Editor’s Note: I recently had a chance to connect with Mike Loftin and Fawn Liebengood, the folks who run 808Cleanups.org, a Honolulu non-profit that has caused a lot of folks to pay attention to the environment in ways we never gave a thought to just a few years ago. I met Fawn, a Chaminade student, through Chaminade University’s Hogan Entrepreneur Program and was impressed with her strong interest in environmenal “activism”.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series of interviews with Mike and Fawn.
Q: What are the biggest issues that you run into in operating this org?
MIKE: I’m always looking on how to inspire leadership and initiative. We have some tremendous volunteers but we also have, like any organization, a lot of followers who aren’t active, but want to feel like they’re a part of it. I don’t really have a big problem with that because the outreach they receive can go towards preventing a lot of problems, but at the same time it would be nice to see more leaders step up. We are at almost 4,000 members on our Facebook page and of that, a few hundred are the most active, and of that, a few dozen are tremendously active. That just may be the way things shake out no matter what, but I can’t help but think if even a few hundred more became much more active, we would cover so much more, much more quickly.
Personally, my largest issue has been not being able to do our passion and waiting for our time to come. It is sad that environmental organizations have to work so hard to receive any financial support. As an entrepreneur, it is incredibly frustrating to discover your passion, but have to wait and work other ill-fitting jobs, while you wait for enough financial support to make that “leap” into living your passion. All we want to do is help people restore their communities and make the environment safer and more beautiful. We have had so many wonderful ideas to improve dozens of sites, but have had to put them on the back burner due to time, lack or funding, or other road blocks. In a sense, our hands have been tied because we cannot reach all the people we want to, remove marine debris before it entangles animals, and show Hawaii what large-scale stewardship can achieve. However, I do feel that the seasons changing! I am very positive for 808 Cleanups’ future, especially with all the wonderful things we have in the works and our volunteers unending passion and dedication!
MIKE: Absolutely whenever possible. Our big collaboration this year was with Sustainable Coastlines and Surfrider for the Ala Wai Trash Water Wheel. We host their events and many other organizations on our calendar. We write grants that are premised on the idea of non-profit collaboration. We also work with every level of goverment, local, state and federal.
Q: How do you fund yourselves? Do you have sponsors?
MIKE: For most of our almost 3 years in existence, our biggest sponsors have been The Home Depot and individual donations. The Home Depot has supported us since Day 1 and have been absolutely tremendous, and we love touting them for the supplies they donate to us. Without them we couldn’t do what we do, no way. We have also received individual donations over the years and universally these are from people who know exactly what we do and appreciate the value we bring to the community. Many of them are in that top tier of volunteers helping in the field. Now that being said, I think there are many, many other businesses and individuals out there who could help chip in to support the cause, so I’m hoping in time those folks find a way to contribute whatever amount they see fit.
FAWN: We fund ourselves through individual volunteer donations and supply sponsorship from The Home Depot, Snorkel Bob’s, Franmar, and other wonderful companies. We are exploring grants for seed funding, but grant funding is unsustainable and decreases every year. Looking to the future, we want to get into more fundraising events and social enterprise business ventures to support our mission and bring in sustainable funding.
Q: Wasn’t there a recent grant that 808 Cleanups received? Can you tell us about it?
MIKE: Yes, our very first grant! It was from the Atherton Family Foundation. Fantastic people. We couldn’t believe it because up until that point all we had was a string of rejections, literally dozens. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong! So with Atherton we explained to them our Adopt a Site program and how we want to not only maintain it but grow it. They saw the value in what we do and what we’re capable of and funded us generously. We will do them proud.
FAWN: Yes! I am the grant writer for 808 Cleanups and after about fifteen rejections, I was starting to feel like pretty lousy. But my mentors and fellow board members encouraged me to keep writing for grants and stay positive. We had been expecting a final decision about this grant and when I checked the mail and saw the skinny envelope, my heart sank. But when I opened it, the check fell out! It was amazing. I got the chills, started crying in the Post Office, and immediately texted our Board. After months and months of praying for financial support, it felt wonderful to have my prayers answered.
Q: How does one get involved?
MIKE: We have lots of opportunities and we’ve condensed it all in a very easy to read format at www.808cleanups.org, specifically the section called Volunteer Guide.
MIKE: We need leaders! Lots and lots of leaders who are willing to lead cleanup events, coordinate with their schools, help us write grants, get active in the field and provide positive outreach. I can personally promise that I will do everything in my power to help you through 808Cleanups.
FAWN: We have a couple new very exciting things going on! First, we are launching POP Pilates graffiti cleanups! We apply graffiti remover, do POP Pilates while it sets, and scrub the graffiti tags after our workout! We also have donation-based 60 minute POP Pilates classes on Tuesdays if you want to skip the cleanup, but support 808 Cleanups’ mission! Either class you attend is a win win and I am your POP Pilates instructor!
Did you know that you can ask 808 Cleanups to host a cleanup for your business? Yes, you can! 808 Cleanups will create, plan, and host a cleanup for you and your business complete with professional photos you can share with others, snacks and other refreshments, and volunteer management. Contact us to learn more.
For more information, visit https://www.808cleanups.org/