Real stories: I started my own nonprofit

Last year, ONE member Chris Mullally decided to start his own nonprofit, the Extraordinary Project, to help hungry children in the world’s poorest places. We were so moved by his story that we asked him to share it with us: 

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The holiday season is a time of great joy for so many, and a time of giving and receiving for most of us. It is the time of the year when we place an extremely large amount of consideration on others who we know and love.

Now take just a minute to think of the last time you saw something really unbelievable, something that really bothered you, upset you, or disturbed you. Next, think of what you have considered to do since then to make a difference in that situation.

Why are the situations that grieve us the most also the most paralyzing?

On August 10, 2011 I asked myself these same questions while watching a CNN story about the drought conditions in Somalia. These words would change my life forever: “Up to 600,000 children could die from starvation.”  That number just laid a heavy burden on my heart like never before.  How is it possible that so many children could die from starvation in today’s world?

So I decided to do something about it. Although I had never done anything like this before, I started the Extraordinary Project. I believe that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and my goal is to rally ordinary people—to find one million people to give $1.00 each. The mission of Extraordinary Project is to help people recognize that we can make a difference, if we just change our mentality from “me” to “we.”

Of course, it hasn’t been easy. I learned how to become incorporated as a not-for-profit charity, got help building a website, logo and graphics, and worked tirelessly to get the word out. All of this wore me down more than I anticipated and honestly, on several occasions I almost gave up.  There were just so many obstacles, so many people who said they would help, but who never followed through. Thankfully, the encouragement from my family and several close friends kept me going. On February 26, 2012, six months after I saw the initial news story, we officially launched the Extraordinary Project.

During the course of the next nine months, I was overjoyed to see people I do not even know joining in, raising money on their own and sending it in with a note of how they did it. We also received media attention, both TV and print. I was so excited! Unfortunately, as the word spread, donations would fade rather than increase. Sporadic bursts of attention were followed by longer periods of inactivity.

I could have succumbed to the paralysis and given up at any time. I could have comforted myself with the sentiment that, “Hey, I gave it my best shot.” But the fact is, giving up is never someone’s best shot!  Although some days it is very discouraging or difficult to keep going, I know that 600,000 starving children in Somalia need me — they need us. So I just keep pushing through those tough days, remembering that this can be done, and that giving up is not an option.

Then on October 16, World Food Day, something truly amazing happened for the Extraordinary Project. We were contacted by the International Rescue Committee about participating in the “We Can Be Heroes” campaign, set up by Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment. On World Food Day only, the “We Can Be Heroes” campaign promised to triple – yes triple any donations made that day through the International Rescue Committee or their other partners in this campaign. After spending most of the day working out all the details with them, the Extraordinary Project was able to pledge $35,000 of the funds we had so far collected and it was turned into $105,000!

What an accomplishment this was for the Extraordinary Project, a charity that literally collects $1.00 at a time from people.  To see all those single dollars given by people to our project be turned into over a hundred thousand dollars was truly amazing. By far the most significant day of my life! Now our first donation will go immediately to help a health clinic in Somalia for mothers and their children.

What I really want everyone to understand from this project is that no matter your background, religion, or level of discouragement, we can do something! It’s one dollar for one child, a child without the hope. What I just want people to really understand, is that these children in Somalia, no matter where they’re from, or what faith they hold, or what race they are, really need help.

Sometimes, we get discouraged by the big picture or distracted by the details, and we tend to forget that we have been given so much. What we cannot forget is how to give.

So while Somalia is not exactly topping anyone’s “favorite places” lists, please remember that they just need some help right now from those of us who can help.

So this holiday season, as you are trying to find that perfect gift for your family and friends, consider what a small gift would do to help someone who is in real need.

Just as the recent news story of  NYPD Officer Lawrence Deprimo buying a pair of boots for a homeless man with no shoes on a cold night in Times Square in New York City,  I wish for all who read this blog to simply remember this – the question should never be “Why” should I help anyone in need but “Why not” help anyone in need.

Be Extraordinary!

By Chris Mullally with Tim Owens