Giraffe Heroes Project 2013 Annual Report
MISSION & MEANS
The Giraffe Heroes Project moves people to stick their necks out
for the common good, and gives them tools to succeed.
The world needs people who stick their necks out for the common good, not letting obstacles stand in their way. The Giraffe Heroes Project has been a pioneer in finding and honoring such people. We call them “Giraffe Heroes.” They are men and women, young and old, from every ethnic and economic background and they are tackling every public problem you can think of, from environmental pollution to gang violence. Others see, hear or read these stories and are moved into action themselves, helping solve the public problems of most concern to them.
The Project's leaders write books, articles and blogs, and give speeches and workshops, offering people both the inspiration and practical tools they need to meet the community and global challenges they care about.
Since 1991, the Project has also been developing classroom materials that cover character development, service learning, civic engagement, experiential learning and literacy. Giraffe curricula help young people build lives as courageous and compassionate citizens. Using the compelling stories of Giraffe Heroes and a unique coaching framework developed for a wide age range, Giraffe programs have helped over 300,000 kids create and carry out their own initiatives to solve public problems of concern to them. In the process they learn critical academic and life skills, as well as how to play active and successful roles as citizens in their communities and beyond.
From a home office in Washington State, the Project has a global reach, via www.giraffe.org, www.facebook.com/giraffeheroes, its Heads Up e-zine, and from the on-the-ground activities of Giraffe Heroes International (see below).
I. A Summary of the Project’s Accomplishments in 2013
The Project is increasingly online, reaching far more people with far less expense. In 2013 we increased the pace of a huge program to create finished stories on every one of the 1,300 (and counting) Giraffe Heroes, and put them all in an online searchable database; we are now past the halfway point. We launched another multi-year program in 2013—to digitize our materials for schools and kids and put them up on our website for free downloading by teachers, youth leaders and parents. It’s Up to Us, our program for teens was first up and you can download it now, and its Teachers Guide, as an interactive, digital program at www.giraffe.org. That robust website, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a successful e-zine have steadily increased our impact in the world. Operations outside the US continued to grow in 2013, with the newest Giraffe affiliates in Egypt and Zimbabwe. The Project’s finances remain firmly in the black.
Honoring Giraffe Heroes & Telling Their Stories
• We honored 19 new Giraffe Heroes in 2013, bringing the total number of Giraffe Heroes honored since 1982 to over 1300. On the right, meet new Giraffe and a champion for the poor of Madison WI—Romilia Escobar-Diaz Schlueter.
• We put 236 more Giraffe Heroes’ stories, most with pictures, into an online searchable database on the Project’s website, making them instantly available to teachers, parents, kids, media—anybody who can get onto the Internet, anywhere in the world.
In this multi-year process, contractors have researched, written, and edited old paper files, updated the information online, and set up links so people can keep up with the Giraffes’ work. More stories are going online every day, in our Find-a-Hero database, free to people all over the world who find us via Google’s gift of free Giraffe ads.
We created a management system that catalogued mountains of archives, and that works as an operational tool to keep track of hundreds of stories in various stages of completion. The massive job is now about half finished. This online database is a key part of the Giraffe Project’s long-term gift to the world, a treasury of stories that can keep on inspiring and informing people everywhere, for as long as there’s an Internet.
Giraffe Programs in Schools & After School
• Giraffe curricula are going online! Thanks to an initial grant from the Kalliopeia Foundation, in 2013 we began a multi-year program to digitize virtually all of the components of the Giraffe Heroes Program, our nationally recognized character development, service-learning and civic engagement curriculum. The idea is to add interactive elements and put the resulting digital programs on our website for free download by teachers, youth leaders and parents. In 2013, we finished that process for It’s Up to Us, our program for young teens, and its Teachers Guide. We urge you to check them out at www.giraffe.org.
• We continue to ship physical components of the Giraffe Heroes Program to classrooms around the nation, helping young people build lives as courageous, compassionate citizens.
• We continue to sell the "Giraffe Heroes Kit," a simplified version of our landmark curriculum for kids. The Kit includes a Facilitator’s Guide, a deck of trading cards featuring Giraffe Heroes, plus buttons, stickers, a CD and a DVD. The Kit is designed to be used by afterschool program facilitators and home-schooling parents, as well as in classrooms.
• We raised pledges of over $41,000 on Kickstarter to create and publish a pop-up book for very young children, featuring our Stan and Bea giraffe cartoon characters. Given the high cost of printing pop-up books and Kickstarter's all-or-nothing system, we fell short of the needed funds and the pledges were erased. An afterglow of good feeling toward Giraffe efforts remains.
Giraffe Speeches and Workshops
• Teachers and parents have been able to give children our stories of lives worth living, lives to emulate. We greatly increased our outreach when Board member Dr. Jayasri Ghosh and Executive Director Ann Medlock presented the Project’s work at the national “Hero Round Table” conference in Michigan, the first-ever gathering of educators working on heroes.
• The website continued to be the Project’s primary outreach to the world, with our free Google ads bringing in an average of 200 visitors a day. We set up a number of “landing pages” that welcome people who respond to our various Google ads. To see the full breadth of Giraffe programs, start with our Home Page at www.giraffe.org. The site is written by ED Ann Medlock and maintained by contractor Karyn Watkins.
Outreach: E-newsletters, blogs, articles, posts and tweets
• We’ve shone a light on the work of hundreds of Giraffes on Facebook and Twitter inspiring others to move into compassionate action themselves. At year's end we had 1,550 followers on Facebook, where the ED regularly posts the stories and faces of Giraffe Heroes, plus her comments on public events.
• Our OpEds and blog posts about courage, citizen action and current events were picked up by thousands of websites across the world.
• Both the ED and the GHI Director did numerous online interviews and broadcasts about the Project, about teaching courageous compassion, and about the importance of sticking one’s neck out for the common good. We particularly recommend the interviews by Rainmaker Television. You can watch their interview with Ann Medlock on our Facebook page, and for their interview of John Graham see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAL8nMSpk3k
We can’t quantify the effect of all our outreach efforts very well—the results are anecdotal. We are quantifying some effects of Giraffes’ work, via our new ally SwayWhat, a group that creates charts like this one, gleaning the data from our stories and posting the resulting charts on Twitter.
• Giraffe Heroes International continued to expand in 2013. Led by John Graham, GHI helps nations find and honor their own inspiring heroes and gives their citizens and students the tools and training they need to move into courageous service themselves. In May, Graham journeyed to Egypt to help our partners there launch Giraffe Heroes Egypt. Events there made John’s visit a real adventure; we are now in steady contact with the heroes of Tahrir Square, helping them inspire more and more Egyptians to do the hard work of creating a stable, safe and prosperous democracy.
In October, John went to Zimbabwe to work with citizen activists there to launch Giraffe Heroes Zimbabwe, a new NGO whose purpose is to inspire Zimbabweans of all tribes and walks of life to work together to build the honest and effective governance this otherwise rich country wants and needs. At the left, the Director of Giraffe Heroes Zimbabwe, Giraffe Hero Farai Maguwu. The Project commended him for fighting the exploitation of his nation’s people and resources by multi-national corporations.
GHI continues to coach and support Giraffe operations already launched in Nepal, the UK, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and India. In all those nations, citizens can now honor their own Giraffe Heroes, fostering civil society in places that urgently need role models of compassionate, courageous service. For an update on all GHI programs, see http://www.giraffe.org/ghi/
• The downsizing of our physical offices, the turn away from paid staff, and the move to online materials have reduced our expenses to one-fourth the cost of previous years. We use contractors and volunteers working from their own offices, and we’ve transferred a vast number of paper files to electronic databases. As noted above, we are putting all of our curricula as well as all of our Giraffe Hero stories online, and our website, e-zine and social media sites are now our main interactions with the world.
II. Giraffe Heroes Project—Financial Information for 2013
The Project’s work has been funded by private donors, by foundations and by the sale of our books and school programs. Our financial documents are filed on Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service; you can see a copy of our latest filing on the Project’s website. Both the Project’s income and expenses rose markedly in 2013, thanks to a very welcome increase in the success of our fundraising efforts.
III Giraffe Heroes Project — Our Plans for 2014
• Find and commend new Giraffes. We’ll hold Giraffe juries four times in 2014, commending at least a dozen new Giraffe Heroes, then telling their stories.
• Expand the Giraffe Hero Database. Using contract and volunteer writers, we’ll continue to write and publish in our website database the inspiring stories of Giraffe Heroes, aiming to have the remainder of the pending stories online in 2014.
• Curricula. We’ll reach kids wherever we find them with our educational materials—inspiring them with the stories of real heroes, coaching them to do service projects that solve real problems they care about, and changing their own lives in the process.
We will digitize the current print curriculum for grades K-2 in 2014 and put it up on our website for free downloading. We will continue to raise money to complete the digitization of all Giraffe Heroes curricula. We will continue to sell print versions of those programs not yet digitized.
• Giraffe Trading Cards. We will create, package and market a spinoff product from the Kits—making a boxed deck of trading cards featuring Giraffe Heroes plus ideas for games kids can play with the cards at home, in schools, in youth organizations—anywhere kids collect. First versions of these cards have already proved extremely attractive to everyone who has seen them, including educators and kids reached by our GHI programs around the world, where they are seen as great English-teaching tools, as well as character education materials.
• Marketing. A key aim in 2014 is to hire a marketer to develop and implement a robust marketing program for the Giraffe Kit and the Giraffe Trading Cards, and to spread the word globally that Giraffe curricula are increasingly available for free download from our website.
• Social Media. We’ll continue to test and expand effective social media strategies on Facebook, Twitter and other avenues to reach potential allies, partners, customers and funders, as a way of inspiring vast numbers of people to stick their necks out for the common good.
• Outreach. We will continue to expand the list of people receiving our “Heads Up” e-zine, spreading the Giraffe message of courageous, compassionate service, and attracting support for our work.
• Giraffe Heroes International. We will support existing GHI programs in the UK, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, India, and Nepal, Egypt and Zimbabwe, and launch new programs as funds permit. Opening a program in Ukraine is now a goal we will pursue in 2014.
IV. Giraffe Heroes Project Board for 2014
Bob Patterson, Co-Chair
Aaron Davis, Co-Chair
Jayasri Ghosh, Secretary
Malory Graham, Treasurer
1 Way to Help
review Giraffe basics.