Home Behind the brand Taking Lessons: Chairman of Gift Global Initiative, Keith Kirkwood

Taking Lessons: Chairman of Gift Global Initiative, Keith Kirkwood

by Out and About Mag.

Tell us about your charity, Gift Global Initiative? 

GIFT is a nonprofit charitable organisation advocating and serving the needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families, with a particular focus on children, in some of the most deprived areas on the planet. We believe in preventive measures to strengthen the family unit, which further allows the children to have a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm.

What made you want to get involved with charity work and why Gift Global Initiative?  

As Diplomats, we travel to many parts of the world. When we visited countries that were considered developing, we asked ourselves why they have been stuck in the “developing” phase for so many years. The World Bank has given these countries millions of dollars to boost the economy and help families prosper. We found out that most of the money stays at the top and doesn’t make its way to the ones who need it most. So, we decided that we are going to do something different—not write checks to foreign governments and or villages—but instead bring exactly what is needed directly to the people: cutting out the waste, fraud, and abuse while respecting our donor dollars.

What is your vision for Gift Global Initiative?

 Our vision is to continue to expand GIFT into the most vulnerable areas of our planet and reach the highest number of families by building initiatives such as sustainable housing, renewable energy, clean water, schools for the children, and mobile clinics for the communities. We want to create jobs for these communities so that they can eventually become self-sustaining places with healthy homes.

The other goal is to educate corporations, governments and individuals about the importance of nonprofits in the larger scheme of things. It is also important to teach other nonprofits structured ways to build their organisations. Many wonderful people have nonprofits, many who are even using their own money to help others, that need proper guidance, structure, and strategy.

What motivates you?

The ability to know that we can make a real difference inspires me. When we see families that don’t have food or are using a bucket for a toilet, it’s hard not to want to help. We have been able to lift families out of poverty by giving them the tools today to succeed for tomorrow and providing a hand up—not a handout.

What’s your most successful programme so far, and why? 

All of our programmes are successful because we start them and it is what the area/people are asking for and need. 

Currently, our GIFT of Solar Initiative is my personal favourite because it does so many things—it provides light to families, schools, and communities. It provides the right tool for education for the kids; it provides hospitals with a cheap source of electricity that enables to cut cost and allocate that money to serving the communities. You won’t believe how cheap solar-powered lights are. A $15 donation can bring light to a home; a $50 donation can bring a solar stove to the family.

The other hot favourite is the Clean Water Initiative. With a silver-based water purification, we are doing the following:

  • Eliminating open defecation for the nearly 900 million people who continue to lack even the most rudimentary sanitation.
  • Bringing clean water, sanitation and hygiene within reach of the most disadvantaged.
  • Supporting progress for those who already have basic services, but still don’t have truly safe drinking water or adequate sanitation.

What are the main obstacles that stand between you and your mission, and how do you plan to overcome them?

The greatest obstacle we face would be funding for all these incredible initiatives. People have a general distrust towards charities and hold nonprofits to greater scrutiny than they would hold a private business. They also have an unrealistic demand that nonprofits should not pay their executives. We want to debunk this thought process, establish trust and transparency with our donors and be able to sustain the charitable work by making sure that our employees can pay their bills, take care of their families, and sustain the good they are trying to do out in the field. You can’t just expect people to spend days and weeks in the most deplorable horrific environments helping children and families while they are themselves getting evicted back home. 

It takes a lot of work to be in the field, to fundraise, to carry out public relations and to travel. So, the biggest obstacle is time.

What would make the most significant difference in helping your organisation get better at what it does?

Engagement from the private sector. Companies typically donate to larger nonprofits purely based on branding. We want social entrepreneurs to think hard about making a change to their corporate giving by including grassroots authentic nonprofits in their annual giving. We would love to speak with the employees to steer employee engagement through matching gifts and other such policies. Remember, 75% of millennials show brand loyalty to businesses with a social cause attached to them.

We would also like more engagement from media outlets, newspapers, and magazines such as yourself, who can steer the conversation in the right direction on a much larger platform and help us reach and serve more people.

Is there anything that you wish more people knew about your organisation or the issues you are trying to solve?

Yes, absolutely. Having spent 15 years fundraising for nonprofits who focus on working with victims (of any sort), we can without a doubt guarantee you that PREVENTION is the right way to go. The more resources we invest in prevention, the better it will be for our families and eventually the entire planet. To put that into simple words, why do you want a child to go through any kind of exploitation if you can stop it and remove the child from harm’s way? That is the essence of what we focus on at GIFT.

The media covering this type of work tend to overlook this genre—which is sad—because it can bring people together and make the planet a better place, instead of dividing it.

Where do you see Gift Global Initiative in the next ten years? 

We will be in additional countries. Without losing a sense of our identity, mission, and humanity, we would love to expand into every area that needs a hand up.

How can more people get involved?  

Follow us on social media. 

Instagram: GiftglobalInitiative – KeithKirkwood1 and MannaDabholkar 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GIFTORG.US/

Website: www.giftglobalinitiative.org 

What is your message to people who want to work for a charity, but are unsure, due to financial constraints?

Working with a charity doesn’t always have to be a financial hit. People can initially volunteer time, expertise, services, and get to see the inner workings of the nonprofit before they commit to it completely. Join an existing nonprofit, one that is in your area of interest. You must be extremely passionate and persistent about charitable work as it is what moves others to get involved and make a difference. So pick a charity that is close to your heart and start by volunteering.

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