Networking's Charitable Edge
Doug Wead:
Time, Money, and Friends
with Time and Money

By Uma Outka

Doug Wead

In the mid-70's, Doug Wead was a writer and motivational speaker, launching a successful career on the speaking circuit, and an active humanitarian. Having served for several years as a Christian minister, he had a strong personal motivation to give his time and energy to needy people around the world, particularly refugees of war and oppression.

Ironically, as he spoke to networking groups with the goal of motivating them to achieve their dreams, he found himself feeling just as motivated by the success stories he heard at each event.

"I'd go year after year to these conventions," he laughs. "I'd meet all these great people and hear their stories on stage while I waited for my turn to speak. Eventually, I was so intrigued that I got involved myself."

What caught his attention was the chance to have a financially successful business without making the typically proportional sacrifice of his time. Over and over, he had been frustrated in his efforts to launch an ambitious charitable project--raising funds for a hospital in Calcutta, India, for example--only to find himself unable to see it through to completion due to the pressures of his schedule.

In his network marketing business, he found a vehicle for fulfilling his humanitarian goals that far exceeded his expectations. In 1979, he co-founded Save the Refugees Fund in response to famine in Cambodia; today, renamed Mercy Corps International, the organization provides relief to millions each year in countries around the world.


Launching More than a Business

Doug continued his extensive speaking work, even as he started his networking business part-time. In fact, he was on the road so much that building strong relationships with the people he sponsored was a challenge. He tried his best to turn that disadvantage into an advantage. His wife, Myriam, with whom he has five children, played a key role in filling the relationship gap.

"It was important for us to work as a team," he says. "It was a challenge to be on the road, but I saw it as an advantage because I could build out-of-town groups. I'm a strong believer in those because they're low maintenance, even though they're difficult and expensive to build. They are somewhat compartmentalized, so I found them easier to manage. They don't get the positive charge from things going really well on the home front, but on the other hand, they aren't hurt as much by negativity, either."

With their part-time effort, the Weads reached the top of their company's plan in three years.

"It was pretty quick growth, but of course, it seemed very slow to me. That's the nature of networking, it seems to 'happen all at once' when the momentum kicks in, and that was the experience I had."

Along with that momentum, Doug's success in his charitable works exploded. It was the combined effect, he says, of the contacts, the income, the extra time he found in network marketing, and the political realities of the time, that pushed him to do even more than he bargained for.

"I had extra money because of networking--but better than that, I had a network of friends with extra money," Doug explains. "In 1979, there was a famine in Cambodia. People were dying and hundreds of thousands of people were crossing into Thailand to escape Pol Pot's regime. I called a bunch of my friends to chip in, hoping that we could collectively donate a large sum of money to one of the traditional relief agencies."

The problem was that those traditional agencies--Oxfam, World Vision, Catholic Relief and the like--were barred from entering the country.

"Pol Pot thought all those agencies were CIA or British Intelligence and didn't trust them. They said to us, 'We can't go into Cambodia, but if you start a new agency, we can give you our food and medicine to take in,' and that's exactly what we ended up doing."

Doug and his friends organized Operation Land Bridge and began trucking food from Thailand into Cambodia to feed people who were nearing starvation. In retrospect, Doug is grateful that he was pushed to be so directly involved.

"It was beautiful to be saving people's lives and knowing that the food we were carrying in was literally a matter of life or death."

This work began a chain reaction of doors opening and new relationships forming. For his part in the success of the famine relief effort, Doug attracted attention. All of a sudden, he found himself rubbing shoulders with public figures, including political figures, and developing friendships with them.

"Networking is quite a phenomenon," he says. "You know the 'six degrees of separation' principle: you're six people removed from anyone in the world you would want to meet. But when you're part of a large network marketing organization, it's more like one or two degrees! I met people with influence in the media, and our growth was explosive. Mercy Corps was formally organized, I was on the Board of Directors, we hired people who were experts in famine relief, and we were off to the races."

In his network marketing business, this parallel success only increased his credibility and self-confidence.

"Even with money, it's hard to find the time to do meaningful charitable work, and not everyone is driven to have some material advantage over the neighbors. People want their lives to make a difference. I was living that life and never could have without network marketing. Of course, like anyone else, I still had to recruit and earn credibility by succeeding in the business; but I gained the confidence that networking can open the doors, no matter what dreams you have.

The Daily Food of Motivation

"As a speaker, Doug Wead emphasizes the importance of listening to positive tapes and CDs, reading inspirational books, and attending regular functions "where there is a sense of accountability." He likens these activities to physical exercise: staying motivated and connected, he says, serves as your mental and emotional exercise. Just as if you run a mile a day, you'll feel better and be more careful about what you eat, he says, by listening to motivational materials each day, you'll be more aware of what can bring you down and how to avoid it.

Even as a top leader in his company, and a motivational speaker by profession, Doug still reads and listens to motivational tapes himself.

"I find that if I try to sponsor or motivate someone else and I'm empty, I can't do it. There's some other quality that is the secret to recruiting. Some say sincerity, some say enthusiasm, but whatever it is, I know that when I'm listening to positive tapes, I start overflowing--it becomes natural for me instead of difficult. For me, motivation is like daily food. You don't have to eat a lot--but you have to eat every day."

Political Networking

In the political arena, Doug developed a friendship with the Reagans and the Bushes and ended up working for George W. Bush on Bush Senior's first presidential campaign. When he won and took office in 1988, Doug was appointed Special Assistant to the President and moved to Washington. The prestige associated with this position, not to mention the ever-widening circle of contacts that came with it, only fueled the expansion of his business.

"All of that came from network marketing," Doug says. "Because I had time and contacts, I was able to do things on a campaign that I wouldn't have been able to do. That led directly to my job in the White House."

Throughout that period, as he does today, Doug kept his networking business going on a part-time basis. In fact, Doug feels that the part-time networker who continues to be involved in other things and stays connected to a broad and diverse range of people often has a serious advantage. In his case, it allowed for many more opportunities for indirect, casual introductions to the concept, an approach he personally favors over the direct, more formal, presentation-centered style of business-building. With his hand always in a number of different things at once, Doug has found more than a few of the principles he learned in network marketing to be confirmed in his spheres of influence outside of the profession.

"In my political work, for example, we learned that if you take a poll of 100, it is practically meaningless; you can't make decisions on it. When you have 1500, though, you get a pretty good picture. Actually, 1550 is the magic number: even with ten times that number, you won't know much more.

Mercy Corps Today

Mercy Corps is a not-for-profit organization that exists "to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities."

Since Doug Wead co-founded Mercy Corps in 1979, the organization has provided more than $640 million in assistance to 74 countries, now reaching more than five million people each year. Mercy Corps channels its resources toward humanitarian need, countries in transition and strategic partnerships with in-country organizations to build their institutional capacity and "ultimately place programs in local hands."

Mercy Corps contribution serve to:

  • Provides emergency relief services that assist people afflicted by conflict or disaster.
  • Assists in developing sustainable communities through strategies that integrate agriculture, economic development, health and housing, and strengthen local organizations.
  • Promotes civil society initiatives to encourage citizen participation, accountability, nonviolent conflict management, and the rule of law.

Here is a concise list of the locations touched by the work of Mercy Corps:

Africa: Eritrea, Liberia;
Americas: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Oregon, Sept 11--Comfort for Kids;
Balkans: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia;
Caucasus: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Chechnya/Ingushetia;
Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ferghana Valley;
East Asia: China, Indonesia, Mongolia, North Korea, Russia;
Middle East: Jordan, Lebanon, West Bank;
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan.

Source: Mercy Corps,

"That jived perfectly with what I was learning in networking: when you have about 100 customers or independent business owners with you, that's an insufficient basis for making any serious decisions. At that point, you're still wiser to rely on those who are a little further down the road in networking. When you have about 1500 in your network, you have a pretty good feeling for how it works. It follows that networking companies tend to revere those levels of achievement that reflect organizations of about 1500 people."

While he pursued political goals, Doug scaled back his role in Mercy Corps, yet remained active. He provided the seed money for an operation to avert famine in Uzbekistan after the break-up of the Soviet Union, where Mercy Corps was out front. During a drought in Honduras, Doug went down with a group of people from all different levels within his networking organization to help get fresh water to the driest villages.

Most recently, Doug has made use of his flexible schedule to write a book, All the Presidents' Children, which at press time was #13 on the New York Times best-seller list. The interest started out casually--he collected newspaper clippings about presidential children for the past 15 years--but over the last two years, he took the idea for a book through to completion.

Even as he makes television appearances promoting his book, Doug insists he never puts his business on the back burner. Whether it's a charitable or political cause, another professional pursuit, or even a hobby, Doug is a firm believer in "doing it all." Thanks to a networking income unfettered by restrictions on his time or potential, Doug says, he's been able to do just that.



UMA OUTKA is a contributing editor
Networking Times.