This year marks the 11th anniversary of Equal Exchange’s Fundraising Program! The program started with Virginia Berman, a co-owner and the Organizing Director at Equal Exchange at the time. One of the roles of the Organizing Department was to find supporters of Equal Exchange and provide them with the resources to spread the word about authentic Fair Trade, and conscious consumerism.
Equal Exchange’s Organizing Team began receiving requests from parents for a fundraising catalog. Some parents had been fundraising on their own with Equal Exchange products, but many parents had trouble convincing their PTAs to choose Equal Exchange without the benefit of a traditional catalog.
In response to requests, an entrepreneurial member of the Organizing team, Julia Khodebandeh put together Equal Exchange’s first fundraising catalog and the school fundraising program was born! Equal Exchange co-director Rob Everts, was excited to reach a younger audience and create educational resources for teachers and parents to use alongside the fundraiser.
The first catalog included just four products: two coffees and two cocoas! Still, the program gained momentum right away through word of mouth. Parents talked to other parents, shared the Equal Exchange mission, and the program kept growing! By year four, it was thriving.
Through the years, the catalog and program expanded, largely in part to strong relationships with like-minded organizations and groups. Two relationships that were integral to the success of the program were with the Montessori Schools and the New York State United Teachers. Both relationships helped us reach new groups of individuals and helped put our shared social justice mission into action. These relationships helped us boost our sense of purpose and fine tune the educational aspects of our program. We were also very lucky to have partnered with Ten Thousand Villages for six years, offering fairly traded crafts as part of our fundraising catalog. With this partnership, we were able to offer communities more ways to support farmers and artisans through their purchases.
One of the best aspects about the fundraising program is that it is constantly innovating! Over the last 11 years, the program has never been stagnant — we are always thinking of new ways to help make fundraising easier for our customers and to keep things fresh and exciting.
We’re proud to offer a fundraising option for schools and groups that they can feel good about bringing to their communities. In particular, we’re pleased to offer parents and educators tools to help introduce their students to the important concepts of Fair Trade, conscious consumerism, climate change, gender equality, income equality, and so much more.
While thinking about the future, we continue to ask ourselves how can we get to the next level and establish a greater presence in the fundraising world. We also continue to ask ourselves how we can improve our process to make things easier for participants. Beyond that, we hope to reach new audiences and create more incentives, materials, and guides for the groups that are currently using our program.
One idea that we are interested in bringing back is the creation of a fundraising advisory team, made up of parents and administrators who will gather ideas and provide us with insights about what their schools, friends, children, and community are looking for out of this fundraiser.
Thank you to Virginia Berman and Rob Everts for reflecting on the past 11 years of the program with me! I started in this position about a year and a half ago, so it was a great experience to learn more about its beginnings, how it has changed throughout the years, and what they would like to see in the program’s future.
Virginia Berman has moved on from Equal Exchange and has created her own organization called Invent Boston. One of the inspirations for her starting her own company was experiencing the everyday challenges of running a home, with jam packed schedules. Here is a information about her first product, Toothbrush Timer, a Two Minute Turtle, which was created to make brushing teeth easier for children and parents. You can find out more about her organization on her website. We wish her well!