“Walk for a Smile”: How to raise P2.4 million in two weeks

Does anybody know how I can cash this check?

by Anthony O. Alcantara

I wish it were that easy. Raising P2.4 million for myself in two weeks would be just awesome. But raising that amount for something that is selfless is easier, though still very challenging.

Recently, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) held its annual anniversary walk to raise some money for charity. In the past years, PLDT donated a certain amount for every employee who joined the anniversary walk, or the PLDT Lakaran.

The PLDT Lakaran is a 5.2 kilometer walk from the PLDT main office at Ramon Cojuangco Building on Makati Avenue in Makati City to the PLDT Innolab on Boni Avenue in Mandaluyong City.

The money usually went to the PLDT Smart Foundation (PSF), which manages several corporate social responsibility projects.

This year, however, was different. PLDT’s new human resources head, Butch Jimenez, wanted to make a greater impact. So instead of donating the money to the PSF, whose projects may not be that apparent to many PLDT employees, the HR team, who was in charge of the event, decided to target a specific charity: Operation Smile. P1 million was the goal.

Operation Smile is an organization that offers free reconstructive surgery for poor children born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

And instead of PLDT donating all the money, employees were encouraged to donate their own money, too. As it turned out, the bulk of the donations came from the employees. The campaign was so successful that PLDT even exceeded the P1 million target, raising P2.4 million in just two weeks.

So how did PLDT do it?

I’m not exactly sure but here are some thoughts:

1. In order to encourage people to donate, the goal must be big and selfless. The original goal was to raise only P1 million. That’s a big goal considering that the amount is hard to come by even for established charities with tried and tested mechanisms and systems for fundraising.

In the past, PLDT has donated around P300,000 only, though there were probably times when it exceeded that amount. It’s way below P1 million, though. PLDT employees donated nothing. They just showed up and that’s it.

So it’s big, all right. But is it selfless? Yes, I think so. Families of young children with cleft lip and palate can’t even afford to eat three times a day, much less an operation that costs P12,500.

Butch Jimenez, in his speech, said these kids, if not operated on, just don’t have the chance to get the jobs and the breaks in life. Who would hire them? A saint without biases and prejudices? A person mature enough to know that looks don’t matter?

This project can change lives indeed.

We don't know what these signs really mean, but they look cool. From left: Jun, Adrian, me and Sennen.

2. The second factor that probably contributed to the event’s success is the tight deadline. Why? I think the very tight deadline actually kindled excitement and a sense of urgency that galvanized people into action.

Two weeks should have been unrealistic. There were already internal advertisements about the anniversary walk months before, with the usual activities and raffle. Nothing spectacular or exciting at all.

I’ve come across the Parkinson’s Law in Tim Ferris’s book entitled “4-Hour Workweek.” At first I thought it was related to Parkinson’s disease. But it was a different Parkinson. And a different topic altogether.

Postulated by British naval historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

That means if you set a goal of two years, it will get done in two years. But if you set a goal for two months, it will get done in two months. And if you set a goal for two weeks. It will get done in two weeks.

I can relate. In college, I have written a report that a teacher gave us a week to finish in only one day.

There are limits, though. But the idea is that people tend to focus on the essential when the deadline is tight.

3. Another thing that probably helped PLDT reach its goal is the way they jazzed it up. Good design and layout were employed for the online announcements, streamers and brochures. It was colorful and bright. Pictures of poor children with cleft lip and palate were also used to great effect.

It would have been better if the names of specific beneficiaries were used. However, Operation Smile has yet to screen beneficiaries, who will be scheduled for operation in February 2011.

Anyway, this tactic has been employed in many campaigns in the past. People tend to take action if there are specific people involved. They’re not just helping poor children with cleft lip and palate. They’re helping Sara, a four-year old with a cute puppy who dreams of going to school and someday become a well-known singer.

Aside from that, instead of the generic PLDT Lakaran, it was called “Walk for a Smile,” a catchy title that encapsulates what the event is all about and who will benefit from it.

I "stole" a placard so we can have our picture taken. From left: Jun, Annie, Rochelle, me and Adrian.

4. What do I get? That’s probably what some people asked themselves. It can be a good idea to address this question beforehand. And even if many other people were not expecting anything in return, they’d appreciate getting something, anything actually.

Experts in persuasion have said that giving people something, no matter how small, predisposes them to grant you favors.

So what did the organizing team do? They announced that those who donate a certain amount will be given a CD by Martin and Pops. It doesn’t matter whether people like Martin or Pops. I love Martin. I hate Pops. But I know I’ll get something.

Aside from that, those who donated higher amounts were included in a special raffle. The prizes included entertainment packages, TVs, DVD players, etc. Limited t-shirts were also given to the first 1,000 employees who pledged their donations.

With all the efforts of the organizing team, PLDT was able to exceed its P1 million goal. And that’s why Operation Smile gets P1 million for the 82 kids, and PSF also gets additional funding for its various projects.

Indeed PLDT has proven that the impossible is the new possible.


(If you want to know more about Operation Smile or help the organization with its mission, visit http://www.operationsmile.org/)


2 Responses to ““Walk for a Smile”: How to raise P2.4 million in two weeks”

  1. What a great story! Cleft lips and palates can be so detrimental to children, especially those in underdeveloped countries who don’t have the resources to get such medical issues fixed.

    I agree – Operation Smile is an amazing organization. If you can help, this is a great cause. Donate to children today!

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