Nick Allardice: Ten Years Below the Line
Ten years on and Live Below the Line is still going strong. It’s hard to believe that this campaign (started by two mates as a dare, way back in 2009) is still running so many years later. Since Live Below the Line launched in 2009, it has raised over $11,000,000! This phenomenal feat has gone on to help young people break out of cycles of poverty! Changing not only their lives but also their communities, and creating a lasting impact on the lives of young people in the Asia Pacific region and Australia!
Nick Allardice is one of the co-founders of Live Below the Line. He began with Oaktree as Victorian Head of Advocacy and eventually finished his time with us as General Manager in 2011. He has since gone on to become the founder and Director of Change.org Australia. Today you can find him smashing it as the Chief Product Officer of Change.org in sunny San Francisco, USA. You can also find him very near the top of the Live Below the Line leaderboard for raising so much money during his challenge this year.
So we had a chat to Nick to find out, in his own words, how did it start? Why Live Below the Line? Why is it just as important today as it was in 2009? And any tips for from a seasoned LBLer for first-timers?
“Rich [Fleming] and I were living together at the time, he was General Manager at Global Poverty Project [now Global Citizen], I was General Manager at Oaktree. We were really frustrated by how hard it was to get people to care about poverty. It’s such a remote issue, feels so abstract, and even though both of us had been working in the space for quite some time and been traveling, it still felt like a pretty academic issue for both of us, so basically I challenged Rich to live below the poverty line for 90 days”
“And it wasn’t a campaign, it was basically just both of us trying to understand poverty at the time. That was in 2009 and then i don’t know three or four months later both of us were running planning for our organisations for the next year and separately both of us were like ‘oh that thing we did last year, that would make a good campaign’.”
“We started to do it together, and turned it into a campaign, for the first several months it wasn’t called Live Below the Line, it was called, the Dollar 25 Project.”
“We did it all with a $500 WordPress site and with Everyday Hero… for most of the first campaign we thought it was failing, we set ourselves a goal if we can raise more that $200,000 and then for most of the first campaign we thought that we were going to miss that we didn’t yet realise the week of Live Below the Line, the week everybody 's doing it would at least double what you’d raised up until the week before.”
The campaign turned the pair into semi-entrepreneurs and scaled up taking the campaign from the local grassroots level to the global stage in the following years. There was an ad on Aussie screens. It was a featured question on the quiz show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’. They even had Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman, shouting the Live Below the Line message from every rooftop possible overseas. We’re talking everything from Australian television screens to international media outlets.
“I think the core purpose of the campaign which I think is to grow empathy, and I think like, make sure you emotionally connect to the experience, not just the academic experience, not just the academic reality of what people are going through, and try through some very small, very shallow, very insufficient way to empathise more and to connect with how lucky and how privileged we are and how much we take for granted that core purpose is as relevant for me today as it was 10 years ago.”
Nick was a champion fundraiser for the majority of the last decade, but took a few years off from taking the challenge because he had “exhausted all [his] fundraising networks.” But he picked it back up again this year.
“After two or three years of not doing it, it’s just so easy to start taking things for granted and I think that motivated us to connect with our values at a deeper level and really ask ourselves: what can we do more? So many people who are in the reality of extreme poverty on a daily basis, that is a horrific reality that should not exist. We can always do more to stop that and to fight against that injustice is really anyone for anyone at any stage of life and this year it was really important to, honestly both Viv [Benjamin, former CEO of Oaktree]and I.”
“More practically, our friend Cam Suttie … posted a video and that got us really nostalgic and got us thinking to do it.”
With so many years of experience, Nick has some insight into how to get through the more practical elements of the challenge, namely, what to eat? But jokingly he noted that with his new work demands seeing him travel from New York to San Francisco and back again during Challenge Week his old formula of minestrone soup a no-go this time around.
“Soup is not very mobile, also the types of food in the US is not the same as in Australia, fresh fruits and veg are more expensive… I just adapted to whatever foods were available.”
“I’ve only started drinking coffee in the last couple of years, and so every year I have done it previously I have not had to grapple with the caffeine withdrawals which so many people have talked about.”
“I work in an office with 100+ others here and that meant I can have 100 conversations about how lucky we are and my values and that’s a great thing to do.”
Nick’s three final tips on taking the Live Below the Line challenge?
“Do it in a team; I think doing it with other people is always better. Create content; best way to fundraise is to just share your experience regularly, every single experience, and maybe try to wean off coffee the week before you start!”
Live Below the Line is wrapping up for 2019, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a difference! Head to oaktree.org to find out about our latest impact projects and how you can help empower young people across the Asia Pacific region! (Plus, donations before 30 June can be claimed back from July!)