Wanna build a school with me?

Wanna Build a School With Me1If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you may know that giving has been baked into my business model since before I had a business model.

Last year we were able to fund three wells in Uganda through Holden Uganda Foundation, which was a huge privilege. When you think about it (and really, we don’t think about it enough), water is LIFE. I’m tremendously thankful for the opportunity to partner with HUF and definitely plan to build more wells in the future. That said…

As 2013 came to a close, I started to feel led (or shall I say…lead?) to a totally new giving back project.

A really BIG project.

And that’s what I want to tell you about today.

I want to (help) build a school. 

The Backstory

Just as this idea started bouncing around in my head (and heart) before the holidays, I spotted some photos shared by fellow entrepreneur Lewis Howes over on his Facebook page. He was in Guatemala, surrounded by a crew of bright-eyed kiddos (who were super-excited to meet and play with the big American fella helping them build a brand new school).

Lewis School of Greatness

I flashed back to my college years, when I went on annual mission trips to Mexico with our home church. Armed with my fair skin, auburn hair, and Spanish minor in-progress, I played the role of (a rather funny-looking) translator between my fellow Texans and the beautiful people we came to serve.

Some of these trips were medical (we’d set up makeshift clinics with nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and dentists), and others were construction-based (building homes or schools with basic cement blocks and mortar). All were life-changing.

One particular memory always stands out of the pack: We’d spent an exhausting yet transformational few days working together side-by-side, and the local pastor wanted to pray with (and for) us before we headed back home to Texas.

We all circled up beneath the stars, new neighbors and friends, and MAN. Even though I couldn’t understand everything he was saying – I felt it. Everybody did.

And when I saw the pics of these kiddos a few months ago, I felt it again.

Enter Pencils of Promise

I reached out to Lewis, who kindly connected me with Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise (and author of soon-to-be-released The Promise of a Pencil):

“PoP was founded in October 2008 in hopes of building just one school by creating a movement of people who saw themselves as global citizens, regardless of age or status.

Since starting with just a $25 deposit, [Pencils of Promise has] now built over 150 schools.

We are proof that a generation empowered will empower the world. One child, one pencil at a time.”

Pretty amazing, right?

After visiting with the team at PoP earlier this week, I knew I’d found my main “for-purpose” partner for 2014.

I’m going to raise $25,000 to build a school with Pencils of Promise this year.

Let’s keep it VERY real here, friend. Not long ago (liiiike less than a year ago), this amount of dinero was more than my take-home salary. (Part-time park ranger + college prof, paychecks of the heart…we’ve discussed this before.)

The idea of giving this much definitely feels like a stretch. BUT…

  1. Hey. I like stretching.
  2. I feel pretty great about where my business is headed this year ($100 from every A Course About Copy registration will go straight to this project, so if you know you want in on that, get EXCITED!).
  3. I know this idea wouldn’t have been put on my heart unless it was meant to happen.

In some ways this goal is a bit intimidating. But in most ways it’s totally inspiring.

Because it scares me a little bit, I figure I should slap some public accountability on it and share it with you (and the world wide web) before I have time to chicken out – so let’s cover this one more time for good measure:

Dear World,

I’m going to raise $25,000 for some kiddos to have a new school in 2014.

Click here if you want to join me :)


I’ll keep you posted on our progress!

Let’s Talk

In the comments below, I’d love to know:

  • What’s one of YOUR big mama goals for 2014?
  • What cause would/do you love to support through your business?

Can’t wait to hear what’s got you fired up these days, friend. (It’s all about the WHY, isn’t it?!)

To pencils and (public) promises,




P.S. Wanna know how we’re gonna reach this goal? Check this out:





  1. Teri

    That’s so great Nikki! I want to also have a giving back project but I haven’t picked anything yet- SO need to decide! We have given to KLove which is an awesome cause (they have klove in Hawaii right?) but wanted to give toward a domestic abuse cause. Let me know if you have any ideas or resources!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Yes! In Houston I *looove* KSBJ, but in Honolulu KLOVE corners the market ;) Thanks for supporting it!

      Hopefully someone will see this comment and have a great organization for you to check out. I’ll let you know if I hear of one!

  2. Sara J. Sanderson

    Totally inspiring Nikki and I have every faith you’ll be handing over that cheque with pride at the end of the year, if not sooner! Woohoo!

  3. Wendy Mak

    You are always so gorgeous – physical and in your heart & soul. I have support Kiva (micro finance loans to disadvantaged entrepreneurs especially in developing areas) with a portion of all income made from my program – because it lines up with the program’s purpose. Love this post xx

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      YOU are so gorgeous, Wendy. Have heard so many great things about Kiva. Thank you for serving the way you do!

  4. Wendy Mak

    You are always so gorgeous – physical and in your heart & soul. I support Kiva (micro finance loans to disadvantaged entrepreneurs especially in developing areas) with a portion of all income made from my program – because it lines up with the program’s purpose. Love this post xx

  5. Vivienne

    You are the coolest! LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      I am anything but cool, Vivienne, but THANKS, dude!

      Encouraged by your enthusiasm :)

  6. Dara

    Nikki, you are to be applauded, for so many reasons. Your story about Adam reminds me of Bernice Johnson, a powerhouse wrapped in love and a gracious nature, who founded Shan Refugee Schools, a nonprofit supporting students and teachers with no country to call their own. Both of these projects prove that modest amounts of money can have tremendous impact.

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