Crossover Stories: Water Filters and Transformative Technology

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By: Kirsten Kippen | 3.3.15

Our Crossover Stories series highlights people transcending the barriers between the private and public sectors to make an impact in the world. Today’s post is from a conversation we had with Margo Mayes, Director of Enterprise Nonprofits at the Salesforce Foundation. We first heard about Margo’s volunteer work with Groundwork Opportunities at a Salesforce event, and were so inspired we had to learn more. Answers here are edited for clarity and all photos are published with Margo’s permission.

How did you get involved with Groundwork Opportunities?

I first met Bart [Bartlomiej Skorupa, Executive Director of Groundwork Opportunities, at Dreamforce in 2011, and was immediately enamored by his story. At the time, there were only a few employees at GO, but he understood the importance of tech to accelerate GO’s mission [GO invests in leaders who have the capacity to end poverty in their communities, and uses Salesforce Campaigns to manage their champion pages].

Hearing Bart talk, I was reminded of why I joined the Salesforce Foundation - I had hoped there would be a following of people who wanted to use technology to drive impact. I started staying in touch with him and paying attention to his events, and became a volunteer for GO.

Soon after that, I invited Bart to speak at a customer stories session at a Salesforce Foundation retreat. When I saw how inspired everyone in the room was, I literally grabbed him by the elevator before I could wimp out and said, “Let’s talk right now about how I can be a champion [to help fundraise] for GO.” Bart wrote down the name of a community in need of funding in Cambodia on a napkin and that was my start.

What was it like being a fundraiser?

It was kind of frightening at first - I felt vulnerable asking my connections for donations. I set a goal to raise $1000 towards biosand water filters in Cambodia. At that same retreat, I did the math and realized I needed just 100 Salesforce Foundation peers to give $10, and I would meet my goal to build enough biosand water filters for an entire village. By the end of the 3-day retreat, we had exceeded the goal, and I wished I’d asked for more!

This experience gave me the confidence to do more. When you have the ability to connect with people and they trust you and you follow up with impact and heartfelt thank-you’s, they really do want to help you. [Find more tips from Margo on how to use stories to reach your fundraising goals in this recent ebook published by GO].

Tell me how you ended up in Cambodia.

I had a long-time dream to go to Cambodia; before I joined the Salesforce Foundation, I took a six-month solo journey volunteering through Southeast Asia, where I went to every country, except Cambodia. I saw firsthand the lack of clean water and the impact that had on the locals. When I came back, I started to notice the collective impact that technology could have on making change - this landed me first at Kiva and then the Salesforce Foundation.

I’m a business-minded person and appreciate the concept of enabling people to lift themselves out of poverty rather than giving handouts. Without local training and support, even well-intentioned efforts often fall flat within a year.

I took my six days [Salesforce gives all employees six paid days a year to volunteer] towards a GO delegation trip to Cambodia to see the village where the biosand water filters were built. I wanted to report back to everyone at the Salesforce Foundation who had donated.

What was the volunteer experience like?

One of our first experiences was attending a town hall, held in a dusty, centralized place where people would come together and sit down with their kids. The local community leader was from the Sao Sary Foundation was well respected in the community and seen as a leader. He spoke about the training it would take to maintain these biosand water filters. He had a chalkboard and made connections to lots of larger issues - he wanted to teach the villagers that water is the answer to health concerns and could keep young children from being sent off to work at nearby clothing factories or sold into slavery. He wanted to show that as a village they needed to own these biosand water filters - that this is the key to all the larger issues in their community. We had an interpreter to help us understand.

Our group of volunteers built, dispersed, and filled the biosand water filters. This is where it all came full circle for me - their own leaders were driving the sustainability of these filters. The design and labor of the biosand water filters all came from the community rather than some factory and was also a way for them to make money.

What is one thing you think most people don't know about Salesforce employees?

We really do believe in the mission of the Salesforce Foundation and believe that tech can drive impact in the world.

Do you have a crossover story? Email



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