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If you’ve seen grown men and women getting around in a school uniform lately it’s quite possible they are fundraisers for One Girl’s ‘Do It In A Dress’ campaign, which is turning heads as much as the charity itself. One Girl – which aims to educate 1 million girls across Africa – was co-founded by Chantelle Baxter and David Dixon in 2009 after meeting a young girl in West Africa begging for the $40 it would cost for her to attend school. Since then the charity has awarded 326 scholarships to girls and enabled education for thousands more across Sierra Leone and Uganda, and Baxter, who recently passed on the CEO baton, was named one of Melbourne's Top 100 Most Influential People by The Age.
Much of One Girl’s appeal, along with its essential plight, is the youthful energy of the organisation, so beautifully illustrated in its website and, particularly, its blog. Communications Manager Larissa Ocampo has put together a platform for both heart-wrenching stories and funny tales and by the time you’ve finished reading it, you’re pulling out your wallet. We chat to her about being the company’s wordsmith and the importance of content for drawing in online donations.
One Girl started in 2009 and we were very lucky that Chantelle – our co-founder – came from a web design and communications background, so while lots of charities find their feet with their website a bit later, we had a website and the blog from the very beginning.
I came on board three years in. Our two co-founders pretty much managed the first three years by themselves, working without pay full time to get One Girl off the ground. It wasn’t until 2013 that they started bringing staff on board and I was one of the first people they hired. It was pretty much a passion project for them as One Girl wasn’t earning enough for them to pay themselves so they were definitely doing it out of a deep passion and desire to see it grow into a sustainable organisation but it was always their dream to grow it to a point where they could bring on a team and that’s where they got it on so that’s great. I was a media and communications grad. One Girl was my first gig out of uni, which has been just amazing.
I don’t feel like I have an average day! Because our team is still quite small our roles are quite varied – we all wear multiple hats throughout the day. I do all of our comms so that includes different aspects of the website, social media [Facebook, Twitter and Instagram], the blog, and any PR stuff that comes up for our campaigns.
We try to have as many voices as possible on it so I encourage all of our staff members to write, as well as our Ambassadors, our fundraising team, our volunteers. I think it’s really special when you’re able to bring in different perspectives.
The content that gets the most traction and traffic and shares are the ones that are really personal. My blog post about my trip to Sierra Leone was one of our most liked this year and I think the reason that stood out was because it was such a personal story; it was difficult for me to write but I think it’s important to allow vulnerability into writing. People are bombarded with stats and facts and personal stories can cut through that and resonate with people.
Of course, a catchy title doesn’t hurt. I read somewhere that you should spend as much time on the title as the story and we do try to grab people’s attention because we know that there’s so much information clogging their feeds!
When Chantelle and Dave started One Girl they were both very young, and that was definitely part of the draw of the organisation: that they were two young people who weren’t coming from the not-for-profit sector but rather identified a problem and wanted to do something about it. And that carried through in the way they ran the organisation and through all the comms. Now we still are a young and a small charity and so are perhaps in a unique position to do things a bit differently and, I think, push the boundaries.
We see the blog as a way to engage our community. We know that a lot of people read the blog and that that was their way in to the organisation. We don’t have a big budget to spend on paid advertising so our main driver of traffic to the website is content. Rather than see that as a weakness we like to see it as a strength because we can share stories and we have really great ones.
It’s also great to share what we’re up to so that people who have been involved with – helping with fundraising, for example – can see the school that has been built as a result of that, a couple of years later. It’s great to share our victories as well as our challenges and even failures.
The overwhelming majority of our donations happen online. We do have some schools and organisations that send cheques to us because that’s the way they’re set up but most are through the website. So the website is so important, not just in keeping people engaged but bringing the money in as well.
It’s been really great. Before, we were using Paypal and it was clunky and we weren’t able to manage receipts and track donors ongoing so it’s been a much better solution for us.
The way everything is moving, you really need to be producing great content. I think it’s really important to know your audience – we’ve sort of worked out what our audience likes but what works for us might not work for a different charity with a different voice or a different demographic it’s reaching. And as I mentioned I think personal stories are really powerful – not being afraid to be a little more vulnerable and a little more human.
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