DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage, DAKTARI for short, is an organization that connects local youth with the environment around them. Located in Hoedspruit, South Africa, DAKTARI hosts students from local schools each week and teaches them about the wildlife in nearby game reserves. DAKTARI’s founders, Michèle and Ian Merrifield first set out to create a backyard operation which cared for a few animals, but that vision grew when Michèle saw a gap in the education that local youth were receiving in school. Michèle recognized an opportunity to combine conservation with education. “We noticed that none of them had any environmental or wildlife education although they are surrounded by game reserves,” said Michèle. Since that moment, Michèle and Ian have worked to fill the environmental education gap in their community and in 2006 they opened DAKTARI. By investing in the next generation of environmentalists, the DAKTARI team ensures that their local environment will have many advocates for years to come.
Ian and Michèle saw success in their students and program early on. One of their unforgettable students, Mina, went on to study environmental education after her time spent with DAKTARI and now has a career in environmental conservation. Students like Mina, inspire Ian and Michèle to keep DAKTARI’s doors open and their programs running. But in 2008 the organization began to struggle financially and the organization was on the verge of closure. When researching funding opportunities Ian came across GlobalGiving and Ian and Michèle decided it would be a good way to expand their current network. “We chose GlobalGiving for fundraising because we needed to be present on the American continents,” shared Michèle. Though online fundraising was new to them it was time to try something different in order to keep DAKTARI open. “We were in a critical situation at the time of the Open Challenge. We were just stagnate if not going backward,” said Michèle, so the two decided GlobalGiving was worth a try and in 2008 they joined GlobalGiving’s Open Challenge. Without much experience in nonprofit management or fundraising, the Merrifields knew they would need support in order to succeed in the Open Challenge.
Though Michèle and Ian were newcomers to crowdfunding, they were able to lean on GlobalGiving for support. “We had no strategy heading into the Open Challenge,” says Michèle, but, “GlobalGiving was very present and gave us the support to help us develop the technique and knowledge of fundraising that we didn’t have.” During the Open Challenge, the DAKTARI team surpassed their expectations, by raising almost $8,000! This spike in funding allowed DAKTARI to continue operating fully and provide educational opportunities to their students. Michèle and Ian credit GlobalGiving for helping DAKTARI to learn how to become a more effective organization, and being there to support them every step of the way. “GG gave us heart-warming support. Not only the staff we were in contact with but the webinars and toolkits they offered. We didn’t feel alone in managing our nonprofit. DAKTARI is alive today because we managed to raise funds on GG in the Open Challenge,” shared Michèle.
In January 2016, DAKTARI will celebrate 10 years of operation! Since 2006, more than 3,000 students have participated in their programs. As the DAKTARI team approaches this impressive 10 year milestone the team continue to host local students each week teaching them about the environment in which they live and ways in which they can help keep it safe to enjoy for years to come. The DAKTARI team hopes to continue inspiring more students like Mina, to be lifetime conservation advocates by pursuing careers in environmental preservation.
Today, the DAKTARI team continues to successfully fundraise on the GlobalGiving platform. In 2014 DAKTARI raised more than $18500 alone! Michèle considers GlobalGiving to be an extension of their organization, “I am very attached to GlobalGiving because it saved the future of DAKTARI. GlobalGiving has taught me how to fundraise effectively and given a new dimension to our organization.” The DAKTARI team can’t wait to celebrate another 10 years and GlobalGiving looks forward to celebrating with them!
All photo credit to DAKTARI
Written in collaboration by Karis Ailabouni, Jenn Bell, and Katherine Sammons
Designed by Emma Park