In 2014, founders of Adım Adım (Step by Step) Itir Erhart and Renay Onur were selected as finalists for the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize. As per the criteria for the award, they had demonstrated remarkable leadership, creativity and results in developing a philanthropy model to encourage others to support NGOs and progressive social change efforts in Turkey.
While they were not selected as the final prize winners, coming so far in the process not only inspired Erhart and Onur further; it gave them more ideas and inspiration for how to expand their efforts to promote individual philanthropy in Turkey and beyond.
So what has happened since then and where are they now? To start, Erhart and Onur were selected as Ashoka Fellows – a prestigious recognition for their accomplishments to date, as well as a vote of confidence for the potential to scale their work.
Click here to watch the Ashoka video where Erhart and Onur talk about their work and their aspirations.
They have decided to pursue the idea of scaling in three main areas:
- encouraging more NGOs to use charity running programmes for fundraising
- creating systems to strengthen the local philanthropic infrastructure and promote individual giving
- sharing their model with other developing/emerging market countries
Aware of the limitations of NGOs relying solely on Adım Adım for charity run fundraising, Erhart, Onur and their team developed a toolkit for NGOs so that they can independently organize charity runs and promote charity running among their donors. Their next step is to create a toolkit for runners themselves on how to achieve a successful marathon fundraising campaign. Their aim is to increase both the number of NGOs using this tool and the number of runners keen to raise funds for social change. They have already found a sponsor and signed an agreement with Salesforce to create a crowdfunding site just for charity running. This platform will help Turkish NGOs better utilize charity running as a fund- and friend-raising tool, and also allow runners to enjoy this experience more.
Throughout the process of vetting and selecting NGOs to raise funds for, and engaging thousands of donors to channel funds to them, Adım Adım began to recognize the need and critical importance of promoting greater accountability and transparency. A basic survey of their community of around 50 runners revealed that donations were made to 24 organizations (with about 7 organizations comprising over half of the funds raised).
Following this, Adım Adım checked websites to determine whether organizations were reporting their financials publicly. The result was not so uplifting: 40 per cent of these organizations were not sharing financials on their sites. Yet, when they called the NGOs to talk to them about this, 35 per cent expressed appreciation for their efforts and said they would be sharing this information. This has led to two concrete actions: first, creation of a Turkish version of the ‘Donors’ Bill of Rights’, thus raising awareness among donors about their own rights to transparency, among other things. Second, they decided not only to create a web platform but to explore how to develop a system that can promote greater transparency among NGOs.
All of these efforts are leading Adım Adım to move beyond simply acting as a charity run platform. They are now moving into the space of building a more robust infrastructure for philanthropy in Turkey, as they also begin to explore how this model can be applied in other countries with similar profiles – with low numbers of runners as well as low levels of individual giving. They call this new initiative ‘Open Open’ (Açık Açık in Turkish).
These are indeed exciting and inspiring developments, another testament to the value of the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize in promoting the visibility and engagement of efforts to promote giving in emerging markets.
Click here to read all about this year’s finalists. The winner will be announced in early October.
Filiz Bikmen is a social investment and philanthropy adviser and also serves as the senior programme officer for Turkey at EMpower Emerging Markets Foundation.