Feature photo by Julien Harneis

I sat down with Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View to discuss her latest venture, Passports With a Purpose.

Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View
Photo above by WGBH

She, along with three other Seattle-based travel bloggers – Beth Whitman of Wanderlust and Lipstick, Michelle Duffy of Wandermom, and Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby founded the nonprofit as a way for travel bloggers to raise donations for Heifer Project International, an organization dedicated to ending poverty and world hunger worldwide.

So, what was the inspiration for this? Was a sort of syncretism between you guys or more of a bolt out of the blue?

The four of us get together for coffee on a semi regular basis. We talk about blogging and travel, of course, and what we’re using our blogs to do. We all have somewhat different goals, but we all live and breathe travel. As you might imagine, we have a lot to talk about.

How did the idea of a travel-blogger fundraiser come into being?

Debbie mentioned she’d seen something similar done in the food blogger’s community – they raised over $90,000! We started talking about our respective networks and our potential reach. It took us a while to pick a cause – we wanted something global and something that would make a difference in the poverty we’ve all seen while traveling – and we were all excited about Heifer.

Once we’d decided what cause we were going to support, the next steps were easy. Companies we’ve worked with before wanted to give once they heard what we were doing, and the bloggers we contacted could relate to our cause.

Picking up household kits in Kibati camp.
Photo above by Julien Harneis

Was there a particular experience you had on your travels, or, if you can speak for them, the other founders that narrowed the decision down to help end world hunger and poverty?

It’s not really fair for me to speak for the others as our travel experiences have all been different. Though I do know we’ve all seen things that made our hearts break in one or a million ways.

For me, it was my travels to Cambodia earlier this year – I had to take a deep breath and pull myself together so many times and once in Phnom Penh, my husband had to take me by the hand and sit me down on a bench while I fell utterly apart from the desperation of Cambodian history.

I wanted so many times to give, but we were repeatedly faced the decision of how to do it right, how to decide where our money would make the biggest difference.

What made Heifer your final choice?

We liked Heifer because the program isn’t just a bandage; it’s a path out of poverty. Forgive the “give a man a fish” cliché, but Heifer does a great job of teaching people to fish.

We were noodling with a lot of different causes and for a while, we’d considered raising money for four different organizations, but we all had the same immediate reaction to Heifer International: “Let’s do THAT!”

Picking up household kits in Kibati campCommunal erection of a market.
Photo above by Julien Harneis

So, from what I understand, each participating blogger hosts a raffle of some nifty travel-related prize that the readers buy into at $10 a ticket through Firsgiving – and then a raffle committee will pick a winner for each site? How are you guys organizing the fundraiser?

That pretty much sums it up. We’re organizing at we go along, mostly – we haven’t done this before so almost every day we have something new to figure out.

Here’s how it’s gone so far. Once we decided we were going to go ahead and had picked our cause, we each contacted people we know who are doing travel blogging to ask for their help. This could be one (or all!) of three things – provide a raffle prize, promote the raffle, or buy raffle tickets – make a donation, really.

Between the four of us, we have an amazing amount of contacts. The travel bloggers we know are generous and social – the support has been amazing – and we’ve had some really generous sponsors give us wonderful prizes. Once a blogger or sponsor has committed their prize, we add them to the list.

Kibumba, a displaced persons camp about forty minutes north of Goma, close to the border with Rwanda.
Photo above by Julien Harneis

When the raffle sales start, you’ll go to our Firstgiving page and make a $10 donation – or more, as long as it’s in $10 increments. As part of the checkout process, you’ll specify what prize you want to be in the raffle for.

We add your name to the list for that raffle prize and then, after Christmas, the four founders will get together to draw the winners. (There may or may not be champagne.)

For the duration of the raffle, we’re also asking bloggers to help drive raffle donations by posting our widget. Firstgiving handles all the money – they issue receipts for the donation and get the proceeds to Heifer International. We get the pleasure of notifying winners and giving stuff away.

Do you guys have plans to keep Passports With a Purpose going? Can we look forward to more fundraisers in the future?

I hope so. We snagged “Passportswithpurpose.com.” And some of the bloggers who feel like they’re too small to pitch in or don’t have the reach have already asked if they can join us next year. (You’re not too small. You should see my stats before you say you’re too small to me!)

But we’d like to get through this one successfully before we decide what’s next. We are absolutely asking ourselves and each other “What’s next!?” but first, we have some fundraising to do.

Workers in a warehouse create kits containing blankets, tarpaulins, sleeping mats, cooking sets and soap.
Photo above by Julien Harneis


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Community Connection

The Matador Team has put together a super secret prize pack for the Passports With a Purpose raffle! Make sure to buy your ticket before the Dec. 30 deadline and you could be the winner of some awesome travel goodness.