4 Elements That Create Strong Social Impact

6 min
large group of children covered in pink powder smiling and posing for a photo Classy gives trip

This is the final post in our buildOn content series. Over the last few months we’ve put our fundraising skills—and software—to use with a little company competition. And even though our fundraising campaign has ended, we still have one last story to share with you.  

When donors and fundraisers have the opportunity to engage with your beneficiaries directly, they feel more connected to your cause. This connection stems from a sense of transparency and it’s an important part of retaining donors over time.

Yet, involving your supporters in the field isn’t always an option. To better understand what might be lost in translation, we sat down with Classy account manager, Barrett Frankel.

As one of our top fundraisers during the Nepal buildOn campaign, Barrett recently had the opportunity to travel to Nepal to help build the school Classy collectively fundraised for. She saw the impact of our campaign with her own eyes and her experience surfaced how nuanced social impact really is.

Here, we dig into her experience in the field to better understand what elements you can seek to convey to your entire community—no matter where they are.

1. Tangible Impact  

Our buildOn peer-to-peer fundraiser for Nepal wrapped up at the end of December, and our top fundraisers won the opportunity to trek to Nepal to build a school. The trek left in March 2017, and when they returned, we were floored by the stories they had to share.

Because of their physical trip, we had unique opportunity to understand what was made possible by our fundraising dollars. While the literal construction of the school itself was a more obvious example, what we couldn’t have fully anticipated or measured was the mental, emotional, and social impact made possible as well.

“We were the first visitors to this village ever. Yet, they were so overwhelmingly gracious and welcoming.”

Barrett Frankel

This was more than just building a school.

2. Cultural Exchange

Every day was divided into two parts. The first part of the day focused on cultural exchange. For example, the villagers would teach the trekkers how to make banana leaf bowls. This was chosen since it’s a common activity in the village when there are celebrations, because there aren’t enough to accommodate a large gathering of people.

“They wanted to teach us something that is specific to their village: they make what they cannot buy. We experienced something that is unique and specific to them.”

Barrett Frankel
Banana leaf bowls made for a feast.
Banana leaf bowls made for a feast.

And once everyone had eaten out of the bowls, the village animals ate the bowls. There was no wasted opportunity or resource.

The trekkers also learned how to make clay from dirt, mud, hay, and water which was then repurposed into a host of different items: storage pots, cooking plates, and kids’ toys.

A child's toy car is fashioned from mud.
A child’s toy car is fashioned from mud.

The second half of the day was focused on construction of the school itself. It was truly a community effort: every member of the village signed an agreement that they would commit a certain number of hours to building the school.

3. Physical Results

The tools available to the Classy trekkers were limited. They had shovels, garden hoes, a few bowls, and one bucket in total. When they weren’t digging out the seven-foot hole that would become the foundation of the school, they took breaks tying rebar together.

Groups of rebar, tied together.
Groups of rebar, tied together.

“I was in the hole with my host mom, and there would be three-year old kids and grandparents next to you hauling massive boulders. The entire village was there with you. And as difficult as the work was, it was filled with laughter.”

Barrett Frankel

By the time the trekkers left the village, the holes had been dug out, the rebar was all tied, and boulders were being placed in the trenches to anchor the cement that would be poured on top. The Classy trekkers didn’t just fundraise to build a school, they fundraised and built a school.

The entire village digging the foundation for the school.
The entire village digging the foundation for the school.
Another shot of everyone digging together.
Another shot of everyone digging together.

And when the day’s work was over, everyone returned to the homes of their individual host families to spend time together. According to Barrett, it was a golden opportunity to really immerse yourself in what their life was like.

4. A Ripple Effect

At first, Barrett admits she didn’t put too much thought behind the homestay portion of the Nepal trek. However, it ended up being her favorite part of the journey.

“The two little girls in my family are going to attend the school that I just fundraised for, that Classy funded, and that we built with our bare hands. My host-mom can attend literacy classes. It tied everything together.”

Barrett Frankel

What’s more, this impact goes far beyond the rural village our fundraisers built the school in. Barrett recounted a story of an interaction with a person in Kathmandu, roughly 500 miles from the village.

She spent an extra day in Kathmandu on the return journey home where she had tea with a shopkeeper. He asked why she was in Nepal, and she explained the school build.

“Here he is, essentially half a country away, and he had tears in his eyes. He explained how education is the key. That ripple effect of empowering the younger generation with the knowledge and tools to contribute to the development of Nepal. He said, ‘Even though I’m in Kathmandu, what you did affects me because it affects the people of Nepal.’ He felt this as much as I did. That was more powerful than anything I could learn in a book.”

Barrett Frankel


These are four different elements of social impact that come together as one. And when you try to be transparent and communicate that impact, if you consider all these elements, you’ll be able to tell a more powerful story and build stronger relationships with your supporters.

“This is the impact we always talk about. Impact is all of this. The school principal was crying during his speech, thanking us profusely for caring. To see him so moved, to feel that impact from the actual people benefitting from the work we did, it was beautiful.”

Barrett Frankel

All of us here at Classy want to thank buildOn, our fellow fundraisers, but most importantly the people of Nepal. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn about your culture and do our part to build for the future.


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