Students in “Mom’s House,” a shelter home at the MORE Project.
Katy Holt-Larsen, executive director of the MORE Project, reading with children in Brazil.
Sergio and Silvia Ponce, President and manager for MORE Project Brazil with their students.
Students in the Professional School learning English.
Network Marketing Company founder and CEO Dallin Larsen with wife, daughter, MORE Brazil President and with “Father’s House” participants and coordinator.
Many network marketing companies support charitable causes through donations and volunteer activities. The MORE Project is such a cause, sponsored and funded by a network marketing company and its distributors who wanted not only to give back, but also make the two-way flow of giving and receiving an integral part of their company culture.
“Contributing to developing countries and underprivileged populations has always been part of the company founders’ vision,” says Katy Holt-Larsen, executive director of the MORE Project. “They looked around at existing nonprofit organizations and didn’t really find the right match.”
That’s when founder Dallin Larsen reached out to Brig Hart, one of their key distributors, and Brig reached out to a couple in his group, Doug and Janet Rowland, who had done missionary work in Brazil.”
Doug and Janet had several connections in Brazil and they recommended Sergio Ponce, a former orthodontist and minister who was helping the poor in the favelas or Brazilian slums.
“Dallin always wanted to give back to the country of Brazil,” says Katy, “because the key ingredient in his company’s product, the açai berry, happens to be found in the Brazilian rainforest along the Amazon river. When Sergio and Dallin met, there was an instant connection. Sergio already had several programs in place but was struggling financially with the nonprofit work he was doing. Dallin made a commitment to fund and develop what Sergio had started, and that’s how the MORE Project was born in 2006.”
A Culture of Giving
Giving is a core part of Dallin’s company culture, and corporate as well as field leaders emphasize this at every business meeting. Even the very first company video made emphasized the Five Star Opportunity, which includes a mission of giving back.
“The five stars are: great product, right timing, sound management team, fair compensation plan and compelling cause,” says Katy.
Here’s how Dallin puts it: “We believe we’re a blessed company. And when you’re blessed, you need to be a blessing to others.”
“The company mission is to provide people with an excellent health product and help them build financial freedom,” says Katy, “but it’s also about being part of that giving and receiving cycle. Distributors see this truly come to life through the MORE Project.”
The anecdotal feedback she continually gets from people is that they are proud to be associated with a company that walks its talk at every level.
For example, the corporation itself pays for all the administrative costs of the nonprofit. This means 100 percent of the fundraising goes directly to support the work in the field. As far as fundraising goes, the company has an auto-ship donation program. As part of the back office, distributors can log in and click on an amount they would like to give each time their monthly automatic order ships, and they can also give a percentage of their commission check on a weekly basis.
The auto-ship program is growing steadily with about 8,000 distributors who contribute on a monthly basis, for a total of about $48,000 a month. The commission program has about 150 people who participate every week, and it averages about $12,000 a month.
“Our goal is to raise this program to $200,000 a month,” says Katy, “and we are putting a strategy in place to accomplish this. Participating distributors give an average of $7 per month, those who are in leadership positions average $100 a month. This happens through our entry-level or mass-appeal program, but we also get one-time donations and large gifts from our major donors.”
Since the MORE Project is a rather young nonprofit organization, it is just starting to create different ways for distributors to get involved beyond their financial contribution.
“We had three expeditions in 2008, and in 2009 we’ll have at least one expedition a month, where donors or anyone else who is interested can go down to Brazil for a week. It’s a service expedition with about twenty people per trip who work with the locals. They may be teaching English, offering sewing classes or working with the children, depending on their talents and skills.”
Another way the company gets its field force involved is by encouraging distributors to organize fundraisers in their own areas.
“Zac Hartog, for example, is a distributor who started the MORE Tri-Team,” says Katy. “It’s
a triathlete team out of California that raises money and donates all proceeds to the MORE Project.”
Two distributors, Rick Beauchemin and Rhonda Morin, are piloting a dental program to provide free dental care to the population in the favelas. Rick, his son and Rhonda, just went down there for their first trip to look at the dentistry that’s already being provided. The MORE Project doesn’t have the capital to fund his program, so Rick is going to start the fundraising on his own. He has been allowed to post a video on the company website where he talks about this program to get other dentists excited and involved.
Another example is a massage therapist who wants to go there to train local teachers to teach massage therapy.
“Basically, the MORE Project has standard programs and a standard budget,” says Katy, “and we have people who come up with ideas they want to realize. Our role is to find a way to have the two work together.”
Local Programs and Services
The MORE Project started out with providing services in just one favela but has expanded to working with eight different favelas.
“Our core focus is ‘Changing lives, restoring families,’ ” says Katy. “We offer four key services focused on children, teenagers, adults and families. Hope, dignity and mindset change is the first service. In all our different groups, we first work on how can we change people’s mindsets—how to build their self-esteem and confidence. Part of this mindset change is teaching Christian values to bring hope and dignity where there is none. Also, many people born in the favelas don’t have birth certificates, so their very existence is not acknowledged even by their own country. We start by witnessing them as a person and helping them see that they have value. This happens partly through legal work—such as getting them birth certificates—and partly through modeling the attitudes and behavior we want to impart.”
The second service is education. The third is shelter homes, and the fourth is rebuilding the homes in the favelas. The MORE Project provides these four key services through seven different programs.
Some programs focus specifically on children, such as the Believer’s Project. In this after-school program, 150 children from different slums come together four hours a day to receive art, writing, English, computers, dance and physical education.
“We also teach a character class where we model basic values such as respect, dignity, love and discipline,” says Katy. “For many children, it’s the first time in their lives where they are taught consistent discipline.”
Furthermore, the parents of the children in the after-school program are taught basic parenting skills, such as how to say “no.” The families learn about dental hygiene and receive dental care. The MORE Project provides two meals a day to the children who come to school.
In the shelter program, the children live with foster parents in one of the six shelter homes.
“We have plans to develop a village of twelve to fifteen homes housing ten children each,” says Katy. “Some of the children we adopt are orphans, some have been abandoned. In some cases, one parent is on drugs and the other can’t take care of the child. Without our shelter homes, these children would be thrown out into the streets or into the government system.”
Goals and Results
The main goal of the MORE Project is to give people a place to go that is safe and supportive, away from the streets and the drug culture. Through its different programs, it offers a structure and provides skills, which ultimately build people’s self-esteem.
The MORE Project has people on waiting lists for all its programs. The adult program is called the Professional School and has an enrollment of 600 adults and 400 teenagers. The school offers thirteen courses, including classes in sewing, mechanics, jewelry-making, telemarketing, computer skills and Portuguese. Each course lasts six weeks, and there are seventy-nine classes occurring each week in the project’s four classrooms.
“We focus on nurturing honesty, hope and dignity,” says Katy. “When people first come in, they often don’t believe they can learn. We start with giving them the belief that they are intelligent, they are worthy and they can grow. Then we help them learn and acquire the skills to get a job. Most jobs require that they take a test called a ‘qualification,’ so we prepare them for that.”
At the end of a course, says Katy, you can see a physical change in the participants.
“People’s hygiene has changed, the way they dress has changed, and so have their eye contact and their smiles, because they have started to believe in themselves. Several local companies have come to our school to recruit candidates who have completed our programs. Nothing is more rewarding than to see our people leave and get jobs as a result of taking classes here.”
Sergio Ponce, who now serves as president of the MORE Project Brazil, is responsible for running the programs and hiring the teachers and foster parents. The nonprofit organization employs about forty people locally. In the U.S., five employees plan and oversee the different programs.
“Our number one responsibility is ensuring our programs are creating sustainable change. The wonderful work being done in Brazil enables us to continue to raise funds around the world for MORE,” says Katy. “This includes creating the strategy and partnering with our donors to make sure we have the systems in place to support our program development. We currently help about 1,300 people on a daily basis, and our program budget is about $2.5 million.
“This year our programs grew so quickly we had to put a hold on development so we could catch up with fundraising. We’re also continually asking ourselves what success looks like and making sure that we have efficacy in all our programs so that we can go back to our donors and say, ‘Your money was spent on this program, these were the goals, and this is what we’ve been able to accomplish.’ ”
The MORE Project just published its first annual report and launched a new website with ongoing information about each of the programs. A regular newsletter goes out to the major donors and all the distributors, updating and highlighting the different accomplishments.
“Most network marketing companies have a charitable organization they support,” says Katy. “Dallin’s company has put this at the heart of its culture. The founders teach that the more you receive, the more you give, and they are committed to building a great company that makes a significant difference in the lives of many.”