Oprah’s Angel Network encourages philanthropy from the public
"You get from the world what you give to the world." — Oprah Winfrey
Oprah’s Angel Network serves as an interesting and inspiring study into philanthropy. The idea of creating the network was actually inspired by a little girl named Nora, who began a project called “Penny Harvest”, which raised $1000 for charity through pennies donated by the public. Needless to say, the idea was developed and expanded most effectively.
Despite it’s closure in 2011 along with The Oprah Winfrey Show which also ended in the same year, the Network has given birth to a number of “angels” in the form of individuals who carry on the work which it began in 1998. It began after Winfrey made an appeal in an episode of her show, where she urged the audience and viewers to “use their lives to make a difference in the lives of others”; thus leading to the creation of the network and its registration as a volunteer served, non-profit public charity in 2000.
The most unique aspect of the network is its ability to facilitate donations from the public through a process, which is now known as “crowd funding”. Already known for her generosity, Oprah made it a point to channel her audience’s good intentions and generosity in a productive direction, and specified that one did not need to be a millionaire, or even donate large sums of money in order to actively contribute towards a cause. The result was that the network raised and donated 100% of the $80 million raised by audience members and some celebrity donors such as Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore, who donated $1 million for the World Food Programme.
During its initial days, the Angel Network received $3.5 million in donations, mostly from spare change; the amount was used to fund $25,000 in individual scholarships for 150 deserving students from financially unstable backgrounds.
On another episode, Oprah requested audience members to donate their time towards volunteering with Habitat For Humanity, an organization that builds homes for people whose houses have been destroyed due to natural calamities. Over 15,000 people became involved in building over 200 homes around America.
The Network also stepped in during natural calamities by raising over $15 million for those affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and also facilitated volunteers who helped with the rebuilding and rehabilitation processes in those areas.
Keeping in line with Oprah’s own desire to educate the younger generation, the Network has donated millions of books to children in over 27 different countries, many of whom have never read a book in their lives. The network has also facilitated the building of 55 rural schools in 12 countries.
With over 150,000 donors and Oprah Winfrey’s influence, the Angel Network has done much to ensure that money is channeled towards social development and relief efforts, and has also donated money to individuals who are doing their bit at contributing towards a better society. The “Use your Life” award has been given to over 54 organizations and individuals in order to allow them to increase their efforts; while O Ambassadors encourages young school children to contribute towards development.
Although the Angel Network has shut down and is not accepting donations, the website channels money towards other causes. Regardless of its being shut down, the influence of the network and its impact on people resonates in the present day, and therefore it can safely be assumed that it is active, albeit in a different context.