He wanted to help Haiti. So did the 150,000 who joined his Facebook group!

While there are countless online groups for causes and ones that claim to donate per click or per member, here’s one case where an unsuspecting yet ambitious American high school student challenged Facebook users to support his personal donation to Haiti.

Shortly after the recent disaster in Haiti, Raja Salti of Sugar Land, Texas created a Facebook group called “For Every Person That Joins This, I Will Donate $0.01 To Haiti Relief”. He began describing his mission with, “I am ready to donate a sum of money to help the innocent victims of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti. I have been grown up on the notion that donating is the best thing one can do for the world around us.”

Raja explains that his Facebook group has allowed him to expand on simply donating, by raising awareness at the same time. “I’m just doing my part, hopefully, you will do yours too.” Then,  a simple message of “Invite all of your friends”, and it went viral.

He decided that on January 25, 2010, he would take the final member count and donate the total (one penny for every member of the group). And, he did. Inspired by his story and impressed at the power of social media for true fundraising and charitable results, I took the opportunity to interview the founder of this group!

Interview with Raja Salti

By Daniel Francavilla

Hey Raja, thanks for taking the time to answer some question. Tell us, how would you describe yourself in one sentence?
I’m what you call an ambitious as well as interesting person who loves to succeed and be the best in whatever I do.

What was the first thing you heard about the Haiti Earthquake?
Well I saw the utter chaos in the streets on the breaking news report while the reporter was mentioning that it will take a while for Haiti to get back on their feet.

What triggered you to choose such an ambitious goal for fundraising?
Well I always loved to give, but I realized many of my peers in school didn’t. So I decided to go against the current and send an urgent message of awareness to the youth.

Why and how did you decide on $0.01 per member?
1. I am a sophomore in high school.
2. This is mainly to raise awareness about the state Haiti is in, not so much about the money.
3. 100,000 people=$1,000= more practical
I was expecting it to get fairly large, that’s probably why I made it $0.01 per person.

And risky, no? Did anyone doubt you specifically?
Yes, well I think in order to get successful you must be willing take risks. Some people in the group doubted me, but you can’t let those people affect you. When I finally posted the screen shot of the online receipt they all deleted their discussion posts.

Exactly. Taking a risk is the only way to grow, I learned that on my exposure trip to the Dominican Republic in high school. That’s when I started ACCESS Charity. Have you had a personal connection with anyone in Haiti?
Actually yes, my neighbor is an orthopedic surgeon who went to the Dominican Republic/Haiti border for a week. As a matter of fact he gave a generous donation to my group which really helped me out.

How long did you give yourself for the fundraising challenge? And how many people did you invite at first?
I started it on January 19, the final count was taken on Jan. 25 at 8:00 P.M. I invited all 920 of my friends at first.

Raja, have you ever been active in a fundraiser before? Were you generally an activist? Do you recall any other fundraisers in which you took such bold action?
Actually no, this is a first-time for me. I’m the president of the Teen Outreach at my Orthodox Christian Church. What we do is we go to a soup kitchen once a month, and do whatever we can to help our city. But, other than that, it’s pretty much all I do.

Raja, do you think your fundraising efforts and ambition has had an impact on other students?
Oh yes, the amount of comments and personal messages I received in my inbox from friends as well as non-friends are astonishing. It’s humbling how honored I feel to have inspired so many people.

Where was the money sent?
I sent the donation to Hope For Haiti Now which is a combination of many 4 star rated charities. Total was $1,143.09.

After your January 25 deadline, people continued to join the group. There are now over 1.5 x the initial 100,000. What are your future plans?
My friend and I created group t-shirts, the proceeds will be sent to Haiti. I hope to sell at least a thousand of them. I hope to pursue my cross country running due to the fact that it forms mental discipline and allows me to live a well balanced life. After college I am planning on going to medical school to become a doctor.

What would you like to tell people?
Anything is possible, just set your mind to a specific goal that engages you. See the opportunity in it from your personal view. Then follow through and act upon it.

Thanks Raja, for sharing your story! I’ll watch in amazement as your group continues to grow.

At the time of posting this, the group membership had already increased to 158,410 members.