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Translated from the Dutch Newspaper Het Parool
Esther Jacobs (39) gained popularity for her fundraising efforts thru Coins for Care and led the charity sector
to more transparency. Meanwhile, she travels the world and occasionally comes home to the Netherlands to
make some money. She has written an inspiring book about her experiences.
During a trip to Madagascar in 2007, Esther Jacobs ran out of money. She met two local fishermen who
offered to carry her to the next destination. Esther continued her journey with them in their sailing boat made
of a hollow tree trunk. “Then I came to a point I call ‘absolute zero’: my iPod and phone were not working
anymore, I made all the to do lists I could think of. It became quiet around me, my head became clear and I
realized: this is what I want.” This experience was the beginning of a new life.
Jacobs gained popularity with Coins for Care, the collection of foreign coins for charity around the time of the
Euro introduction. Later she founded the Netherlands first Donor Association. Now she is living the life of a
nomad: no permanent home or job. She is staying temporarily with a friend in Amsterdam to promote her
book and give some lectures and workshops. ‘I am here to earn some pocket money.” In December she will
travel to Curacao, then sail through the Caribbean for a while. In April she will return to the Netherlands to
do some more work. And then? “You see, I can not look beyond three months ahead.” Maybe she will go to
Japan, where she has never been to. But Portugal beckons, and so does Curacao. “This is what I have always
wanted. The flexibility, all my expenses are covered. I’ve found my own tempo. ”
For years Jacobs battled the lack of transparency in the charity sector. Through Coins for Care she raised $25
million for over a hundred charities. She wanted to know if the money ended up well but got little response to
that question. Her frustration led to Hollands’ first Donors Association, an advocate for more transparency
and accountability in the charity sector.
An uphill battle. “The donor organization was only partly successful. Some charities now publish annual
reports, including the salary of their director. There is a prize for the most transparent annual report, and some
awareness has been created among the donors. However, there are many things which haven’t changed. The
government still does not monitor charities, and they do not need to register. The large charities maintain their
powerful position.”
This is a bitter conclusion after seven years of hard work, pro bono. “I had the power to turn the charity
world upside-down. If I had published the scandals I knew of, nobody would have donated another penny.
Nobody knows what happens to the money that Dutch people donate to charity! But I did not want to damage
all charities: there are also many well-meaning people and organizations out there. I therefore remained

4/22/2015 7:17 PM

Translated from the Dutch Newspaper Het Parool « Esther Jacobs – NO...

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http://www.estherjacobs.us/media/hetparool/

moderate and focused on increasing transparency.” But there are still no rules and regulations for charities in
The Netherlands, so they can do whatever they want.” I find that incredible. Donors apparently give to ease
their minds and they do not bother to ask where the money goes.”
In 2006 she had to quit her work for the Donors Association give because of health problems. The
Association ceased to exist; nobody has taken over Jacobs’ work. She herself has no intention to continue the
battle. “I have given seven years of my life, we know exactly what needs to be done, and now it’s the charity
sector and the governments sector’s turn to move.”
Still, Jacobs has created a petition, which calls for donor signatures to enforce government monitoring. And
she has told her story in the book “What’s your excuse,” an autobiography which is largely about her battle.
“Maybe people will read it and pick up the fight.”
She doesn’t miss the bustle and finds that her new life is meaningful enough. “I inspire people with my
experiences and my lifestyle. After my speeches I often get emails from people who quit their jobs to pursue
their dreams. In my book I try to show that it does not really have to be a step into the unknown. For some
people, my life is a dream, a nightmare for others. That’s okay, everyone has to decide for themselves. I just
hope I wake up people. ”
© 2010 Esther Jacobs - What is YOUR excuse?
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4/22/2015 7:17 PM

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