However, as we hit this milestone, some serious questions need to be asked.
If POI were to fold, what would the impact be?
Not only for the cause, awareness, brands and consumers. But what would it mean for the conservation and rescue teams on the ground? What impact would it have on them and the animals?
We know that during the last 4 years, substantial funds have been raised via our Facebook page for other organisations. These funds have made possible countless initiatives, including: building a new orangutan sanctuary; purchasing much needed equipment such as drones, PPE gear, medical and firefighting equipment; numerous orangutan rescues; funding of illegal pet trade raids; restoring habitat; removal of jungle snare traps and orangutan adoptions.
Looking more closely beyond the extent of the actual campaigns we post directly to our page, how many of you have, due to POI recommendations:
Liked other organisations' Facebook pages?
Donated to the causes of these other organisations?
Purchased from their webstores?
Supported their campaigns?
In addition, how many of you have:
Googled palm oil, ways to help and orangutan adoptions after learning about the issue from our page?
Changed purchasing habits?
Used our app to scan products?
Gained product information?
Joined external campaigns?
POI’s existence should not be taken for granted. A world without POI would make life so much harder for the groups we support on the ground and the animals that rely on them!
It would be easy to assume that a page like ours, with such a huge following and reach, would find it easy to raise funds for ourselves. Think about it. 200,000 followers!
Asking for funds for the rescue of an animal in distress is easy, everyone digs deep. It is huge satisfaction to know that you have saved the life of an animal. It satisfies us when we know that we have helped too.
But is that same satisfaction felt when it comes to donating to us? Of course not! We would be kidding ourselves to think otherwise. This is where it is extremely difficult for us.
There are very few organisations out there who are completely run on a 100% voluntary basis with no paid staff. However, POI is one of those organisations.
When I started POI 4 years ago, it was in many respects an accident. It started out as a page where I would share products and educate what I thought would be a small audience of people. I placed the social media, digital strategy and marketing skills I had, into a cause. For me, it was meant to be something I could do an hour a day to help a crisis.
Little did I know that it would turn into what it has. A page that rapidly went viral where likes clicked over at an alarming rate. The intended one hour per day, a few days a week SNOWBALLED into a minimum of 15 hours per day, 7 days per week for me. I couldn’t turn my back on it even if I wanted to. I had started something that obviously filled a gap, and it was out of control. A page that consumers, brands, NGO’s and industry flocked to.
Roll forward to 2017.....
POI is a not-for-profit organisation, registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria, and governed by a voluntary committee. We have 8 volunteers in Australia, 3 in the UK and 2 in the USA.
We are predominantly self-funded from webstore sales and a small amount of donations. In our 4 years of existence, we have never had any paid staff, only a very small team of dedicated volunteers who work long unpaid hours to bring you information about palm oil, products that contain the oil, the certification status and lobby brands using oil palm. Plus, extensive research to maintain the app database of over 160,000 products. Not an easy task by any means and that’s only a small portion of what we do.
Financially, we barely get by month to month.
So where do we go from here? We are faced with some serious questions. Do we throw in the towel? That seems like the most sensible thing to do. On a personal level, it would remove so much stress and pressure, as many of our volunteers have made considerable personal sacrifices to keep POI afloat. But do we have it in our hearts to take that route? It’s certainly not our preferred option.
When it comes to funding, POI must remain true and unconflicted. This is difficult in an industry where oil palm is rife in products, knocking out many funding opportunities from companies. Funding must come from ethical sources. Finding those ethical companies that would be willing to dig deep to help us, is the hard part. But we know they are out there, somewhere.
Why don’t we just get a grant? It’s not that simple. Grants are allocated to specific projects for charities. POI isn’t a charity, we are a not-for-profit without deductible gift recipient (DGR) status. Most grants are won by large charities with DGR, who have paid staff, some of whom specialise in grant writing applications.
For me personally. I am counting the days. How much longer I can keep doing this? I am a single mum with a teenage child. What would it mean for POI if I were to take on a full-time position somewhere else so I can put food on the table? What would it mean if we shut shop? What would
it mean for all the other organisations and groups that have benefited from our page? So many questions, so few easy answers.
What I do know is, we have reached that crossroad. We don’t want to fold, and we don’t want to be put in a position where we must. These are the constant challenges we are faced with.
Understanding the impact POI has, and how far our influence has spread, do donors now see us as a worthy cause? Will they now feel that satisfaction of putting their money into something worthwhile? We can’t help other orgs if we are not here.
We have some huge projects in the pipeline, so we need to keep pushing forward.
With a new website under construction. POI will also be opening up membership, with exclusive deals and opportunities for our members. Something for our followers to look forward to.
POI is also opening up sponsorship opportunities for small and large business enterprises. With a reach of between 1 million and up to 5 million, our POI Facebook page offers excellent marketing potential.
In the meantime, here are some ways you can help us directly and indirectly:
Continue to follow us and share our posts.
Maybe you know of, or own a company or business that would be interested in sponsoring us on an ongoing basis. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Set up and host a fundraising event for us.
Donate spare stock to our webstore. (Please do not send skin or hair care items).
Our postal address is:
Palm Oil Investigations
PO Box 112
Eaglehawk VIC 3556
Donate $5 a month to keep our free barcode scanner app going. This will help pay for our monthly server fees. http://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/poi-scanner-app.html
Purchase from our webstore. http://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
Donate directly to Palm Oil Investigations. Micro monthly or yearly donations are welcome via PayPal. Go to our home page on our website and click on the donate button. http://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/
Or donate directly to our bank account:
Palm Oil Investigations Incorporated
Acc Number 150761179