25 January 2010

Episode 21 Can we change the behavior of the people?

I have been visiting many NPOs to present my project and I always arrive to the point where I tell them, that there is a way to change the behavior of the people toward donations.

I really got inspired by this website called the www.thefuntheory.com. The videos will speak for themselves.
The ideas behind the videos is to prove that the easiest way to change the behavior of the people is by making them do something fun.

Most of us want to help people in need, but only a small part of the population actually do something, like working as a volunteer in a charitable organization or going to a developing country to build schools for example. From my experience and with those previous videos as a proof, I believe that if we could add some fun in the act of donation, we would very probably increase the number of concerned people among the citizen.

Do you have some ideas?

End of Episode 21

24 January 2010

Episode 20 iKifu's Vision

Here's the vision behind my project. iKifu is more than a donation platform that allows mobile payments. It's also a Social Network, a place like Facebook, where the users will have one thing in common, the desire to be part of the change.

Ikifu.org is a place where the organizations and their supporters interact.
Ikifu.org is a place where people can meet and help each others.
It is a place where the supporters can see the results of their support.
It is a tool that reduces the gap between people who want to help and the people in need.

Because I didn't mention about the Social Network side of my project, many friends came to me and said I should help the NPOs to get more visibility before anything else. I totally agree with them and my project is actually aims to create communities of supporters. It's a tool for the people already involved to invite their friends and relatives to join the causes they are supporting.

I also will aim to invite influential people to join the network so they can also rally their fans. Wyclef Jean is the perfect example of famous people, who has reached his 1.3 million fans through his Twitter account to asked them to make donations for Haiti. The results?

Millions of dollars have been raised within a few days.

Was there anything like this in Japan?

NOTHING! Nothing at all. Does is mean Japanese people don't care? NO! They just don't have the mobile donation system here. Let's change that together!

End of Episode 20

18 January 2010

Episode 19

On the 12th Jan 2010, I met Patricia, who I met briefly at an event of the Amercian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) two years ago. I remembered she did presentation related to Corparate Social Responsablity (CSR) in Japan, so I contacted her because I had the feeling that she would be interested in my project and wanted to hear her opinion about it. She has a lot of experience working  for big corporations  and also knows many influential people around the world.  She is currently working in different companies as a consultant and is also creating an NPO in Japan. 

When I presented my project to her and she was quite positive about it and even suggested me to make a presentation to Green Mondays, it's an networking event for people in Tokyo interested in any type of 'GREEN' Business and Sustainability issues. I hesitated for a few seconds, because I was not sure if my project would interest the community, but I thought that some NPOs promoting sustainability could also benefit from my donation platform, so I gladly agreed. That’s basically how I ended arranging a date for my presentation on the 22nd of March 2010. You will find more info about the event here soon.

I left Patricia and went to the office of the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA), which mission is contributes to Humanity's environmentally sustainable development.. I met Mr. Hioki, who is the director of Public Relation. He presented me briefly OISCA and explained me how they were collecting funds. They are using quite standard methods here in Japan but I learned that they were going to open an branch in the US in order to collect donations from there and send them back to Japan. That was their response to the fact that culturally, Japanese people are not used to make donations to support NPOs.
I thought that my project will interest him for sure.
I made my presentation and he really liked it. Even better, he wanted me to come again to make the presentation to the Secretary General another day. His enthousiasm towards my project motived me even more. I thanked him and left OISCA.

End of Episode 19

Episode 18 It's on !

To this day I have presented my project to people working in:

- Oxfam Japan http://www.oxfam.jp/en
- Human rights now www.ngo-hrn.org/eng
- Japan for sustainability www.japanfs.org
- Kid earth funds http://www.kidsearthfund.jp
- Association for Aid and Relief www.aarjapan.gr.jp
- Médecins du Monde www.mdm.or.jp

I am trying to get from them recommendation letters about my project. It's not an easy task because most of them have to discuss about it internally before they make any statement, but at least, I can say that all the people I have met, gave me positive feedbacks about my project. This gives me a lot of motivation and energy to go on because I know that my project can be useful to all of them. Currently, my first step is to get the support from around 30 NPOs in Japan and when I will be done, I will start the second phase, which will be the fundraising for my project. Without the support from the NPOs, this step will be very difficult. That is the reason why I'm spending a lot of time, meeting them one by one to present my idea.

With the support from major NPOs and from the public, I believe that will be much more easy to collect the financial support form the sponsors to make iKifu a reality.

You readers, can simply help me by becoming a follower of this blog and my twitter http://twitter.com/iKifu
Thank you in advance!


End of Episode 18

15 January 2010

Episode 17

On the same day I met MSF, I went to meet a lady from the Tyler Foundation. The Tyler Foundation is dedicated to making life better for kids with cancer in Japan and their families and is supported entirely by private and corporate donations. I didn't meet the founder because they were on holiday but I was able to learn about the touching story about Tyler. The NPO has many foreign corporations as members and one of their biggest fundraising events is a marathon challenge organize each year. It's not the first organization, which is doing this kind of activities but it's quite effective to raise funds. On the online side, there is a Paypal donation button on their website but it's still not so effective. I left the lady and with the hope to meet the founder next time.

On the 22nd of December, I had the chance to meet Clement, I contacted him after reading his blog. he wrote an article about an event organized by an NPO called Table for two. There concept is very interesting. Basically they make some healthy meals for the employees of big companies, that are 20 Yen more expensive and that money goes to the NPO. Then, the money is sent to some countries in Africa where, a meal can be given to a person for 20 Yen. That is quite smart and I plan to meet them in the near future.
Clement said he would give me some contact information, for which I was very thankful. He liked my idea and said that I could contact him again if I needed help for my project. My lesson, that day, was that sometimes, you should just talk to strangers, you never know...

End of Episode 17

14 January 2010

Episode 16 Big NPOs

My second big organization was Care international Japan, a global humanitarian organization with 60 years of experience working in 70 countries with a goal to end poverty. The staff is made of 10 people in Japan and 3 persons on the ground working out of Japan. She told me that so far, online donation was not a great source of income for them, so she was quite excited about my project. One website, was particularly not good because there were so many NPO listed that it was very hard to be selected by a donor. That made me think that I was right when I decided to select only big NPOs to start with. She gave me some contact from people working in other NGOs and said she would talk about my project internally.

I left her and headed to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), where I met their fundraising officer. He joined the organization less than one year ago and was interested in hearing about new ideas. He told me that they were still using direct mail to communicate with their donors but they were thinking about using another way that would reduce their cost. He was the first person to tell me that his organization, had thought about mobile donation, which surprised me, but when I asked where they were in the process, he told me that it was just at the idea stage. MSF has many ways of doing fundraising like getting points from loyalty point cards and converting them into cash donations. They are also doing some charity events, like photo exhibitions and short movie events.
Before I left, he told me he liked my idea and that he would also discuss it internally...

End of Episode 16

Episode 15

Fabrice is an ex-colleague of mine, I wanted to work with in the future. He's French and we share some common interests. One of them is renewable energies technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal energy etc... Actually, I wrote a blog about geothermal energy in Japan  if that interests you. I haven't updated it recently though.

Before I got my idea about iKifu, Fabrice and I were thinking about creating a consulting company, which would promote renewable energy technology in South Asia, starting with Vietnam. While eating at a Vietnamese restaurant that I recommend in Yotsuya sanchome, I told him about my project and he liked my idea. I convinced him that maybe he should help me creating my NPO first and that he could always start his own consulting company later. We are going to start applying for the creation of iKifu on January.

Two days later, I went to visit two persons in charge of fundraising for UNICEF. I was really excited because it is such a big organization. I made my presentation and they listened with interest. At the end, they said they would introduce me to the other fundraising team in charge of individual donors, which might be also interested in my project.
Dealing with such big organizations is not so easy, when decisions need to be made, many people need to be consulted before anything can happen. But it will be another way for me to test my patience and determination. I need the support from UNICEF and for that, I need to reach the top of the organization...

End of Episode 15

13 January 2010

Episode 14 Peace Winds Japan

I went to a random Italian networking party one night and met Yuan, who can speak German.We talked about different subjects and finally ended up talking about my project. What a suprise huh? She was really interested in my project and told me she would like to help me. That was good, my idea was starting to attract some people. We set up a meeting another day, so I could make a full presentation to her.

Back to the NPOs, I met the person in charge of PR from Peace Winds Japan, which I never had heard about before in Switzerland, but there were listed in the top 10 NPOs in Japan in terms of number of members. She gave me good information about getting grants from foundations and told me about the Japan Platform, which is supporting her NPO. Japan Platform received donations from big Japanese corporations, which cannot give directly to one NPO because of shareholders' conflict of interest. So, they get funds and redistribute them to their NPO members. I am about to meet them soon. She told me about an interesting way of doing fundraising. They have a partnership with a company selling second hand books, which buys old books from people and instead of giving the money to the people who gave the book, that company send the money to Peace Winds. I thought, that's was quite smart.

She said she liked my project and I left her with new valuable information...

End of Episode 14

Episode 13 Origin of the name

I was actually thinking about how we could create a buzz about my project, as soon as we get the funds to develop it. My idea is actually to pro-actively contact, TV, Newspaper, Magazines etc... so I thought I should meet some PR companies and see what they could propose me. Actually, I need a company, which is interested in helping charities and also quite open to new way of doing PR., I basically need a company that can create some buzz.

December 9, Meeting with Jess from a PR company that has helped Run for the Cure in the past, so that was a good start. He gave me good advice and strongly recommended to get a NGO certification in order to increase my credibility. I am currently working on it, that might take a few months but I believe that, that will be the first milestone of my project. Nhat Vuong CEO of iKifu. Coming soon!

Let me explain where the name comes from.  Basically, Kifu means donation in Japanese (寄付) , so "I kifu" is "I donate" but not only that. In French slang "kiffer" is a verb that means to love, so we can interpret Ikifu as "I kif U", meaning "I love you"...

The next day I met the President of another PR company but there were not so specialized in  B to C communication, so I was not sure if they would be able to help me as I would like to. He talked to my about an NPO called Second Harvest and said he would help me to get in touch with them. To be continued...

End of Episode 13

Episode 12

14th of December, I met Chrissi from Dancing4Kids, which helps children in need around the world by raising funds through music/dance/art events and by promoting inter-cultural understanding. She is really passionate about her organization and listened to my project with attention. She ask me some questions some relevant questions like, would they need to pay anything to use the platform. She said that many NPOs wouldn't be able to unlock budget for that as nothing proves that my project would be successful and that was a point I had to think about seriously. At that time, I thought about three possible options to charge the NPOs:

1) A fixed fee to pay each month to use the platform and no fees on each donation
2) A lower fixed fee to pay each month and some small percentage fee on each donation
3) Or finally, no fixed fee and a percentage on each donation

She said, that the last one would be certainly the best solution for her and after giving some thoughts, I thought she was right. I might be a lot easier to get the support from the next NPOs that way... I came up recently with an even better solution but...I'll keep it for later...suspense suspense...

Later, she told me that there were not so many incentives for corporations to make a donation to an NPO in Japan, because most of them don't have the status that allows those generous corporations to have a tax benefit from making a donation. Later, I got more details about this point when, I found this document written by Tamaki Onishi, a Ph.D. student at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. I consider this paper as my main source of information about the comparison between fundraising in the US and in Japan
I told her that I might need her support as a voice in the near future, to which she kindly agreed and gave me contact information of people in other NPOs. I had another supporter in the list...

End of Episode 12

Episode 11

The 8th of December I met the Secretary General from the Japanese Volunteer Center (JVC). He started working there 25 years ago. I listened about his presentation, ask the usual questions about how he was getting the funds. One of their methods is to use direct mailing, which is quite expensive in terms of printing costs and not very Eco. I learned once that the biggest enemy of direct mailing is actually...the trash, yes, more that 80% of the mails get directly to the trash without even being read, that's a lot of waste, isn't it? I didn't recommend them to stop doing it because it is also true that many Japanese people from a certain age, don't use computer at all. That gave me some food for thoughts...how would I reach them with my website...I didn't have any clue on that day...
He told me that there were having one big concert charity event once a year and also that they are selling calendars to raise more funds. That gave me two ideas to add for my website.

1) A calendar for charity events
2) An e-shop section for the products that some organization are selling.

When I made my presentation to him and we reached, the section about the Social Network, I realized that he was not so familiar with Facebook or Mixi. That made me realized that not everyone is an addict of Facebook like me, so I would have to be careful with the words I would use in the future. He told me that my idea was interesting and that he would have to discuss in internally. I shook his hand and left with new ideas and things to think about...How to reach the people, who are not using internet....Hum...

End of Episode 11

Episode 10

It took me a couple of days to make the layout of the future website I imagined for iKifu.org. Basically, my vision is that NGOs should be able to communicate more closely with their supporters. At the same time supporters should be able to see what the organizations are doing with the donations they receive. My future website will a kind of a Facebook but will be targeted the NGOs and their supporters. I believe it will respond to the need of the NGOs to have a better members management system.
I am going to describe briefly, how the website will look like. Each organization can have their own profile, where they would be able to talk about their history, their activities, their events etc.. and also add their campaigns. Each campaign will receive a QR Code (Wikipedia), which is some kind of hidden link code in a 2D barcode that can be read by mobile phones using the camera and the supporters would be able to make a donation by going to a secured payment page through that link. The amount would then be added to the total donated by the supporter in his profile.
There are a lot more features I have thought about but you will discover more of them if you follow me ;)

My demo was ready and one of the first person to have seen it is Taro from Run for the Cure, which mission is to eradicate breast cancer in Japan. He impressed me with the number of corporations, that were currently supporting his NPO and explained me about his fundraising ideas that seemed very effective to me. One of their famous events is called Walk for Life, you can have more information here. Taro gave me positive feedbacks about my project, some good advice for the future.

I had one more supporter, this was exciting...

End of Episode 10

11 January 2010

Episode 9

Ok, so I had my idea but still nothing written on paper. I opened my PowerPoint and started writing a few bullet points on l0 slides and started presenting it to other people. One of them was D. and his CEO from Rezavex (Japanese only), which is the company, that Micheal from Mobelan had recommended me to talk to. D. presented their services and what they could do for me. Basically, they would be able to help me for the application process when we would need to make our website official. They have good connections with Docomo, so they naturally recommended to start talking with them in the future. I learned a few interesting things in the meeting.

I left them with clearer ideas and started working on a more detailed presentation. Also, I decided to make a website demo, so I could start showing more "tangible" things...

End of Episode 9

Episode 8 Mobile Donation

So what was going on in the world of mobile donation?...
Actually quite a lot. Mainly in the US but other countries at catching up. How it works? It's very easy.  Check www.mgive.com they are doing it. Basically NGOs can register to their website, get a unique number where people who want to support them, can send an short text message (or SMS) to and NGOs start receiving the donations minus some administration fees from Mgive. Sounds good right? Unfortunately, this system cannot work as it is in Japan and the biggest reason is that, nobody uses SMS here, they all use emails... The issue? Emails cannot be charged like SMS are in the US and other countries. The good news is that in Japan, there exists other ways of charging the users through their mobile phone, the bad one is that nobody has ever done it specifically for donation. But I am positive and optimistic about my project, because it's already possible technologically.

Here are few article that will prove you that mobile donation is starting to get popular and very effective to collect fundings in a very short amount of time. Take Alicia Keys who managed to gather 400,000$ by asking her fans to make donation on TV. Or BBC Children in Need, which raised more £1.75 million in a month. Check also DDX339.ch which is the same as mgive.com but in Switzerland.

It's out there, it's working and I'm going to bring it to Japan!

End of Episode 8

Episode 7

I headed home and started searching about online donations in Japan and found a few websites. I was mainly focusing on analyzing the donation process and found that almost all of them were mainly asking for a Credit Card as a mean of payment. I thought was good but not very convenient because it's take more than 2 or 3 minutes to make a donation. To me, a donation should be something:

- Easy to do, with having fill forms
- Fast, it should last less than 30 seconds
- Rewarding
- And Fun

Also, I think that if you want to make a one time small donation, using credit card information is not very appropriate. This was later confirmed by a Japanese business man, who told me the differences between the way people a using credit card in the US and in Japan. Basically, in the US using your credit card allows you to spend your money very easily without worries, because even if you don't have the money on your bank account at the end of the month, the credit card company would simply carry over your debt to the next month. In contrast, in Japan using your credit card is like using cash and you always have to pay what you have purchased at the end of the month.

My conclusions were, that mobile donations would respond to the credit card issue because, it allows fast donation and would be perfectly fit for small amounts. I started looking for mobile donations in Japan but to my surprise, there were no organizations using mobiles as a way of collecting funds...I searched for mobile donation in the world and starting finding some interesting stories....

End of Episode 7

Episode 6 Rose CGI

A few days later, Dan one of my trusted partner from Japan Health Network, introduced me to Robert from Rose CGI, which is a Tokyo, Japan based and nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of less fortunate children in the Philippines. He told me that after surviving the tsunami that hit South-Asia in 2004 he decided to create his own NPO. I was touched by his story and asked him how he was getting donations. He told me that it was quite a big challenge because he doesn't have much budget for marketing. I learned about the different methods of doing fundraising in Japan and found out that most of the organizations have members who support them by paying a yearly fee. Some members are individuals and others are corporations. The latter usually pays a substantially higher fee. Some organization organizes charity events like concerts but it's not always easy to gather people. That later, give me the idea of making a event calendar for Japanese NPOs. Also I asked about online donation and he said that he was starting to integrate Paypal donation system to his website. Paypal is currently entering Japanese market, so let's see how effective it will be to collect donations. I learned that there were several websites that were proposing online donation services such as, www.giveone.net, www.charity-platform.com, etc... I thanked him for his information and asked him if he would agree to support my project and he did. I left satisfied with the meeting and headed home to check what was those websites about....

End of Episode 6

Episode 5

I used linkedIn (my profile) to see if people in my network could help me meeting people working in some Japanese NPOs and it worked, it's magic!  On the 24th of November, I met Kriss, who contacted my through linkedin. He told me he had an NPO that was doing suicide prevention in Japan. He published a free magazine about it and spend almost one year working on it, but he realized it was quite challenging and finally found a job that didn't allow him to continue his project.
He gave me a lot of information about the process to create an NPO in Japan.
Later, he mentioned about a campaign, where Japanese people could call a special number and get charged a special fee on the phone bill to support from what he remembered the Red Cross, I still haven't investigated fully about this donation system but this sounds interesting. I am not sure if this work also for calls made by a cell phone though.

He didn't have much time that day so we said we would meet again.

End of Episode 5

Episode 4

There was something that I needed to know. Was it possible to make donations using mobile phones and if it was, what was the procedure to have a website that allows this kind of payment. I contacted Micheal from Mobalean, which is a flexible and innovative web and mobile solutions provider, specializing in helping international companies to establish a mobile presence in Japan. I told him about my idea and he explained me, about what was currently existing in terms of mobile payment options in Japan. He said the big one I would have to face, is that if you want to charge the people who are paying using their mobile directly on their mobile bill, you need to apply to the main carriers like Softbank, AU and Docomo and ask them to make your website official before it can happen. (Note: I later found that this was not necessary and this is a great news). The application process is a hassle because, not only you do need to provide them with documentation that approximates 100 pages but you also have to wait sometimes for one year to get their authorization. I could see that wall rising in front of my very eyes... Some people could have stopped right there and give up... but I said, "well if this is what we need to do, I'll do it." Micheal gave me some contact information of people who could help me for the application. I left thinking that I would need a lot of determination but you know what they say about Taurus people? We are stubborn... and stubborn I am.

End of Episode 4

Episode 3

I started meeting Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) around Tokyo and the 10th of November 09 the first person I met was a lady from the The Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), which is a non-profit,  founded in 1987 by a group of NGO leaders who saw the need to better coordinate activities in Japanese society and facilitate communication with overseas groups. She was really nice and I was able to learn about the NPO sector in Japan thanks to the brochures she gave me. I was actually quite surprised to see that there were so many organizations in Japan but at the same time so unknown to the public. She explained me about JANIC and how it was helping other NPOs to get more donations and support from the public. Before I met her, I had some ideas about what Wizcorp could try to do to help JANIC and at that time, I thought that we could maybe build a Mixi (kind of Japanese Facebook) application that people could use to make donations using their mobile phones. It sounded nice, but I didn't put much thoughts about it ,so it was hard to present her anything solid. I came back home and started thinking that there was something that could be done to help the NPOs in Japan. It motivated me to meet other NPOs to see if they had similar challenges like getting more donations and visibility.

Before I met the next NPO, I went to meet Ted from Empire Entertainment, which is a dynamic, full-service, New York City and Tokyo-based event and entertainment production company that designs and produces entertainment-driven projects for corporations, associations, not-for-profits and private individuals. I was quite impressed about their work and thought that we could maybe work together in the near future. I explained briefly about my mobile donation idea, which had grown up a little on my mind and Ted gave me positive feedbacks about it. He also added that they could help me to stage a charity event in Tokyo, when the opportunity arises. I left with a positive feeling that I was on the right track with my idea...

End of Episode 3

10 January 2010

Episode 2

It's been almost 3 years that I have been living in Japan now. When I arrived in Tokyo, I did a 6 month internship in the marketing team of Syngenta, a Swiss chemical related company. It allowed me to learn a little about the Japanese working culture. It was not a fully authentic experience due to the fact that the managers were foreigners, but at least my colleagues were all Japanese.
When the internship was over, I had the choice between going back home or stay. It was a no brainer to me but I had to get over the challenge of finding a new job. Again, my network helped me to find my next company. I got interviewed by an IT company doing support to other foreign corporations and got a job as a salesman. I worked there for almost one year and finally changed to another company named Wizcorp. Wizcorp is a Web Consulting Agency, which provides Website Localization, Online Social Network Marketing and Cloud technology Consulting services. It's a great company, call us!
The founders are both French, so we got along well pretty fast. We were sharing the same vision about technology, that it should be used to improve the life of others.
We had clients coming from different sectors and at some point, we thought that we each of us should focus on learning about an industry to bring us Wizcorp to a higher level of quality of services. This is were I the saw the opportunity to learn about the NGO industry. With my background, I always had the desire to give something back to the organizations that helped me getting the life I have so I started meeting some NGOs...

End of Episode 2

The Challenge of my life Prelude and Episode 1


Dear Reader,

Welcome to my blog, my name is Nhat Vuong. As my name indicates, I have Vietnamese origins but grew up in the little city of Nyon, in the French part of Switzerland. I decided writing this blog for many reasons, one of them is that I am currently working on an ambitious project that you will discover by reading the following text and another one is that I wanted to share with you how my background played a role in making the person I am now and how the idea of my project came to me. I will write about the progress of my project, the good and bad moments, the challenges that will arise, how I will face them, the people and organizations I'll meet during this adventure, the support from my family, my friends, my partners etc..
Also, this blog is here to try to prove to myself and others that if we have a vision and we strongly believe in it with passion and determination, we should be able to make change in this world. At this point, I don't know if I will ever succeed but it's time to apply to myself, "if you don't try, you don't get."

This is my challenge, it might the biggest of my life, follow me.

Episode 1

Let me tell you a brief overview of my background. It's intentionally incomplete, because it's not easy to make a 29 years story short but I will try.
My parents left Vietnam in 1980, on a boat in order to escape from the North Vietnamese and with the dreams of a better life. After spending a few weeks on the boat and getting attack four times by some different pirates, I must say that being here, right now, typing these very words might be considered by some, as a miracle. It took me a many years, before I fully understood what my parents were trying to tell me, when they were saying that I was lucky. To me life, was just quite easy and never harsh. I always had a meal when I was hungry and never had to work in order to survive. I had a good education and received a Master Degree of Management in HEC Lausanne in 2005. Right after, I luckily received a scholarship to go to Santiago in Chile where I perfected my Spanish, learned about International Marketing and Business Ethics. This was a totally different culture that I really loved. Ok... maybe the Pisco had something to do with that. When I got back to Europe, I went to London, to improve my English and found my first full time Job in an IT related company named Context. London, was also very enriching but I must say, the weather was not so great, so I left and flight to my next destination.

Japan! I have written a report about my first 6 months in the land of the rising sun, that you can read here if you're interested.

End of Episode 1