane and company to then work at bain capital, and you were you were comfortable there hyre from outward appearances, but but there was, ah, discomfort internally. Yeah, very much so. And i know that i speak about this in the book and again, i’ll say, i mean, i’m a z big of a proponent of banning companies possible. I had such an incredible experience there and truthfully, there’s no way that pencil a promise would have become what it became without my my training and experience and the goodwill of the people at bane that i worked with. But, you know, coming out of school, i was so passionate about this one issue, but time and time again, when i would share with people, i want to go build a school and i wanna go help kids in this one country, whatever that country might be that i was passionate about at the time they’d say to me if they knew me. Well, well, this sounds great, but you’ve always had a business background. You speak the language of business, why don’t you try and get some more formal business training? And then maybe even a mass some personal wealth and with that wealth start something and with your network and resource is etcetera build something based off of your kind of business career. And i kind of reluctantly took their advice and saw it for what it was and it was pretty sound. And so i went to work in vain, but with the whole time i was there, i viewed it is a form of paid business school and i think that’s really important for any young person in any job is to not go into the job thinking all right, what’s my salary and, you know, prioritized the prestige of my business car. But it’s really? About how much can you learn? Because because that’s what’s valuable in your first two or three jobs is kind of creating the foundation for your like, operating system in the business world going forward. And so i went to maine and, you know, it was working on these great fortune five hundred or forty one thousand companies learning a ton, but i just what couldn’t get passionate about the clients that we worked on and it’s just the industries i wasn’t intrigued by. And so i was at the time, living in this really beautiful apartment and in new york city yeah, i mean, i had this great apartment on union square onda had ah, you know, access to really fun parties and a bunch of my friends from high school and college and different travels were used to go to republic. The noodle shop? Yeah, it’s. Really good. I like it noisy, but yeah, they have. Very, very good, pat. Yeah. And so from outward appearances, i was working at a very prestigious firm. Eyes twenty three going on twenty four on dh. So i was making good money. I had business opportunities that were absurd for somebody of my age. I mean, back. Then this is kind of two thousand seven, so it was just before a lot of the crash happened, so we were getting calls from major private equity and hedge funds that were offering us two hundred fifty thousand dollars himto leave maine on and i’m you know, like twenty forgetting offered two hundred fifty grand toe leave my job that’s already a good job on dso from all outward appearances. Somebody who said like, wow, this is a guy that’s really got it made, but internally i was living a life that was one of you would say, exclusively self interest on dh that’s just because i was, i don’t know, just a young kind of single guy in new york with a good job and obsessed with getting into a party or how much money i could make our, you know, just something about myself, and i kind of realized one day that i wasn’t living the type of life that i had aspired to live, and when i thought back to that day on semester it see where i recognized both purpose and the value legacy i wasn’t pursuing either, and i needed to find a way. To get back to that and the single most powerful way that i could do that was by focusing on honoring or service to another person. What do you think brought you to this evolving introspection had what? Is there a trigger or just it’s looks like it’s snowing inside or what is it that brings you to think? I think it’s two things and again i would advocate for anyone else that they pay attention to both of you of any age, by the way, for sure doesn’t only latto millennials, for sure, i mean, i’m i’m now thirty and i paint china pay attention of both as often as i can the first is the restless voice that keeps you up at night on dh that’s one of my montrose that i’ve used for years is just embrace the late sleepless nights like the things that keep you up at night actually don’t try and turn those off every so often just try and dive into them and see what it is that’s gnawing at you and pulling you and it says that right tattooed on you know what? Maybe one that very one day it’s still very meaningful to you not to minimize, right? Right on then the second thing is writing. So i have written and usually, like, i’ll buy a really nice kind of leather bound journal because i find that if you have it a journal that you really love, it’ll lead you to write in it mohr and write better content rather than just kind of buying like a John cheap 10 dollar spiral bound that’s been my you know, my dreams, aaron spiral bound, you know, because i could rip them out when they don’t come true. It’s it’s an and i just buy a new binder after i’ve lost one hundred fifty shoots, one hundred fifty dreams gone now just got two pieces of cardboard and a wire holding them together, right? I just throw the whole thing away and start again so so yours or i’m gonna get you one of the but like fifty dollars leather bound ones going, we’ll drive. But i’m telling you, once you have a nice journal, you almost feel like all right, this thing is going to be around for a while and made my crane kids will read this one day, so i have to write realists kind of essential truths that will carry forward. And so so every so often i try and write, and when i write, i just look at the words on the page and it’s like, why am i not following this? And so that those are the two things that helped me pull pull things out, that i guess lead to the introspection that you’re describing? Um so despite the, uh, i don’t know either encouragement to wait or discouragement. Tio start immediately from mentors and family, too. You know, this advice that seems sound but was still troubling to you. You started with you started pencils of promise with twenty five dollars. Yeah. So what enough happening was that bane has something that they called their ex stern ship opportunity and it’s, usually in your third year where you can go work for anyone else for six months and come back and it’s really nice way for to get industry experience for them. Teo also keep you within the company while giving you the opportunity to, you know, test your your foot in the waters of one of the industry’s you might be interested in and so most people either work it one of the main portfolio companies, or they’ll work at in the financial sector, hedge funds or private equity. Some of these places that are calling you like, eh, i could try it out for six months, being doesn’t pay you. The company does. And so it’s a really incredible thing that they do. And so i just started thinking about all right, what can i do? What can i do? I have six months. And then i got this idea in my head. I was like, why don’t i just tap back into my passion around education in the developing world and work for someone that i’ve been, you know, volunteering for for years i’ll go out to cambodia for this one organization that cambodian children’s fund and volunteer with their founder, who was a real hero of mine. And then i just want what’s that person’s name. Ccf? Yeah. So the ccf his name is scott neeson. Ok, shot. I mean, you mentioned your your fiance? Not by name. What’s your fiance’s name? Tequila. Okay. Won’t shut her out too. Yeah. Okay. All right. So scott was very meaningful. He was another one of those people, that just that was a really changed my life. And so i suddenly got the itch to do something entrepreneurial. Andi had done little entrepreneurial things throughout my life, but i realized maybe i can start a new organization. And rather than volunteering with scott for six months, i could actually find a way to build one school, do it on that, you know, this six month extension. And then over the next twenty years of my career, i could have this organization that built the school the year, you know, that was kind of the ambition. And so i went to the bank. I had this kind of big epiphany night, and i realized the name pencils of promise could really kind of capture the spirit of things. And so i went to the bank and in my hometown, and i said, what does it take to open up a bank account? I want to start an organization called pencil promise. I want to build one school and ideally dedicated to my grandmother and the woman on it was debbie. I said, well, i like the name i said, metoo thank you. And she said well, you need at least twenty five dollars, to open up a bank account of bankamerica. I said, okay, that’s, a good sign. I’m turning twenty five this month, so i’ll give you twenty five bucks on a chance for, you know, put in twenty five bucks and tow this new account and literally bootstrapped it from there to now the, you know, millions of dollars that we raise annually on dedicated to your grandmother worked in a sweatshop. You’d said, yeah, yeah, i mean, i really thought about how could i, you know, fulfilled this sense of purpose, not only for myself, but for somebody else and, you know, eventually, you know, now we have schools dedicated to each of my grandmother’s, my grandfather’s, my parents, there’s one as well, my brother’s, etcetera. And, you know, we broke ground on over two hundred schools in each of those schools are now dedicated to an individual that the person who helped bring that school to freshen eyes close to and so that’s a really beautiful part. I find of the work that we d’oh but but yeah, she she’s obviously sacrificed a ton so that i could be in the you know, the life position that i’m in now, and so that was a big part of it, you know? And so over two hundred, so my my intro was a little out of date you’re over two hundred? Yeah, wait, we’ve broken ground, i’m just over two hundred schools, ok? We’re going toe i’m going to transition, teo tony’s take two very briefly and that’s a perfect point for adam and i to kick off, and we’ll get into some of his advice about scaling from twenty five dollars, to a million and possibly beyond and how that gets done because i know that you’re all in small and midsize non-profits and you’d like to know how pencils of promise did it. I want teo spend a moment on something that is important to me, and that is planned e-giving which i talk about from time to time, whatever size non-profit you are, there is something very successful that you can do with plant e-giving raising money from people’s estate plans and retirement plans. Too often i find small and even midsize shops, you know you get get intimidated by thinking you need a lot of technical expertise and that is just not so you don’t need a lawyer. You don’t need a consultant, you can start on your own and have a very respectable planned e-giving program and you would start by encouraging gif ts bye will charitable bequests you might even stop there. And for a smaller shop that is a perfectly respectable planned e-giving program. So please, i’m encouraging you not to be intimidated by plant e-giving it’s. Very doable there’s information on my blog’s. I blogged about it a lot. Tony martignetti dot com is the sight and just search planned e-giving same thing on my youtube channel, which israel tony martignetti search planned giving and there’s a bunch of videos there. Please think about planned e-giving small and midsize shops. Don’t be intimidated by it. It’s something that’s very doable for you and that is tony’s take two for friday, twenty first of march twelfth show of the year. Okay, adam, you’re still here. You hung around. Yeah, thankyou ways we’ll keep talking since you since you stayed around. Yeah, sure. Um from twenty five dollars, to now you’re over, you got over two hundred schools. Eso globally. Eso. We’ve broken ground. I’m more than two hundred, you know, once you break ground, it takes couple months toe open him. So we’re right on the cusp of the two hundred being open, but we’ve broken ground on more than two hundred, okay, all right. What was what was day two? Like after the after twenty five dollars, now you’re still employed? So you you sort of bootstrap this, right? Right. So so bane gave me, you know, they said once i persuaded them to let me go do this because people hadn’t done entrepreneurial things through this external ship, okay? They said on dh, they’re not paying you during this now, so ah, let me keep my health insurance, which was nice of them, all right? And that i think they gave me, like, you know, very, very, very small statement ah, monthly little income, but it wasn’t as much. So, you know, right after that they said to me, okay, we’ll let you go do this, but it has to be off the ground when you leave to pursue it so you can’t leave to create an organization, you have to work for something that’s in existence, so we need to at least see the filing, the registration, all of that kind of good stuff. So it took me about five months to get that done, and i knew in my head that i wanted teo start in march. That was just kind. Of the time frame, so i had from october to march to get it off the ground, and the first thing obviously was i’m going to raise the money and my birthday is on halloween, and so i’d always thrown really fun halloween, you know, parties and often school. Since i was twenty one on words, i had always said, you don’t give five or ten or whatever dollars at the door and that’s going to go towards the charity of choice, oftentimes the cambodian children’s fund. And so i ended up basically during this big party in new york, saying, give twenty dollars at the door or whatever you want twenty five if you want, from a twenty fifth birthday and wait, about four hundred people came out come out, and we raised a thousand dollars and then friends, mind on people that attended the event said, wow, this is really great. I want to support pencils of promise more let’s do another one. So we threw another big event, which was a masquerade party, and then i i had people in my apartment for new year’s, and i said, give whatever you want instead of paying, you know. A symbol for price party in new york give whatever you can afford and, you know, we’ll put it towards helping build this first school, and so we ended up raising the funds to build the first school it just over those first three events, and at the same time, i was, you know, meeting after hours with, you know, probono lawyer to help get the registration done. And when i started to do is kind of coal ah lot of different young professionals across new york who are interested in our work on dh say to them, ok, this is volunteer for all of us, but come meet at the main office are the goldman sachs office or what? Bbh was on advertising agency that one of the key people worked at we’d meet there, like nine, ten at night, we’d white port, a ton of stuff, and, you know, it was like a fun project at the time. I couldn’t even believe the first time that we had a whiteboard session and took a photo and was like, i can’t believe that pencil promises so real that we’re right here finding dahna white-collar you know, it was such a big hurdle for us. And then i started teo late night. Just email anybody that i could that was associated with education in laos because that’s really what i wanted to start. I travelled the thanh and really found love with southeast asia. And i wanted to work in one of the areas that had very low ngo density. Not like one of the ones it’s kind of over served and saturated with ngo’s. I wanted to work in kind of the most underserved. Is that why you chose laos over cambodia? That was one of the big ones. Yeah, yeah. Now, that was one of the biggest reasons of the second one was that louse just from an economic indicator standpoint, has greater poverty, as does myanmar. But myanmar was politically cut off in two thousand eight, going again the country. So when i thought about the region i loved most plants just really fit all the kind of buttons that i was looking at a push. And so, fortunately, after a lot of people either ignoring my emails are telling me to go away. One organizations important lesson there never, never discouraged or maybe discovered, but never stopped by people turning you down flat. Yeah, it wasn’t like i just said, i want to build a school in laos and i e mailed somebody and they said yes, then there was silence for a long time. There’s ah, similar lesson i’m thinking of the academy awards were just a couple nights ago on dh matthew mcconaughey won best actor for dallas buyers club, and i saw a clip of him saying that the production of the movie was turned down one hundred and one hundred thirty seven times one hundred fifty seven times he was counting, but over four years, obviously the film got made, and then he just won best actor and the supporting actor one the coast doctor was won best supporting actor. Yeah, so not to be, you know, don’t it? I mean, matthew mcconaughey gets turned down, adam broadened, gets turned down a lot. You don’t, you don’t stop. Yeah, i mean, i can’t remember for the how the line was phrase in the book, but there was something about it got iterated a bunch of times over different drafts, you know, it wasn’t a changing stuff, but one of the things that i tried to really share with people was that, you know, the kind of best friend of any entrepreneur is resilience that you’re going to get turned down over and over and over again, and people are going to come in and out of your organization and some of them you’re going to think are kind of the savior and going to make everything perfect on dh some people you’re going to say like they’re not doing anything on dh, they might end up being really fantastic, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have significant resilience and just this kind of dunaj like no matter what happens undaunted sense, you know that to the idea of being an impossible list, it’s, like you get excited when people say it’s impossible, and so people keep on saying to me like, oh no, this can’t happen or you don’t want to work here one reason or another white shouldn’t be, and i just knew it had to be there, and so i just wouldn’t stop until i found the right person that could help me get a foot in the door and unfortunately, this married couple that was living in new jersey, they had an office further small business in new york city. I said, yeah, we built almost twenty schools of the last decade in laos. We’d love to chat with you, and so i took the n train down after work from times square toe prints street and we end up spending four hours together and they were like, yeah, we’re working in the exact region where you’re interested, and if you’ve raised the funds already, we can help you get in the foot foot in the door, and we have, ah, local coordinator named tong chan, who lives in long for bunkhouse so he can help you on the ground. And so it’s a crate, i’ll fly out there, i’ll figure it out, you know, get my backpack on last second of buddy of mine came with me, and then this is when the bangkok airport riots happened in two thousand eight. Oh, and so he had to turn around because he’s, south african and visa issues. So now i’m like, alone on a bumpy ten hour headed upto laos land in a backpacker guest house for ten dollars a night and that’s where i stayed and this guy took me around and introduced me. The education ministry helped set up the creation of our very first school. And then eventually, when i needed my own staff, the first woman that i went to was the young lady who did the dishes and clean the sheets at the guest house where i was staying. And i asked her to become our first coordinator as a volunteer. She said i would love to, but you need to ask my mom for permission. So i put on like my one vida buttoned down that was in the bottom of a backpack that i was carrying with me. Ask her mom and her mom kind of said, yeah, but only under these conditions and long story short, that woman is now our country head on. Allows she manages a forty person staff. And when the southeast asia games happened a few years ago, she was the mohammed ali. She lit the torch in the middle of the day. What did you see in her? As the woman who was doing the house, keeping at the guesthouse. It’s. Tough to explain, but she’s just one of those people who has a light about them. When you spend time with her, she just makes you happy. She just has immense. I would take dignity, you know, she she just and that’s one of the things that people always ask me as well, how do you know to trust people and make sure that money doesn’t get lost when you’re working in the developing world? And that was one thing that was really essential to me is that we would build a model where every single dollar was used as efficiently as possible, and that meant not paying out outside contractors and funding, you know, outside entities, but actually keeping money in our organization, hiring our own staff to execute on our programs. And this woman illinois she’s, just one of those exceptional people. You can’t meet her and not believe in her on dh. So you know, she she made it easy on me, and she spoke great english. That was another thing. It was really tough to find anyone who spoke quality english and her english was actually fantastic. Something in your gut, though, to hell for not having called. Got with her on it was it’s proven i mean she’s like the star of the organization, but he’s a great lessons for scaling. All right, so the first school gets built, i’m goingto go through seller accelerated version because we have an hour, but we only have an hour. How do you continue to scale the organization to getting to know a quarter million dollars a year budget? Half million dollar year? Yeah, eso won. We realized, ah, that our events could make, you know, let’s say between five and thirty thousand dollars and that that at that time, for me, it was really exciting. Like, wow, we made twenty five thousand. I mean, we didn’t have a single thousand dollar donor at the time. Ninety eight percent of pencils of promise is donations in await no nine were in amounts of one hundred dollars or less. So, you know, getting like five hundred dollars donation was huge if somebody bought a fifty dollar tickets, one of our events, and then paypal later on, so i don’t know there was an error and gave them their money back. I was like, hounding them for the fifty dollars. So so that’s how small we were. And fortunately, one of the girls that was on our leadership team, who was volunteering on this side, had worked on building a non-profit previously, that was also a kind of small organization built by young professionals on the sides of their job, and she just said out, right, i will not participate in this if our fund-raising model is event based, its just not scaleable we can’t keep doing events that that’s an important lesson, a lot of small shops, you need to know that it’s it’s just not not scaleable, not sustainable, exactly events just so time consuming, and you don’t draw the right kind of people all the time consistent, you know, long term don’t type people for sure, and i remember when she said that i was frustrated. It sounds like we’re doing really well, why not going my model, right? Yeah, i mean, when you’re starting and you know, something like five or ten or twenty thousand dollars feels like a huge amount. It’s it’s really hard to say no, no, we’re not gonna keep doing this, but that’s the only way that you’re going to get to a bigger level, you were willing to let her shake you. Up to oh, definitely, i think that’s one of the essential parts of leadership is to surround yourself with people who are better than you at most of the leadership characteristics that you need within an organization, and to find the kind of one nugget where you are fantastic, or you could almost have an unfair competitive advantage over anybody else in the world and in my case, that’s telling the story of pencils of promise and believing in it with relentless conviction to the point where people can’t turn away from it. That’s what i’m uniquely qualified in exceptional to dio now executing an event, there’s a lot of people that are better than me at that fund-raising design digital there’s all people out there that can do those things better than me, and my job is to give them an opportunity to manifest and to become the best version of themselves through this organization by doing what they love most and what their most capable and so so, yeah, i was very open toe her belief that that was the, you know, the path that we needed to take was not to become over dependent on our events. And so we had to kind of take a risk in another direction. I think that’s also a really important part of anybody that’s trying to chief scale is you have to try and predict where the world is going, then position yourselves ahead of the curve and then, you know, grow into that next phase and it’s it’s, scary and it’s risky, because if you’re wrong, your organization potentially shuts down, but what i did is i took two bets. I would say the first one was on the rise of digital and social media keep mine. This is two thousand eight early two thousand nine you know, twitter was essentially, you know, not really on the scene at all. Instagram hadn’t even started the dominant social platform at the time was rapidly becoming facebook, but it certainly wasn’t used by non-profit professionals as significant area of dahna engagement people were thinking about direct mailing, they were thinking about, you know, face-to-face communications and they were really focused on major gifts, and so i was mark zuckerberg xero in college s o he started facebook at harvard as a sophomore in two thousand for i was a sophomore at brown at the time and my best friend had a identical twin who went to harvard. And so we were like the beta testers from facebook, and so all of my friends were on the platform, and i could see that all these other people were going to be coming on soon. So if we became one of the most, i would say present organizations and kind of lead the way on how to engage people through digital on social media, it could really elevate our brand status and game kind of significance for us. So that was the first kind of that was focusing on building a digital community rather than going after major donors and just saying, all right, let’s focus on the quality of our work and the scalability of a model on the ground. Our core programs let’s focus on building community specifically through digital, and then the third one was betting that cause marketing would become really relevant for major your brands and that if they were interested in investing their dollars into creating social good, that we as an organization that built schools all around the world would be a really good fit for some of those corporate contributions and so that’s what i focused on in two thousand, i would say nine in early two thousand ten when i eventually would like to schools, and i left man to do this full time. I didn’t focus on high net worth individuals and in focus on major fund-raising i focused on programs community on dh, eventually getting a story that would draw in corporate engagement, and by late two thousand ten, suddenly we had all three in place, and this is another mantra, and the book is you only get one chance at a first impression, and so i didn’t do a single interview. I didn’t tell our story in any platform for two years, until we have more than ten schools, at which point i felt like we had a great story that could travel and at that point in time shared it with a writer at the huffington post. And much to my surprise landing on the cover of huffpost impact on the story was like how one backpacker built fifteen schools with just one pencil on so it’s kind of this story that could travel and next thing i knew, i had tons of corporate saying, hey, we want to work with you, you know, startup brands, and we suddenly had our choice to say, yes, we will take your dollars in this fashion if you build this campaign with us, and we jumped up from, you know, about less than fifty thousand dollars, the first year, less than one hundred thousand dollars the next year, and by two thousand ten, we’re raising over a million dollars. We gotta go out for a couple of minutes. We’ll be right back. I’d love this is cliffhanging moments, outstanding hanging there. You’re listening to the talking alternative network. Have you ever considered consulting a road map when you feel you need help getting to your destination when the normal path seems blocked? A little help can come in handy when choosing an alternate route. Your natal chart is a map of your potentials. It addresses relationships, finance, business, health and, above all, creativity. Current planetary cycles can either support or challenge your objectives. I’m montgomery taylor. If you would like to explore the help of a private astrological reading, please contact me at monte at monty taylor dot. Com let’s monte m o nt y at monty taylor dot com. Are you suffering from aches and pains? Has traditional medicine let you down? Are you tired of taking toxic medications, then come to the double diamond wellness center and learn how our natural methods can help you to hell? Call us now at to one to seven to one eight, one eight three that’s to one to seven to one eight one eight three or find us on the web at www dot double diamond wellness dot com way. Look forward to serving you. Talking alternative radio twenty four hours a day. Lively conversation. Top trends. Sound advice, that’s, tony martignetti non-profit radio. And i’m samantha cohen from the american civil liberties union. Welcome back, big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent on dh. We’re talking about a non-profit that went from small to deeply midsize, but lots of lessons for everybody who wants to scale an organization, which is a lot of people. I get a i get a lot of enquiries from organizations that are one or two people, you know? How do we get to the next level? And adam, you’ve laid out, you know, three story, probably half a dozen valuable lessons, what else? What else would you say to people situated like that? So for us to continue scaling after kind of taking those almost calculated bats in the places that we thought that the industry would go, i kind of started to really hit the road and speak as much as i could in front of audiences, and this is another, i think, really important lesson for anyone that’s, that’s, tryingto grow, and it goes beyond just the direct lesson, but it’s something that i found more than just in public speaking engagements, but anywhere that i end up, which is this mantra, focus on one person in every room, and so i thought initially if i give a speech and there’s twenty five, people there, that’s twenty five potential donors and every single one of them needs to leave the room, becoming a supporter of pencils of promise. And so it’s kind of this funny story in the book. But the first speech that i gave was that oklahoma state university, one of largest colleges in the country i’m picturing like zoho a stadium with, like, throngs of cheering college students, you know, thousands of kids like, yeah, we want. And i went to my speech that visualization tohave, though, was wonderful did not come to fruition on. So i walk in the room and there’s one person at my first speech on. So i had, like, a forty five minute speech prepared that i had to give tow my four friends that already their travelling with me, and then this this one girl, chelsea. And much to my surprise, she became this incredible advocate of the organization, started our first college chapter, launched a kind of campus network, brought it down to the high school level, spoke at her alma mater. Got this one kid on in that room, completely engaged around the organization his name’s angie grayce he became obsessed with our work, he ended up taking over the chapter when he went to oklahoma state, he became so interested in what we do know that he then went on semester at sea. He just spoke at the u n in geneva like months ago and there’s all these incredible stories of individuals taking our work and making it their own and kind of becoming the next torchbearer and helping scale what we do. But it it’s not a deluded set of convictions across a mass scale of people it’s actually having fewer but more deeply engaged people that adds trends value to your work is an organization. So now when i go into a room, i’m looking for one person in every single room that could be the anchor and then it’s up to them to build the community it’s not up to me on dso and i share that very openly, and you’d be amazed with the traction that it gets. If you’re giving a speech and you say i’m looking for one person here, it almost creates this area exclusivity and people want things. Yeah, i want to be the person? No, no, i want teo. You dream. I mean, after after speeches now consistently have somebody come up here and say that, you know, you spoke for thirty minutes. He spoke for ten minutes. You spoke for an hour. I just want, you know, when you said that i’m looking for one person, i’m that person. This is what i’ve been seeking out. You just gave me the opportunity. I’m going to be your one, and then they feel accountable, teo helping make sure that we succeed as an organization. And so what do you do if the next person walks up and says the exact same thing? I say you two should talk and see who will be the one you do get out. All right? At least you’re honest. You don’t say oh, well, great. Great. You’re the first one who came all right, that’s it i duplicitous, um, there’s half a dozen more behind you. Yeah, exactly. Sorry. So, yeah, that was a really, really big important lesson for and then another one eyes this this mantra fess up to your failures. I think that a lot of times we in, you know, individuals that work in this space, we feel like we could never be wrong because one the nature of the work doesn’t, you know, promote failure if you’re trying to help somebody else, no one wants to see you fail, and you certainly don’t want to speak about your failures. And then secondly, it’s such a until battle to begin with that, it seems counterintuitive to say, oh, no, i feel that i failed miserably and let me tell you about that failure. But one of the things that i’ve seen is that the times that i fall down the times that i fail, if i really accepted my own and i speak about it openly it’s amazing to see one the opportunities for growth that come out of failure, it’s usually not when you’re succeeding that suddenly you’re able to grow tremendously as an individual are as an organization, but it’s, when things go really wrong. In our case, we had two staff members basically jumped and held up at knifepoint in guatemala and up until that point, you know, we’re all kind of twentysomethings excited about the work like, hey, we’re helping out these kids in these communities and suddenly we realize the weight of responsibility that we had, we don’t have any like, you know, kinda would say policies or procedures set upfor ramifications of what happens if there’s a disaster in country. Ah, and we suddenly said, like, wow, this is a lot more serious this work that we’re doing them, we’re realizing and it’s time for us to step up as an organization, that means tightening up the screws, not just in our inn country policies, but what happens in our home office in new york. What happens if one of our external event something goes wrong and it really forced tremendous growth for us as an organization than as individuals, it forced us to become really close together as it’s kind of, you know, not necessarily friends but colleagues and, you know, having friendship type relationships within our work together and so that’s, another big one for me is just when things go wrong, she’d see that as an opportunity for growth and, you know, fessed up to your failure admit what went wrong because you’ll find that people who want to see you grow and succeed, we’ll start to invest more heavily in your long term success. What is next for pencils of promise that’s on the horizon? So we have some now really big, ambitious goals beyond our school building we’ve launched in the last few years, programs around teacher training and student scholarships. So putting up the four walls, making sure the community’s air heavily invested andi do that through a lot of things, probably the most well known ofwhich is ten to twenty percent of the funding from every one of our school’s comes from the community itself, and since they don’t have any, you know, oftentimes there, unless in two dollars a day, they don’t have the dollars to pay for it. What the land of doing is they’ll provide that contribution through materials and labor will physically build their own school, which is really, you know, leads to significant ownership in investment. And so we realized we need to go beyond just the four walls we need to make sure we have great teachers, so teacher training scholarships. But the biggest thing for us is one sharing with people that, you know, for twenty five thousand dollars, they could build a school for two hundred fifty dollars, they can provide a scholarship for five hundred dollars, they can train a teacher and then ultimately we recognize that education is changing. And so we’re launching a series of innovation pilots to incorporate new technologies and new teaching methods in the classrooms, including your three d printing. Yeah, it’s not yeah, yeah, so we’re incorporating three d printers in laos. Teo, create literacy in a box. Tool kits were putting e readers in our classrooms in ghana, piloting, seeing how those go we’re looking into building a long distance radio program. Teo get increased storytelling into rural communities. And m i t a think tank out of them. It is helping us build that and so it’s really exciting what’s ahead, and we have to go out with this. What is it that you love about the work you’re doing? I love that it that it makes people come alive on that. It brings them a sense of purpose and fulfillment and meaning. Thank you very much out of brian. Thank you. The book is the promise of a pencil. The organization is pencils of promise dot or ge and you’ll find adam and adam braun dot com again, thanks very much. Out of my pleasure, thank you for having me my pleasure next week. Diversity what’s the business case for it. Fields jackson is the ceo of racing toward diversity magazine, and maria simple, our prospect, research contributor and the prospect finder returns. Our creative producer is claire meyerhoff. Sam liebowitz is our line producer shows social media is by julia campbell of j camel social marketing and the remote producer of tony martignetti non-profit radio is john federico of the new rules. Our music is by scott stein. Scots from brooklyn. Listen that call music you with me next week for non-profit radio. Big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent go out and be great. You’re listening to the talking alternative network, waiting to get a drink. Nothing. You could are you stuck in your business or career trying to take your business to the next level, and it keeps hitting a wall. This is sam lebowitz, the conscious consultant. I will help you get to the root cause of your abundance issues and help move you forward in your life. Call me now and let’s. Create the future you dream of. Two, one, two, seven, two, one, eight, one, eight, three, that’s to one to seven to one, eight one eight three. The conscious consultant helping conscious people. Be better business people. Hi, i’m ostomel role, and i’m sloan wainwright, where the host of the new thursday morning show the music power hour. Eleven a m. We’re gonna have fun. Shine the light on all aspects of music and its limitless healing possibilities. 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If you would like to explore the help of a private astrological reading, please contact me at monte at monty taylor dot. Com let’s monte m o nt y at monty taylor dot com. Are you suffering from aches and pains? Has traditional medicine let you down? Are you tired of taking toxic medications, then come to the double diamond wellness center and learn how our natural methods can help you to hell? Call us now at to one to seven to one eight, one eight three that’s to one to seven to one eight one eight three or find us on the web at www dot double diamond wellness dot com. We look forward to serving you. Talking geever dot com hyre

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