As the next part in our global leaders series, we sat down with Ricard Valls and Juan Mezo, the country leaders of #GivingTuesday in Spain. Here’s what they had to say about their experience so far championing the movement.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?
Ricard: I was born just outside of Barcelona, and eventually came to Barcelona to study law and complete a PDD at IESE Business School. From there, I began working as a civil servant in social services. I later got involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Barcelona and spent some time working in Atlanta, also for the Paralympics. During my time in Atlanta, I learned about how philanthropy works in the US, and when I came back home I thought it was time to champion philanthropy and giving in Spain, where the culture of giving was largely within the Church at the time. I have been helping society get involved in the philanthropy sector for thirty years now and am devoted to improving the social conditions of people in every way that I can.
Juan: I am from the North of Spain, from Bilbao, but I have been in Barcelona for more than thirty years. I studied Business Administration and worked for ten years in marketing in the food and beverage industry. Then I made a change to go and work for Oxfam for six years as Marketing & Fundraising Director. Now I am one of the owners of a small marketing company that works to bridge the gap between the private and nonprofit sectors which includes both corporate social responsibility and fundraising initiatives.
Q: How did you two start working together?
Juan: Interestingly, the first time Ricard and I worked together was in 2001 when Spain’s coins were changing when the Euro was being introduced. There were studies at the time that said millions of coins would no be changed and therefore lost, and so we set up a campaign for Oxfam, MSF and Red Cross to collect the Spanish coins that were being phased out. We raised 9 million euros in coins for “Together for Africa” which was the first ever campaign of its kind in Spain in terms of 3 big NGOs working together. Ricard and I have been working together ever since! We are partially competitors in our work but we like to work together because we complement our knowledge and energy; for example, we co-created the Spanish Fundraising Association. We believe more in cooperation than competition, and we continue to work together to teach nonprofits and companies about fundraising.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?
Ricard: In 2014 we were having a coffee in December and we discussed that we had both seen the #GivingTuesday campaign in the US. We decided that day to bring #GivingTuesday to Spain. We started investigating how the movement worked in the US and we wrote to Asha at 92Y to begin the conversation. We made the strategy in February and had our first #GivingTuesday in Spain in 2015.
Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in Spain so far?
Ricard: What has been really important is that society is seeing that there are more than 300 NGOs working together on #GivingTuesday and this in turn helps our society participate more in collective social good. There are many organisations who are now able to fundraise for the first time because of the resources and tools #GivingTuesday has made available.
Juan: One of the most important things we are doing is teaching the small and medium-sized nonprofits in Spain how to develop their own fundraising campaigns and increasing the number of donors.
Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in Spain off the ground?
Juan: We are striving to get everyone involved in #GivingTuesday. We’re trying to increase our awareness, and it is growing, but not enough yet. We are working on getting media and news outlets involved but it is challenging. Sometimes it’s difficult to communicate to companies how they can leverage #GivingTuesday and see it as an opportunity to strengthen the activities they have throughout the rest of the year.
Q: What's the potential or impact of the movement in Spain?
Ricard: In terms of impact, in our first year we raised 250,000 euros and in 2017 we raised almost 600,000 euros. Money donated during #GivingTuesday has essentially doubled in two short years. The number of organisations participating has also nearly doubled from 200 in year one to over 350 in year two.
Juan: In terms of potential, we are trying to increase our presence and leadership in local regions in Spain this year by recruiting local ambassadors. Last year we started to see a few cities doing localized #GivingTuesday community movements and so this year we want to work on strengthening the work happening at the local levels because that will be really important for scaling the movement across the 9,000 municipalities in Spain.
Q: What is one of your favourite #GivingTuesday stories?
Ricard: Last year, there were some nonprofits that decided to go to schools and explain to students what they were doing at their various organisations. We see this as an important move to break down barriers and strengthen the relationships between nonprofits and communities. In a high school in Madrid, a social science teacher decided to do a #GivingTuesday activity with a class of high school students who were asked to explain what philanthropy means to them and the importance of giving versus consuming. #GivingTuesday is a great platform for teaching youth about the importance of philanthropy and community engagement.
Juan: One of my favourite stories is about one girl in a small town who heard about #GivingTuesday happening in Spain and decided to develop a movement in her municipality. She mobilized all of the nonprofits and some small businesses, the city council, and was able to lead a community movement in Rubí, a mid-sized city just outside of Barcelona. This was very impressive to us!
Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?
Ricard: Being part of a global movement that is based on local impact. What I love about #GivingTuesday is that one teacher in a small town in a small school can be a changemaker. This for us is the most fantastic part of #GivingTuesday and we look forward to the stories that will come this year.
Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?
Juan: Leadership is passion; a belief in what you are doing and in your ideas and trying to involve and empower others to join you.
Ricard: Leading #GivingTuesday in Spain for us means communicating to the nonprofit organisations, donors, companies and citizens who are involved that this is really their movement. We are not the leaders, we are just pushing it. If we are able to ground ourselves in empathy and empowering others to collaborate, then #GivingTuesday will be successful in Spain.
Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?
Juan: persist, persist and persist. Communicate. Be patient.
Ricard: Involve others, and be resilient. You will receive a lot of “no’s” and it is important to continue anyways. Keep in mind that you will learn each year things that you could never have imagined you would learn. In your first year, be sure to set reasonable objectives for yourself. Most importantly, have courage!
Q: Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?
Ricard: Nelson Mandela stands out to me. But all great leaders exist because of many other leaders that might help them in smaller ways. There are alot of Mandela’s that nobody knows. All of the little steps that others are taking are important in constructing a better society. This is important to keep in mind when considering how to improve social good.