Story and photos by Keri DeTore
West Seattle Blog contributor
Did you notice the lights and cameras set up at Cupcake Royale in The Junction on Monday?
That was a crew from Bellevue-based Expedia, interviewing local travel writers who have applied their storytelling and outreach skills to fundraising for international projects.
West Seattleites Beth Whitman (photo left) and Pam Mandel (photo right), along with Debbie Dubrow (center, from Mount Baker), are longtime travelers and writers who publish blog-format sites where they share their experiences, and their tips and tricks for smarter, easier travel. Along with Michelle Duffy (not pictured), they found each other through their writing, and began meeting regularly at Cupcake Royale to share stories and support.
At one point, they wondered, “What MORE can we do?” They wanted a way to bring together the travel-blog community, and unite it around a cause. After doing some research, realizing that others in that community wanted “something to latch onto,” and finding other groups with strong fundraising models, the four women created Passports with Purpose.
PwP is an all-volunteer effort identifying and partnering with local organizations in developing countries to focus on building sustainable education infrastructure, such as schools and libraries. They use a “sweepstakes” model for fundraising (similar to a raffle) – they and other travel writers secure an item to offer; it’s posted on the Passports with Purpose site; and participants offer $10 donations to bid on the items. When the sweepstakes is over, they use a computerized system to pick the winner out of all the “bids.”
In 2008, the first year of Passports with Purpose, they raised $7,400 (with only three weeks of planning!) for Heifer International. Their second year, when they decided to ask for $15,000 to build a school in Cambodia, they “blew past” that goal in the first two days, ultimately reaching $30,000, allowing them to add a computer and teachers to the school with the extra money. Since then, they’ve increased their fundraising goals and have been broadening their outreach.
Now – this is where the Expedia crew comes in.
Passports with Purpose’s capacity to broaden its outreach has just grown, literally, globally. Thanks to an effort by PR director Sarah Keeling, Expedia is joining forces with the travel writers to share their stories and their efforts to help international communities. That means the Passports with Purpose group will be able to visit their most recent project — building libraries in Zambia — together, something they’ve never been able to do before. Says Keeling, “Working with (PwP) is a natural fit for us.”
This partnership will also allow the PwP organization to identify writers in other countries where Expedia has a presence and develop “Global Ambassadors” — others in the travel-blog community who will set up fundraising systems for international assistance using the same model as Passports with Purpose.
They are currently accepting applications online for their next project. Says Beth Whitman, “It needs to fit into our budget, AND be tangible and resonate with our emotional side.” Their fundraising goal for this year is $120,000; the recipient will be announced in June at the 2012 TBEX Conference in Colorado, where the Expedia video segment will also be shown.
To follow these writers’ adventures, you can find Beth Whitman at wanderlustandlipstick.com, Pam Mandel at nerdseyeview.com, Debbie Dubrow at deliciousbaby.com (“Making Travel With Kids Fun!”), and Michelle Duffy at wandermom.com. (And watch for PwP’s next fundraiser later this year.)
Pam adds: “Being able to travel the world and see how other people live is a privilege …Travel is the way to make the world a better place.”