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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Chelan wildfires devastation prompts mother-daughter fund-raising response

"When millennials join with boomers, better results happen," is how Deanna Oppenheimer sums up the success she and her daughter, 27-year-old Jenifer, had when, as part-time residents of Chelan, they were moved by the devastation they witnessed from the wildfires in the area to launch a local fund-raising effort for victims.

Oppenheimer, a leader in international finance while working in London from 2005 to 2012 as one of Barclay's key executives before returning to Seattle, and Jeni, who is heading off to get her MBA in the UK after three years with Global Impact in Washington, D.C., launched the fund the weekend after lightning strikes on August 13 started what became massive fires.

Deanna and Jeni Oppenheimer 

As of this week, the fires, which started, then converged into one around Lake Chelan and are now referred to as "the Chelan fire complex," have burned more than 92,000 acres and destroyed 21 residences and has actually been dramatically surpassed in impact by fires in Okanogan County.

"The passion came when Jeni and I went to Chelan to check on things. Seeing cabins burned to the ground in our favorite ski cove, seeing the ducks slick with oil from the burned boats, walking down empty streets and talking with the farmers at the Wednesday market that had lost everything, moved us to tears....and then action," Deanna said.

Deanna explained that they set a modest initial goal of $5,000 with the funds to go to a local effort focused solely on fire relief, meaning small-scale capability to allocate the funds and thus they didn't want to set a large goal that would raise significantly more than the local organization could raise on its own.

Jeni interviewed the head of the local organization called Give Naked, a giving organization that operates under the umbrella of the 501c3 Chelan Valley Hope while Deanna spoke with community leaders in Chelan and Manson before unveiling their campaign.

The plea for support went out to family and friends by way of a site called Crowdrise, a for-profit website that uses crowdsourcing to raise charitable donations for things like medical bills, volunteer trips and what it promotes as 1.5 million charities, touting the ability to create a site in 42 seconds.

The original goal of $5,000 quickly became $10,000, noted Jeni, who chose the Crowdrise approach to the fundraising.

And of course among the first to make donations were Jeni's brother, James, 23, and John Oppenheimer, Columbia Hospitality founder and CEO, who merely looked on with presumed satisfaction while his wife and daughter went about their fund raising.

Having known John and Deanna for a long time, the focus and zeal that Deanna and Jeni brought to their cause was no surprise.

"Now we are just under $20,000 and not even halfway to our target date of September 14," Jeni advised me this morning.

"What overwhelmed us was the incredible generosity of those we asked and the power of the social media network," said Deanna, who founded the consumer-focused boutique advisory firm CameoWorks after returning to Seattle. "We raised the $5,000 in 25 HOURS not days, and decided to double the goal to $10,000."

 

Deanna, who has had a social media hand in publicizing their effort with a lengthy post on LinkedIn, sums up their success as "old school networking meets new school technology in the area of charitable fundraising."

"The combination of a passionate cause, crowdfunding technology and good old personal networking taught me a lot about the new way to raise awareness," she added.

 

"The campaign has been a lot of fun to work on together but it's been exactly that....a lot of work," Deanna said. "As a result, we are not planning on broadening to support other geographic areas.  However, our campaign is a great model for someone connected to those areas to follow if they are interested."

And the model is one that could spur groups in other smaller communities that have been dramatically impacted by the wildfires, particularly those in Okanogan CountyGo to link  

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Deanna describes the model for their success:  "Multi-generational teams that combine disruptive thinking and youthful energy with seasoned expertise and lessons-learned experience are more successful than monolithic group think."


But Jeni puts it in a more personal vein. "This is something we wanted to do together." 
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