Sweeten the Pot

Coaxing small charities
into the World of Online Giving

Happy Memories
Dr. Michael Prior C.M. taught me to play poker in the rather grand setting of the library of Strawberry Hill, an important stately home in its day, now a Catholic University. Despite the fact that this was the very room where poker was introduced into England, our stakes were embarrassing small; no-one at our table ever lost their shirt and we would have been hard pressed to loose even a handkerchief! However, Michael, always a flamboyant player, would announce that he was going “to sweeten the pot” and, with all the bravura of of one dropping a king’s ransom, add a single pound coin to the pile of pennies on the table. If his intention was to win by intimidation, it generally failed; his sweetened pot generally ended up in someone else’s pocket. I think Michel enjoyed our parody of high stakes poker more than the game itself. That was 30 years ago, and I have hardly played poker since, but whenever I hear of of “sweetening the pot” I am reminded of laughter, self mockery, and the companionship of a good man who in his professional capacity was thought, wrongly, to be quite stern.

BRICKS’ new Direction
Today, the memory of those games has suggested the title for a BRICKS project with a much more serious purpose.. In the last few years, China’s domestic fundraising opportunities have improved so rapidly that BRICKS has been concentrating on helping local groups raise their own money locally. The results have been quite amazing, but it also showed a problem. The smaller groups, often faith based, and toiling in rural isolation, still struggle to realize that via the internet, they can play with the big boys. They don’t quite get, and if they do they are too scared to take advantage of, the fact that all of China is now their oyster. Coaxing these groups out of their comfort zone is harder than I imagined. Poverty, limited experience, and an deep seated sense of inferiority derived from of being on the wrong side of an urban rural divide, means they are reluctant to take the place prepared for them at the “internet table”. To help them, we have set up a crowd funding platform, with lots of hand holding and an incentive to help them to realize the rewards of using the Internet to raise much needed funds for their work.

A carrot and a lot of hand holding
The hand holding is done by a new crowd funding platform“Lezhu” (think Chinese son of BRICKS). It is not dissimilar to ones you may be familiar with, but they do a lot of coaching on how to manage an appeal, rewrite the “ask” etc. Much more coaching than a standard crowd funding platform will do! The “sweeten the pot” incentive is BRICKS part The idea is to provide a “pot” so that when a small charity generates a domestic donation using the Lezhu platform, BRICKS will add a matching amount “to sweeten the pot”. We are finding that this extra incentive is enough to coax these hesitant local groups to seize the opportunity that the internet represents. Our hope is that once they see the results, they won’t need further encouragement and the “pot” won’t be necessary.

You too can play
Fr. Prior’s poker games never lived up to the expectation of the room in which we played. However, every time I think of “sweetening the pot” I have only happy memories of a good time. My hope is that this appeal, will give you a an equally warm memory. You don’t need to be a poker player to participate in our “Sweeten the Pot” appeal. You don’t need any skill with cards (other than a credit card!). You do need, however, a heart for the poor in China, and those small groups toiling away in impossible circumstances. The 7 groups in this Chritmas’ Appeal and they attend to the needs of a wide range of people, from children to isolated seniors, from blind people to people living with AIDS. The common denominator is that they are struggling to adjust to the potential of the Web, and your donation can give them the boost they need to be self confident players at the big boys table and help BRICKS fulfill its ambition to
                           build a great wall of charity in China, BRICK by BRICK

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