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NOTHING'S IMPOSSIBLE INSPIRATIONAL STORIES THAT PROVE IT a GSW e eS 2 1 aS “COINS FOR CARE: HOW TO RAISE $25 MILLION WITHOUT EXPERIENCE, NETWORK OR BUDGET” By Esther Jacobs When the Euro was about to replace the national currencies of 12 European countries in 2002, I decided to collect all obsolete foreign coins for charity. It sounded like a simple plan, but without money, resources, a network or relevant experience, it was bound to become complicated. I approached charities, retail stores, banks, and sponsors. Everybody told me it was a great idea, but they did not believe a 28 year old, inexperienced girl could pull of such a big project. They needed a big name, and Esther Jacobs just wouldn't do. I decided, I needed more expertise. For over a year, I researched all details of foreign coin processing and talked to all the experts involved. Everybody told me my plan was impossible, but because I was so enthusiastic, they all referred me to somebody else. Finally, I found a trusted, international partner who would process, return, and exchange all coins for my project. However, charities and retailers were still unimpressed and reluctant to join. After all this work and no results, I was becoming really unmotivated. Then, the press 50 aught word of my idea, and I was invited on many elevision shows. Because I had been in fact practicing ‘my “elevator-pitch” for over a year, I managed to get my tory across very well. What really caught on was the act that I asked people to donate something that did ot have any value to them. While nobody took me eriously at first, now that same “girl next door image helped me by catching everybody’s attention. Soon, 140 charities applied to receive part of the proceeds, 4,000 retail locations offered to put collection boxes in their locations, and I had to look for 1,000 _volunteers to empty the boxes, arrange the logistics etc. _ Imanaged all this from my home, in my “spare” time, without receiving any form of payment. I often worked more than 100 hour weeks, taking no weekends or other days off. Every now and then, I worked as a freelance consultant or moderator for a week to cover my expenses. Luckily, I found a lot of sponsors to help out with nearly everything we needed. Without resources, we ’ constantly had to be creative. For example, we made the collection boxes out of sewer pipes instead of the regular _ (expensive) promotion materials. To my astonishment, a lot of jealousy and “old boys’ network” politics in the charity world complicated the project, but in the end the collection was a huge success. We collected $25 million worth of foreign coins in The Netherlands only! Because of the sponsoring and the volunteer nature of the organization, Coins for Care hardly made any expenses and all the money could be donated to the participating charities. After Coins for Care, I wondered how charities spend this money and started asking questions. When I found out there is no supervision of charities in The Netherlands, I started the countries first donor 51 organization. This meant facing the same “old boys’ networks” again... By setting up a “charity navigator,” a transparency price, and generating a lot of publicity, I managed to improve transparency. A lot of work is still to be done. Looking back, Coins for Care gave me a lot of opportunities and it did change my life. I have learned so much by running such a novel and huge project. It also expanded my network immensely. I got to know and work with influential and inspiring people in Europe. It changed my image from “the girl next door” to a well-known young entrepreneur, who has realized dreams and contributed to society. For that reason I am frequently asked as a motivational speaker by all kinds of organizations. It also gave me the chance to publish two books: What Is Your Excuse and What Is Your Dream? Altogether it enables me to work only a few weeks a year, to travel the world, and enjoy life, while looking for new inspiration. Coins for Care has not given me any financial security. What I got out of it is much better. I live a dream life, knowing everything is possible if you put your heart in it, and I inspire others to follow their dreams, regardless of external circumstances. Lessons: A Know what you want and communicate it ¢ Perfect your elevator pitch 4 Don’t wait for the perfect moment or perfect circumstances; they will never come A Start NOW! Take small steps, keep moving Work with what you have; be creative 4 Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep believing, keep going >» 52 A It is not about the destination, it is about the trip: have fun! And remember: NO EXCUSES! Esther Jacobs is a motivational speaker and author. She is originally from The Netherlands, but has traveled over a 100 countries and lives alternately in Curacao (Dutch Caribbean), Amsterdam and Miami. www.estherjacobs.us @estherjacobs on Twitter Facebook LinkedIn 53