Lila Igram is a mom on a mission. Through her website, Connecther.org, she seeks to “end global poverty by partnering with donors, non-profits and other stakeholders that focus on aiding women and children in their quest for self-reliance.” It’s a pretty big vision, but after starting the website just a year ago, she’s gathered more than $19,000 in donations and distributed it to 23 projects worldwide. We caught up with her to find out more about Connecther and to learn how we can help, too. (See the link at the end of our interview to join LiveMom’s giving group on Connecther.org and help us help women and children.)
LiveMom: How did you come up with the idea for a donor matching program specifically for women?
Lila Igram: I actually set out to create a system for finding buyers (a market) for women artisan entrepreneurs around the world. That proved not to be the best place to start, so we switched gears and decided to start with helping to create awareness, visibility and funding for projects that are providing services to women and children in their quest for self-reliance. Knowing that women and children suffer disproportionately from poverty, we knew that the collective impact would be greater if we put together a platform that incorporated matching challenges to raise funds and awareness. There is a big need in this area of helping women and children in their quest for self-reliance, and although we just launched less than a year ago, we are making great progress! We still have a key goal of helping women in developing communities market and sell their products and will keep you posted on when that program is available.
LM: Was this always your chosen career path or did you start out doing something else? If the latter, what drew you to this?
LI: My first love and passion has always been to be a stay-at-home mom, which I was for several years. My kids are older now so I can focus on one of my other passions, which is social justice. I always knew I wanted to be in a position to stand up for those who were having a hard time standing up for themselves. Women and girls around the world are so marginalized that the more attention and resources that we can add to helping in this area the better. When you hear some of the injustices that women and girls must endure globally, it makes your heart sink. At that point a person needs to decide, do they want to help or hide?
LM: How do you choose the groups Connecther funds go to? Are there a couple that are particularly close to your heart that you’d like our readers to know about?
LI: Typically, the donor chooses the project that they wish to fund. We had one supporter, the Stahl Family Foundation, recently give a $2,500 matching challenge donation toward funding a village bank in Peru. The total goal was $5,000, and the project was completely funded within a month of the challenge grant. That was super exciting to see! It’s easy for donors to go to the site and search for a project they want to fund by interest, location or they can scroll through the most popular projects at the time. It’s so hard to choose even a few of my favorite projects, I love them all! LyCee Malick Sy High School helps provide scholarships for very bright girls in Senegal. You can fund a scholarship for a girl to go to school through this project for only $25 per year. Imagine giving a girl that opportunity that she would not otherwise have! It’s a remarkable feeling. I also am amazed every time I think of the Youth Led Bee-Keeping Social Enterprise in Zimbabwe. When parents die of AIDS, if there are no grandparents or other family members to care for the kids, the oldest child must become the head of household. It’s just a painful thing to think about. So, this project is very close to my heart. All of the projects are remarkable in one way or another! We wanted to create a safe place for people to shop and fund projects helping women and children globally, and since all of our projects emanate from existing 501c3 registered nonprofits, I don’t think you could get any safer!
LM: What are your future plans for Connecther?
LI: We have so many plans! Connecther’s platform is automated and scalable so we have plans to continue adding projects and finding funding for our very important projects. We are also looking for groups (schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, clubs, etc.) to sponsor particular projects. We are planning a video competition with the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Media Group and are also planning a golf tournament benefiting Connecther in the spring! As mentioned earlier, we would like to eventually create a marketplace to market and sell products made by women artisans who are in our network of projects.
LM: As a mom, what kind of priority did you put on teaching your kids to help others? How did you do that before starting Connecther?
LI: I really believe one of the most important things we can teach our kids is to help those in need. It’s one of our top values as a family to give back. We feel that one of the best ways we can express our faith is by teaching our children that when they see an injustice like poverty, violence against women, homelessness, etc., they can’t just stand by; they have to do something even if it’s as simple as making a prayer for that person. My husband is an avid volunteer for several nonprofits in Austin, and many times our kids join him in volunteering. One thing I’m very happy about is that our oldest son is in the Stop Violence Against Women Club at Harvard where he plays football. He is trying to get some of the other athletes involved, which I think is great. My younger son and daughter are also both competitive athletes, so it makes sense that they are helping to plan a golf tournament that will benefit Connecther!
LiveMom wanted to help fund Connecther’s vision of women helping women, so we started a LiveMom giving group. We chose to use donations to help fund these mom-supporting programs: Train 1,000 Midwives and the Maternal Mortality Reduction Project. Click on the names to read more about them, then join our group and make a donation (use the key word “livemom” to find the group; see below for detailed instructions). The good thing about a giving group is that every little bit helps because we pool it together to make more of an impact, so even $5 can make a difference. Thank you!
To join LiveMom’s giving group and donate to Connecther: Go to Connecther.org and click on “Register” in the upper right-hand corner. Register with your e-mail address and a password, then search for and join LiveMom’s giving group. Next, choose a project you’d like to donate to (like one of the two we mentioned above, or something else close to your heart) and enter the amount you want to donate. When you reach the “Giving Cart” page, choose “LiveMom giving group” from the drop-down menu. When you click on “Donate”, you’ll be taken to a PayPal page for Connecther where you can complete your payment with a credit card or existing PayPal account. Click here to see how it works.
Written by: Shannon Oelrich