Reef and SIMA Humanitarian Fund Founder Fernando Aguerre recently passed the torch of the SIMA Humanitarian Fund, which has raised over $1.58 million dollars since it was founded in 2006 to benefit causes such as spinal cord injury treatment, malaria prevention, and urban youth outreach, to Ross Garrett, an icon in the surf media world and VP of surf product at Surfline. Over the years, the major fund-raising push for the Fund has been the Liquid Nation Ball at Aguerre's La Jolla home, but Garrett is taking a new approach to raising funds and setting a lofty goal of raising $210,000 by the end of October and trying to position the organization to raise $1 million in 2013 by democratizing its efforts.
Here’s a look at the amazing work of a few of the SIMA Humanitarian Fund’s beneficiaries:
Where Liquid Nation Ball relied on large donations from key players in the industry, Garrett's new strategy, a campaign he and the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association have branded "Stokes Me: Surfers Helping Humans," is taking a page from the Democrats, and focusing on a huge pool of donors giving smaller figures. The efforts will kick off at this year's Surf Expo, with a fund-raising party that includes a battle of the brands surf contest on Friday, September 7, followed by a 30-day initiative beginning October 1, that continues to pit brands against each other to raise money from their employees and consumers in a push to be named "Humanitarian Brand of the Year."
Give me a little background on why Fernando passed on the torch on this and how and why you got involved.
Fernando had spent many long hard years creating and growing the Humanitarian Fund, and decided to step down. SIMA President Doug Palladini and the SIMA Board of Directors asked me to step up. When you get the call to contribute to something worthwhile, it’s important to listen. I called Fernando and spent an afternoon with him talking about the origins of the SIMA Humanitarian Fund and got his explicit blessing. It’s a daunting set of shoes to fill, but I feel like we have a really good shot at making a big difference.
What is your vision for the Humanitarian Fund going forward?
I tried to map the program to the skills and tools I had available to me—the things I sort of know how to do. That ended up being a consumer-facing giving campaign called “Stokes Me: Surfers Helping Humans.” Through the campaign, and the super-generous help of our endemic media friends, we want to engage surfers across the globe to give easily and efficiently through the internet. To make it fun, we wanted to “gameify” the giving process so people, brands, and other organizations could compete with each other.
This year, we’re leaning on the brands to compete against each other by using their marketing footprints to get people to donate though their specific fundraising pages. The top fundraising brand will be awarded “Humanitarian Brand of the Year” at the SIMA Image Awards. Oh, and they get to hang Fernando’s pants on the wall of their office all year…
Nice! Your approach to raising money is a real departure from the Fund's roots. You're kicking off this month-long push at Surf Expo's industry party with the Stokes Me Surf Contest. Tell us a little about this event.
We spoke with Roy Turner at Surf Expo, and he offered up the Typhoon Lagoon Pool Party, which they’re bringing back. He and Sanuk, who is sponsoring the overall event, made room for us. We’re having brands enter teams of two—the team splits a peak, and the crowd helps vote the rides up or down with the “Stokes Me” or the “Bums Me” side of little voting paddles we’re handing out. Wingnut, Alek Parker, Asher Nolan, and other notable shredders will be there. All the major endemic media have committed to covering the event. It should be super fun.
How can brands get involved?
Beyond the surf contest, the best way for brands to get involved is to claim their page on the Stokes Me web platform and set a goal for fundraising. Again, this isn’t about the brands donating themselves. It’s about them using their digital marketing chops to get their fans to donate.
Who can enter the surf contest, just desk jockeys or team riders as well?
Anyone can enter. You need a team of two. Space is limited though, so enter, umm, now! To register, visit: www.regonline.com/
In the fundraiser, anyone can enter as well. You can create your own team, or you can just create a fundraising page— set a goal, email your friends and family, post, tweet, Instagram—make it happen!
You've set a lofty goal of raising $210,000 this year and $1 million next. What organizations and causes will this go to?
The 2012 SIMA Humanitarian Fund beneficiaries are: Best Day Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Jimmy Miller Foundation, Keep A Breast, Life Rolls On, Outdoor Outreach, Stoked Mentoring, SurfAid International, Surfers Healing, and Waves for Water
I'm liking the "Stokes Me" theme. Where did that idea come from?
It’s one of those things kids say at my buddy Zach’s surf shop—I thought it just represented what this is all about. It’s not about the bummer, it’s about the stoke. Making people’s lives better is really pretty easy—or at least we’re working really hard to make it easy.
Andre Aganza, Art Director at Surfing Magazine, made it all real. That dude’s amazing.
What's the response been from the industry so far?
The response has been really good. Everyone I talk to just cuts me off and says “we’re in." I don’t know if that’s because I talk too much or because they’re super into it—I think it’s the latter.
Who's on board already?
Vans, Electric, Volcom, Hurley, Billabong, Sanuk, Quiksilver, O’Neill, and of course all the endemic media. That’s just the people I’ve been able to talk to personally, though. I’m hopeful everyone will get involved in some way.
You guys have some great prizes for individual donors to sweeten the deal—what's on the line for them?
The top individual fundraiser gets to go to the North Shore for the Triple Crown and Surfer Poll. Individual donors also get groovy t-shirts, hats, and stickers, depending on how much they donate.
End of the day, why is supporting the SIMA Humanitarian Fund important for companies and the industry at large?
A healthy SIMA Humanitarian Fund helps demonstrate the depth and empathy that most surfers I know have. I think that’s super good for the industry. The fund also helps consolidate and vet surfing related humanitarian charities for people, and we have a goal of 85% efficiency in our fundraising—there’s an aspect of trust that the SIMA Humanitarian Fund can engender.
But more than that, surfers are blessed to travel the world and tap into a natural experience that most of the world will never know. That’s why I think, when presented with a compelling way to give a little of that stoke to the rest of the world, surfers will jump at the chance.
Stay tuned for complete coverage of the kick off event at Surf Expo.