How to engage supporters and donors to increase sustainability of the project.
SUMMARY OF HOW THEY OVERCAME THE CHALLENGE:
DGS created a simple, catchy name that helped attract attention to their clear and direct mission. This attracted worldwide attention and support. They have subsequently created a funding stream through the upcycling of material from life jackets into messenger bags.
HOW WAS THE CHALLENGE AFFECTING THEM AND/OR THE PEOPLE THEY WERE HELPING:
DG faced the large challenge of financially sustaining an independent volunteer organization within an ever-changing humanitarian context.
To wash clothes, blankets and other materials that would otherwise be trashed:
- Funding was needed
- Large team of helpers for sorting, deliveries etc.
Without the funds necessary, it would not be possible to cover the costs of washing clothing and blankets following WASH standards.
NAME OF ORGANIZATION:
DIRTY GIRLS OF LESVOS
TYPE OF ORGANIZATION:
DESCRIBE THE TEAM:
DIRTY GIRLS was initiated in October 2015 by Alison Terry-Evans, to ensure that good quality wet and dirty clothing, discarded by thousands of refugees arriving by sea on the island of Lesvos, would no longer be trashed. Because the recycled clothes come from other people with similar backgrounds, DIRTY GIRLS could provide clothes to the arriving refugees with more appropriate styles, sizes and modesty levels than what was available with donated clothes.
LOCATION OF ACTIVITY:
Greece: DIRTY GIRLS uses commercial laundries in Lesvos, Athens and Northern Greece.
DESCRIBE THE SOLUTION (what actions did they take, resources they used):
There was a distinct shift in attracting donor attention because:
- It’s fun: the name Dirty Girls was attached to the project and it was promoted as a humanitarian and environmental group with an element of fun in a milieu fraught with distressing emotions and sometimes fear.
- A Simple Purpose: DG is a humanitarian organization with a strong environmental imperative doing a very simple and UNIVERSAL thing: Washing and recycling materials. So people can IDENTIFY with them and they can know exactly how their donations are spent.
- Find your Spokesperson: Dirty Girls quickly received a lot of worldwide media attention, which was noticed not only by people who came to volunteer, but also by various celebrities who sometimes gave large donations.
- Build a community: Volunteer identify with the simple cause and branding and go back home and hold fundraisers or approach companies for donations. Lush, the ethical cosmetic company, gave a generous donation from their Charity Pot. (And also had a Dirty Girls Moisturizer for a while).
IMPACT IN NUMBERS (How many people benefiting from this solution? How many deliveries did they make? How many classes? How many meals cooked?):
Founder Alison Terry-Evans and her small team have
- saved over 500 tons of clothing and blankets from landfills. Traditionally the UNHCR blankets are thrown away after being used. Washed to hospital standards and recycled for €3 each, it cost less than replacing them for €6 or more each. So far, Dirty Girls has saved UNHCR donors and tax payers over €1,000,000
- Over 1,000 volunteers from over 20 countries have so far joined Dirty Girls as humanitarian and environmental aid workers, either exclusively or in collaboration with other organisations
- Dirty Girls provides washing powder each week for 3,000 people to wash their clothes because people are now staying for extended periods in camps, and they are able to wash their own clothes in hand basins.
- They are working with small NGOs that are moving families from the unacceptable conditions of camps into apartments. Dirty Girls purchases washing machines for apartments.
- Created a funding stream through the up cycling of material from life jackets. Sewn by local women
- At any given time, twelve Greek people have been employed by Dirty Girls
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
A catchy name with clear, safe and simple missions that address environment, humanitarian and social needs.
A simple purpose that anyone can do or understand: This created a sense of empathy among supporters - anyone can be a Dirty Girl for recycling!
A website and social media were carefully constructed to attract attention. Invest a small amount in sponsored posts!
WHY IS IT A SMART AID?
- EFFICIENCY: DG saved UNHCR over a million euros by washing their blankets and they efficiently gather, wash and redistributed clothes to camps on Lesvos that needed cultural and weather appropriate clothes that were not being delivered from donations. That is proper recycling.
- DIGNITY: Clean & culturally appropriate clothes make a huge difference on people’s psychology. They also always employ locals as a way to put the investment back into the local struggling economy.
- COLLABORATION: is fundamental to the success of DG who depend on other volunteers and NGOs to give them access to discarded garments. Collaboration with UNHCR for the blanket washing has been difficult.
- SCALABILITY: DG had to adapt to the changing needs of refugees and small organizations once the boats stopped arriving on the island. They started working more with blankets and sleeping bags from the 50 camps created all over Greece and distributing laundry detergent.