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P2P Pros: SOS Children’s Village Lora Sodini

This is part of a series of posts that highlight some of the amazing RallyBound organizations (and their fundraising directors) who will be attending the Peer to Peer Forum on February 24th.

SOS Children’s Villages builds families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries and territories, including the United States. Founded in 1949 in Austria after World War II, SOS provides children with the love and long-term support they need to shape their own futures – a stable family, quality medical care and the opportunity to learn. When Lora Sodini started working at SOS she initially worked with different cultural and affinity groups to help raise funds and awareness for SOS within those communities. As that evolved, SOS saw there was a lot of peer to peer and third party fundraising already happening with volunteers and within these groups and she dedicated her position to spearheading SOS’s peer to peer initiative. We chatted with Lora to learn more about her work with SOS.

How did you get into the nonprofit world?

My whole life I’ve have been involved with volunteering and giving back. It was instilled in me in at young age. When I was in college I originally focused a lot on environmental science and moved to Washington DC to work at an environmental nonprofit. I knew early on I wanted to work for a nonprofit. I think most of us who get into this field want to help change the world so that’s why we do it. While I’m still a passionate environmentalist at heart, there is something about helping people who are less fortunate, especially kids who are often the most vulnerable in the world that drew me to SOS. After traveling internationally a bit and seeing how impoverished some of these places are and lack of opportunities some children have, I really wanted to switch paths and work in the humanitarian space. I feel fortunate to have grown up in a loving home like the one I did, so to be able to give other children the same opportunity is amazing. I’ve now been with SOS for two years.

What do you enjoy most about working at SOS Children’s Villages?

It really is the kids. I get the chance to work with some of our SOS alumni who grew up in our villages around the world and now fundraise and advocate for SOS. When you hear their stories of where they came from and what they overcame and how SOS changed their life and put them on a path that they may not have had otherwise, it really is a no-brainer. The hardships that these kids face at such a young age and how we help them overcome that by providing a home, psychological care and support until they are an independent adult, is truly incredible. Our SOS mothers who dedicate their lives to raising children that are not theirs and being there for these kids and loving them unconditionally is one of the most noble jobs that I’ve ever seen. We also have a great staff who are so dedicated and passionate to the mission and growing our presence here in the US. It really makes coming to work everyday easy.

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What social media channel do you think nonprofits should leverage more in their fundraising strategy?

We use Facebook and Twitter the most throughout the organization to share stories and promote our mission. They are both a great way for us to stay connected with our supporters both in the U.S. and internationally. Some of our followers are former SOS kids themselves. It’s happened before where we posted a picture and they comment “that’s me when I was 10!”. Instagram is another channel that we could utilize more. We haven’t used it at all for peer to peer yet, but I think there are certain generations that really use that more than Facebook. For 2016, we’re hoping to use Facebook more to promote our peer to peer campaigns. It is a crucial channel for peer to peer that allows our supporters to share their fundraising efforts as well as why they support SOS.

How do you inspire people to fundraise for your organization?

There are a couple ways – the easiest way to inspire people is to share the great stories of our work around the world. Stories like one child that came to SOS during the Ethiopian famine. When he arrived he was so malnourished, they didn’t know if he would survive. He grew up at SOS and went on to get a full ride to Harvard. He flew his SOS mom to the U.S. so she could be there for his Harvard graduation. He is now working in energy trading in the US. There are so many stories like this and sharing these stories and the work we do day in and day out is a great way to inspire others.  

We also like to share success stories of other people who are fundraising and advocating on SOS’s behalf. Reading about why other supporters are so passionate about SOS and what they are doing to help spread the mission is inspiring. I think it also helps give people ideas of things they can do within their own community.  

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Tell me about a recent peer to peer campaign that you felt was successful?

We partnered with a Greek group over the summer [of 2015] in the midst of the Greek crisis. There was a very pressing need given what was happening in Greece. Many parents had been unemployed long term and at the time the banks were closed. Just feeding your children was becoming more difficult for many families throughout Greece. SOS has worked in Greece for nearly four decades and was already helping families affected by the crisis ensuring they could continue to feed their children as well as provide them with additional services like rent assistance, medical care and psychological support. We were able to utilize our peer to peer platform and our partnership with the Greek group to reach out to their network and raise over $130,000 in just a few weeks for our Greek programs. In addition, their fundraising page was shared over 2,000 times on Facebook which really helped spread the word about SOS and the work we were doing in Greece. Through this campaign we were able to immediately support an additional 1200 families throughout Greece. It was a great example of where a community really came together to make a difference.

What is your new year’s resolution or goals for 2016?

In terms of goal for 2016 – one of them is expanding the fundraising platform. We just got it up at the end of August 2015 and had some really great initial success. We want to take a step back and make some tweaks and revamp the site based on some feedback we have received. We’ll then roll out the platform to our whole donor base.

We’d like to do some SOS lead campaigns for specific funding opportunities. We’ve also had some really fun fundraisers that donors have come up with so we’d like to look at those and see if they have the potential to become larger SOS lead events in the future.

As for my New Year’s resolution, working here and hearing the stories from our colleagues of the children and families impacted by the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Europe, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed and devastated by what is going on. My goal is to do my own peer to peer fundraising campaign to raise money for the work we’re doing to help families and especially the kids that are being affected by this ongoing crisis.

Come meet us at the Peer to Peer Forum!

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