Making a difference takes time. Initial excitement makes you think that everything will happen quickly when you have a great idea. However, the actual planning and execution of any event or idea requires a great many people to have input and time to think it through, and patience is necessary as reality sets in.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexa Geyser from The Thirst Project.
Thank you so much for doing this with us!
First of all, thank you for bringing attention to the work I’m fortunate to do.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well it is not a career path yet, I am still learning a lot about the world, and don’t know what I am going to do. When I first read about The Thirst Project, and the water crisis, it had a big impact on me since the girls I was reading about were my age, and doing nothing but spending all their days just collecting water to survive. I thought about what it was like to be in their position, and I knew I could not solve the entire crisis, but wanted to at least do something.
It turns out that just $25 can give clean water to someone for life. The work that Thirst Project does allows someone like me to raise money and have it be impactful.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I had a surreal moment when both the people I invited to my second Thirst Gala agreed to come, and got a lot of attention for the cause. That night was amazing, because both Debby Ryan and Dove Cameron also bought wells enabling many more people in Africa to get clean water. The picture from that night appeared in J-14 and helped me tell the story of Thirst Project to many more people.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I never make mistakes. Kidding! At the last Thirst Gala, my friends and I were pitching everyone there to team up with us on buying another well, and we pitched the director Kenny Ortega. Sadly, we did not know that Mr. Ortega was there to give an award out and he seemed taken aback by our solicitation for money. Then he thought we worked there and started asking us questions about the event which we certainly couldn’t answer. From that I learned always look at who you are pitching and try not to pitch presenters.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
While Thirst Project is not my organization, I am very happy to be a part of it, and it (along with many other similar organizations) continues to reduce the number of people worldwide who don’t have access to clean water.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
One of the great things that Thirst Project does to connect you with your donation is make a video of the actual village that receives the well you donated. One of the proudest moments of my life was hearing an entire community of people say “thank you Alexa” when their well started flowing. Often times we give without seeing the result, but in this instance I was able to see the people whose lives my work actually impacted.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
It all begins with Awareness. Some of the work I do for Thirst Project isn’t just to raise capital it is to raise awareness of the issue. Society can prioritize this because lack of clean water leads to a host of other problems including diseases, poverty (because women are eliminated from the workforce given their need to collect water) and lack of education. These are typically priorities in our society, but they never even get there when you have to deal with this first. Lastly, in the case of clean water, a little bit of money — only $25 — can really have a major impact, and when you think about how much money we spend on every day items, clean water for one person for life for $25 seems like a great investment.
So, in summary, Awareness, Prioritization and Understanding your ability to make an impact.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership isn’t just one thing, it is the combination of a number of important qualities. First, you have to have something worth while to lead to. Second, you have to be passionate about the goal and also be motivational to get others to share your goal. Third, you have to be able to organize and execute, because the best ideas can fail if you don’t have a plan for how to get it done. Fourth, you don’t want to come across bossy, or force people to see things your way (especially in charity), so you have to lead with compassion. Lastly, true leadership is selfless, and not just to benefit yourself but to realize a goal as a group. A strong leader embodies all of these things and motivates others to follow.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Making a difference takes time. Initial excitement makes you think that everything will happen quickly when you have a great idea. However, the actual planning and execution of any event or idea requires a great many people to have input and time to think it through, and patience is necessary as reality sets in.
2. There are roadblocks that you won’t see. Not only do you envision things happening fast, but you also picture them happening flawlessly. Surprisingly, nothing happens flawlessly. Each planned item usually needs some modification and you have to learn to go with the flow and improvise.
3. People don’t give as easily as you expect. Just because you think it is a worthwhile cause does not mean that everyone just opens their wallet and donates. It still takes work, planning and value, as well as tapping into their emotions to get people to give money.
4. There are many worthwhile causes. While each cause that I choose is special to me, there are so many other great causes that may be much more personal to a specific situation. So it takes understanding to recognize that while my cause or event is special to me, it is still a crowded field of important charities.
5. People all have their own priorities. Finally, people are busy and they have many things going on in their lives that require their attention. While they may want to help, and even fall in love with your cause, it is just not at the top of their to-do list and you still have to compete for their attention.
I am sure I will keep learning important lessons and continue to evolve, and hopefully get even better at raising money and awareness for the things in life we sometimes take for granted.
Thank you for all of these great insights!
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell my story, and share that which I have learned along the way.
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.