What This Woman Wants For Her 30th Birthday Will Help Her Save The World
Thirtieth birthday parties are typically spent in the company of friends and family, eating cake, drinking wine, and lamenting the passage of time (at least, that's what the episode of Friends where they all turn 30 taught me). But entrepreneur and world traveler Mallory Brown is spending hers a little differently. Following through on the challenge she laid out for herself and others during a TED talk last year, Brown is spending her 30th birthday working to save the world. On June 21st, Brown's 30th birthday celebration will begin in Ethiopia with 30 other female entrepreneurs, working together toward a goal of raising $30,000 through the CrowdRise 24 Hour Impact Project.
Ethiopia is not Brown's first venture into philanthropy. For the past year, Brown has traveled all over the world, fundraising and empowering communities across the globe by targeting small communities that need financial support through an international network of humanitarian organizations. Since she began working with CrowdRise, a social media platform for charitable giving, Brown has completed eight 24-hour "flash fundraisers," which have raised a collective $120,000. Both the fundraising and service portions of the project are completed on consecutive days, and everything is filmed and uploaded to the project's CrowdRise page right away, so that donors can see how their contributions are making an immediate impact.
Using this model, Brown worked to secure medical treatment for children in Honduras, helped the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake earlier this year, and provided school supplies and playground equipment for a community in Mexico. Brown is pioneering a new kind of charity, based online and making the most of the internet's ability to bring people together.
Brown's dedication to philanthropy stems from her childhood in Detroit. "During my childhood, [Detroit] suffered many economic and racial issues which opened my eyes to income divides and unfair prejudice," she says. After Brown graduated from Albion College in 2008, she made her way back to her hometown, which was hitting rock bottom following of the collapse of the auto industry. But Brown saw how the city was still great, and knew how to make it even greater. One of her most successful 24 Hour Impact Projects raised over $27,000 to build a new park, the permanent home for a weekly barbecue for the homeless community in Detroit. "The city's new spirit of revitalization is incredibly strong," she says. "Everyone is looking forward, focused on improvement. That attitude supports my mission."
"Philanthropy is becoming more and more a part of everyday life."
Brown found additional support for her philanthropic goals working with CrowdRise, which was founded by brothers Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe. The brothers started Moosejaw, a specialty clothing online retailer, and partnered with Brown's World Clothes Line, a company she started in 2010 which gives clothing to people in need with every purchase. When the Wolfes started CrowdRise, they needed someone to embody the active, interpersonal philanthropy that the site advocated. For Robert, the clear choice was Brown.
"We went to [Brown] to see if she would be interested in really partnering on this program. I am her biggest fan," says CrowdRise CEO Robert Wolfe. "She's really charismatic. People gravitate to her." But Brown doesn't accomplish her goals through personality alone — she's got a nearly unparalleled business acumen which makes all of her work possible. "I couldn't come close to pulling off these kind of campaigns that [Brown] does ... She's good at it. They get better and better every time. She's got the whole package, and she's relentless about it," Wolfe says.
Brown says that the generosity and hospitality of those she encounters is part of what keeps her going during the long, emotional trips. "The kindness that people have shown me while I'm traveling is a constant inspiration," she says. "A family in Sudan invited me into their home when I was in desperate need of a shower. A man in Costa Rica drove me an hour out of his way when my car broke down. A mother and daughter let me stay in their guest bedroom for three weeks after the earthquake hit in Nepal." It's this connection with people which seems to drive Brown's unceasing momentum, and it's the fuel with which she hopes to power a digital charity revolution.
Brown's philanthropy is transforming with the help of social media, which enables people to build a community around their charitable donations and makes giving back as simple as tapping an app. "Philanthropy is becoming more and more a part of everyday life," Brown says. "Now we can see a hungry child in Kenya like he is in our own backyard. We can donate money on our phones before getting out of bed in the morning." The combination of broadcasting immediate results and utilizing a social platform that connects like-minded donors is part of the recipe for Brown's success, and a big part of the reason she won't be stopping any time soon.
Since Brown's life is dedicated to service and philanthropy, it makes sense that she decided not to have a traditional birthday celebration. Her 30th birthday could have been an opportunity to relax and take a moment for herself, but that just wasn't going to cut it. Instead, she decided to undergo her biggest, most challenging project yet, and raise $30,000 to help 30 Ethiopian women become entrepreneurs like herself.
One of the most helpful and convincing aspects of Brown's projects are the full cost breakdowns, which are readily available on each project page and show exactly how the money raised will be spent to help those in need. In Ethiopia, the fundraising will go toward providing equipment and training for the women to raise livestock, mill grain, and open a beauty salon. Brown notes that the larger community will be positively impacted by this project, not just the 30 women.
"This is to give them an income, which will boost the local economy," Brown says. "They will start to send their children to school, which will educate them to pursue new opportunities. These women will feed their families more nutritious food which will prevent many health issues. The entire community's standard of living will be elevated, which will spread to the next village, and so on."
Brown says philanthropy is her own true passion, which explains how she works non-stop, but believes that anyone can pursue a philanthropic lifestyle if they remember what's most important. "See people for their best attributes," she says. "Find meaning in helping others. Put yourself out there, and trust in the goodness of people - both those you are helping on the ground and those supporting you back home."
Perhaps gratitude is another key, since that's what shines through most when Brown talks about her work. "I have the best job on the planet. I travel the world to help people. It's absolutely incredible."
Images: Ryan Doyle, Video Vision 360