In Jo's Blog

There is always a story, isn’t there? This one began when we welcomed Ritesh Gupta into the Foundation. Ritesh was a Vodafone World of Difference volunteer and I thought about him as I do about all volunteers: Maybe. Maybe not.

Don’t get me wrong. We have had many, many, many amazing volunteers. But just being willing to come and work with us for a few weeks or months is no guarantee of anything and I would be a sad team leader if I didn’t know that.

So I welcomed Ritesh knowing full well that he might end up being a forgettable chap – well-meaning, but forgettable.

Well. Not. Ritesh was one of our stars. The darling of our team. Talented. Loving. A person who truly wanted to make a difference in the world. And he did just that in our world.

And because he was from Vodafone, he also brought with him a whole train of connections and possibilities. One of the features of accepting a Vodafone volunteer was that we were automatically entered into its fundraising challenge – a fact I realized late in the game.

I had thought that the fundraising was internal, that each Vodafone group was meant to raise money for its designated NGO. I had no idea that anybody could participate. Our assigned group was the Gujarat Circle. So I went all the way to Ahmedabad to inspire and rouse the troops – and they responded! After my visit, donations increased significantly.

But we still remained in 4th place overall – the Gujarat Circle had raised around 2.3 lakhs, while the top contender was the Kerala Circle with 3.85. It didn’t seem possible that we could overtake them. Then one day – just three days before the end of the whole competition – we got word that not only Vodafone employees could donate. Anyone  could.

We swung into action.

Dear Friends! (I wrote on my Facebook wall)

Vodafone has included the Latika Roy Foundation in its World of Difference program and so far, its Gujarat Circle of Employees has raised over two lakhs ($5000) for us. We are now in the running for a matching grant from Vodafone itself, provided we move to first position in the race – a race that ends the day after tomorrow. We are currently 4th, but the difference between the 4 top contenders is marginal. PLEASE support us! Follow the link below and give whatever you can. The money will go into our building fund – how amazing if we could start construction for the state-of the art centre we have been dreaming of for so long! Please do it now! We have only two days left, so there is no time to stop and think. Quick! Straight from the heart!!! Lots of love to all of you!

A sweet, simple Facebook appeal. But look what happened!

Rs 25K raised in less than an hour!!!! Let’s keep it up folks!!!

We could hardly believe it. Yet more was on its way!

Thanks so much to Vina Srivastava for her generous donation to the Latika Roy Foundation Building Fund! Excelsior!

In almost no time, small donations began pouring in. Rs 1000 x 10, Rs, 500 x 25 . . .

Hey Guys!!! We are almost there! You have all been amazingly generous – we’ve surged to 2nd place and have a very strong chance of winning. Tomorrow is the last day – all we need is another Rs. 41K. To all our India-based friends: rupees are now the currency of choice. Foreign donations take a day or two to process. Rupees go right through. Please do make a donation – right now, if possible! 40 K and we will be over the top and eligible for up to five lakhs as a matching grant!

The adrenalin was pumping. Maybe it WAS possible. We were all glued to our computers. Refresh! Refresh! We couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

All we need now is Rs 37,000 and we will win the matching grant!!!!! Almost there, but you must act TODAY! Calling all holders of a few spare rupees! This is your chance to really make a huge difference to the Latika Roy Foundation!!! At this point, even a small donation will be a huge help. But you must act NOW. Today is our last chance!!!!

We were in different rooms in our office, shouting the news out with glee as one person’s internet connection went a little faster than the others and she or he got the latest total first.

You can watch the excitement here. What I love about the Latika Roy Foundation’s effort???? Look at the number of individual donors!!!! More than DOUBLE anyone else’s and we are now in second place. Proof positive of the difference each individual makes. Today is our chance to be the change. To donate, see the link below this post. I love you all!!!

The response was truly a joy to behold. It came in waves from the different continents where our friends are scattered. We could see the totals rise depending on time zones: Jack Young is waking up in California. There’s Asha Pai-Sethi rising in London. Now India is awake again.

You guys are AMAZING!!!! We are inching our way to the top – just Rs 25K to go now. Please give!

But now for a little more drama. The ending of the contest coincided with the last session of the Dasra training which was how we got into this Vodafone lark in the first place. So right at the HEIGHT of the frenzy, I had to fly to Delhi and then to Mumbai . . . out of touch and offline for several hours.

It was harrowing. I was on a direct flight from Dehradun to Mumbai, but it stopped in Delhi for 20 minutes to load more passengers –  long enough for me to check the latest tallies and post my response on facebook:

Incredible!!!! Just Rs 18K to go and we are golden!!!

And just before the stewardess came to glare at me for the third time, the total went up again:

WHEEEE!!! I cannot get over this! We now need only Rs 10K to go!!!! What an outpouring of support!!! You all are simply MARVELOUS!!!

I reached Mumbai and even before going to get my luggage, I got online again to check. Only Rs 1000 since Delhi??? But still, spur the troops on:

Countdown!!!! 9K to go. We can do it!!!!

In the taxi to Vibha’s place, I kept checking. Not only online, I kept getting regular text messages from Sumita and Ritesh who were in just as much of a frenzy as I was. When they sent me the latest tally, I posted on facebook again:

Edge of seat time! We need only 8K now and we win this thing!!!! How ridiculous if we let this chance slip away! A matching grant for our building fund! Just picture our kids walking in to a state of the art building that BELONGS TO THEM!!! 8 k, folks!!!

And suddenly, all in a whoosh, we moved up:

Latika Roy has surged ahead to first place!!!! But it’s not over till midnight when the fat lady sings. So don’t stop yet . . . (plus we still have one lakh to go to reach the matching grant limit – whatever you give will automatically double). My goodness! We are all trembling with the excitement here. What an amazing group you all are. We can feel your love and support coming to us like WAVES.

But then! Oh no!!! Our competition began to realize what was going on.

We are holding on to first place but Gourav Jaiswal, that sleeping giant, has woken and is now defending his spot. Oh no! What to do? I love him like a son.

The Kerala Circle, I later learned, was determined not to let go of their spot at the top. Their lead fundraiser swung into action himself, making calls and encouraging stragglers to donate TODAY. But we were on a roll:

Just broke through the 4 lakh barrier!!! Now at 407,353. Keep it up, team Latika!!!

417, 353!!!!!! There is such a thing as TOO MUCH excitement. Be still my heart.

Jack Young, one of our most faithful supporters, wrote to say: Do not lose this contest. My donation is taking longer to show up because of the foreign transaction lag, but I am good for whatever it takes for you to win. Put it in yourself and I will repay you when this is over. Noted! One of our fat cats with ready cash agreed to standby, ready to donate at the zero hour if it proved necessary.

OK, guys!!!! We are now up to 424,585. Our nearest “friend” is at 394,323. DO NOT RELAX. We need a full-out effort to get us up to the Five Lakh mark.

Three. Hours. Left. To. The. Midnight. Deadline. Go for broke!!!! 76K and we get the full Vodafone match!!!!

Now the organizations in 3rd and 4th place were also getting in on the act. It was brilliant! Our efforts spurred theirs and they too found donors they hadn’t reached out to before.

As the money is flowing in, many others are waking up and starting to fundraise too. The result is that everyone is raising money for their organizations now! Spark the Rise!

And then a series of tense, staccato updates – I was sitting in Vibha’s guest room, totaly exhausted, but unable to even think of sleeping until midnight:

In a sudden burst from behind, Gourav Jaiswal’s Agrini Samaj Kalyan Samiti is now only 261 rupees behind the Foundation. Redouble your efforts, troops!!!!!

43.4 to 42.9 – we are still ahead, but just barely!!!

90 minutes till showdown! Jack Young, are you watching????

And then it happened. With only an hour to go till the midnight deadline, the #2 group forged ahead of us:

Ok, kids. Our friends at Agrini Samaj Kalyan Samiti are now 20K AHEAD of us!!!! Someone is asleep at the wheel. Let’s rev it up again. No Stopping!!! We’ve come so far, so fast. Let’s see it right the way through.

Donations came slowly. We couldn’t close the gap.

45 minutes to go and we need at least 30K to be donated right now!!!!

But look!

OK!!! All I have to do is speak and it happens!!! Someone just donated 40K!!!! New total: 474,585 to 452,149 with us ahead by 22K.

By now, in that room at Vibha’s in Mumbai, I was at a fever-pitch of excitement. SO was Sumita in her house in Dehradun and Ritesh in our guest room at the CVT. We kept speaking by phone, squealing with nervous tension, venting and refreshing the page again and again.

We’ve got only 20 minutes left, people. One last chance to make a difference. We are going to win this. I can feel it in my bones (and there’s Devika Praveen’s “typical good feeling” too).

Then finally, when we thought we could no longer bear it another second:

12 midnight – all pages have expired and the Latika Roy Foundation is NUMBER ONE!!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of our dear friends for helping us do it. What a day!!!!!

As it turned out, we had actually raised 9.8 lakhs – all the donations which people sent from abroad but which didn’t clear by the deadline were counted. And all those people who tried to donate but got transaction failure notices (too much traffic on the site???) were also allowed to send their checks in by regular post. And, in another total surprise, Vodafone matched the entire amount, not just the five lakhs we had expected them to limit it to. So our total take from this very short burst of frenzy and amazement was 20 lakhs!!!!!

In real time, it was an incredible experience – cheered on from the sidelines by people from all over the world: former staff, volunteers, longtime friends and donors – everyone who knew and loved us seemed to be right there encouraging, supporting and rejoicing as we inched closer to the goal.

And, believe it or not, that was actually sweeter than the victory.

Showing 5 comments
  • Lori McFadyen

    Wow Jo! What a great story. Now I want to get a volunteer from Vodaphone…. :-)

  • sumita

    Great experience. It moves you from inside. The excitement really showed up in your write up. Thanks for making all of us a part of it.

  • Shaila Maria Faleiro

    I had goose pimples as I read this and tears in my eyes when I finished. It’s like you always said, ‘from wherever it is, that’s where it will come from’.

  • atul dutt

    Oh God! it was really a nail biting, photo finish thriller. If it is so exciting for a reader, what can we say (imagine) for the persons who were experiencing it live. Keep it up LRMF….hum honge kamyaab ek din….poora hai vishwas.

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