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But you can call me Vik 😉
I'm the co-creator of charity: water,
A marketing and branding nerd,
A nonprofit coach,
A wife to Scott Harrison,
A mama to two sweet kiddos,
A passionate believer in helping good people do great things.
This is my story
"I found my dream job.
All I had to do was get excited about selling things I didn't believe in."
At 23 years old, I had landed my dream job. I was a graphic designer at a branding agency in New York, creating advertising campaigns for globally-recognized brands.
I was hired as a student during my junior year of design college -- my boss convincingly explaining that I'd learn more during my first month on the job than I would in an entire year at school. Despite my parents' initial horror, he was right.
I dropped out right before my senior year at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and joined the advertising world at the bottom of the ranks. The entire first year was exciting and glamorous. Our company's motto was "create desire" and that's exactly what we did. The key to my job was convincing the public that a new car or lipstick was all they needed to be profoundly happy. And somehow, on the inside, I was becoming less and less happy by the day.
My career path was laid out before me: impress clients, get promoted, become a senior Creative Director with a corner office on Madison Avenue like Don Draper from Mad Men. All I had to do was get excited about selling things I didn't believe in.
This was the opposite of how I wanted to live my life, but I was too afraid to leave a career that seemed so promising just a few short years prior.
I didn’t like who I was becoming so in an attempt to revive my soul, I began looking for ways to help others instead of myself.
"To everyone, it seemed like I was going backward. But I’d never felt more alive."
One day in 2006, a next-door neighbor of mine introduced me to a guy named Scott Harrison. Scott had a crazy dream of building a charity to give clean water to the (then) 1.1 billion people who didn't have it. This was the opposite of selling lipstick and cars - this was a product I could truly get behind.
Drained and disappointed with the advertising industry, I made another crazy decision and traded an office desk for a spot at Scott's kitchen table (our office at the time). My parents were utterly confused. My friends thought I was crazy. To everyone, it seemed like I was going backward. But I’d never felt more alive.
Our vision was to reinvent charity — to bring world-class design, creativity, innovation and great marketing and branding to the nonprofit sector. We believed, in the words of David Berman, that the same design (and creativity, innovation, marketing) that fuels mass overconsumption.... can repair the world.
Scott was at first my friend, then my boss, and eventually my husband and father to our two kids. He hooked me in with his mission of changing the world, and together we dreamed of reinventing charity for our generation.
More than a decade later, charity: water has inspired a movement of one million supporters from 140+ countries and to date, we've helped 15+ million people around the world get access to clean water.
We're deeply proud of what we've built, but more importantly, of how we've built it - the brand is known for innovation, story-driven content, and making charity fun.
"I remember the long nights and weekends spent in front of a screen figuring out how to build a website, run a charity and raise money at the same time."
When I think back to the early days of building charity: water, I don't think of smart, strategic planning sessions with highly-paid consultants or a trendy agency giving us the keys to our perfect marketing plan.
I remember the long nights and weekends spent in front of a screen figuring out how to build a website or fighting with accounting software to get our logo to display properly on donor receipts.
Our progress was messy and riddled with rookie mistakes -- but people came along and invested in us as leaders. We learned through each experience and devoured every bit of advice from mentors, fellow peers, and experts.
What we lacked in knowledge, we made up for in spades with humility, persistence and a relentless desire to learn from the best.
I'm here for you.
Now, let's talk about you.
You took a leap and started a nonprofit.
That takes guts.
But as you look around, the 'best practices' for fundraising and marketing in our space are outdated and you're not sure where to look for advice. I got you.
The early days of a nonprofit are exciting, exhausting and confusing. I understand that as a new founder, you're wearing all the hats.
You're making changes to your impact model, building an audience, launching a website, managing your programs on the ground and so, so much more.
You're building the plane as you're flying it.
I know you know that investing in your development is important. But who has time to read a million articles on the internet just to learn how to build a successful landing page or ask a donor for a contribution?
If you're anything like I was ten years ago, I bet you're desperate for advice and guidance. And let's be honest, a shortcut or two once in a while.
I got you. That's what I'm here for.
This is why I created Mission Critical. To help first-time (or third-time), passionate founders like you navigate the early years of building a nonprofit. I'm here to help you develop the leadership, marketing and fundraising skills you need to build a world-class organization.
And yes, have all the fun in the process.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my story, and getting all the way down here. I admire you for taking the plunge and starting something of your own. I know the courage it takes, and I'm here to serve you as you fly (and build) the plane of your dreams.
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