Amany Killawi is the COO and co-founder of LaunchGood, a global crowdfunding platform created to support Muslims Launching good around the world by helping them raise funds for their campaigns. The platform draws upon the values of advocacy and giving back which are key themes in the Muslim faith. Presently the platform is host to a campaign led by Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy to raise money for the rebuilding of Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery following the horrific acts of desecration against the sacred space. All of the campaign's funds will go to the restoration of the Cemetery and remaining funds be allocated to repair any other vandalized Jewish centers.
Killawi's team at LaunchGood helps Muslims around the world extend a hand to help people of all backgrounds. We were able to sit down with Amany and learn more about the Femme Founder behind the amazing platform.
Blair Imani: Thank you so much for sitting with us. To start off, I would love to know: Who inspires you?
Amany Killawi: My parents. They've sacrificed so much to raise my siblings and I to be the people we are today and instilled in me many of the values and ethics I hold today.
As a Muslim myself, I am familiar with the importance of advocacy and charity in the faith. How does Islam inform into your advocacy work?
Islam is the ethical perspective from which I view the world. In fact, I remember when I was studying Social Work in undergrad, I realized how many similarities there were between the Islamic tradition and Social Work practice. In fact, I think that the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH was the social worker of his time.
What motivates you to do social justice and community activism?
Inspired by verse 102:8 in the Quran, It comes from a place of privilege and knowing that one day I have to stand in front of God and report on how I lived in my life. That sense of accountability drives me.
Why did you start LaunchGood?
I used to be a youth organizer supporting inner city Muslim kids to launch their own community initiatives and train them as organizers. I didn't have access to grant system or big donors so I would often crowdfund to support some of the grassroots initiatives I was working on. Along this time I met my co-founder Chris and Omar and collectively we realized the power and impact that crowdfunding was having on the mainstream culture and community. With over 1.6 billion Muslims and over 400 niche crowdfunding sites but none at the time for the Muslim community, we began asking ourselves: How can we take that impact back to the Muslim community? Many times as Muslims we're forced to keep telling people what were not that we can't even show them who we are. At the heart of it, crowdfunding is really storytelling, and we see LaunchGood as one big storybook of who Muslims are and what they're capable of doing, and every campaign on the site is a chapter in that global storybook.
Many times as Muslims we're forced to keep telling people what were not that we can't even show them who we are.
What distinguishes the LaunchGood platform from others?
It's an empathic platform. We know it can be scary to raise funds so we pair you with a complementary campaign coach to provide support and feedback every step of the way. That's also why LaunchGood campaigns are twice likely to succeed than other campaigns. We're invested in each campaign doing well, because your success is our success as a Muslim community, and if you do well you set a precedent for so many others. Other factors are cheapest fees in the industry and access to a community that cares and believes in your cause.
Will you tell us about some of the challenges you've encountered along the way?
Sure, one of the biggest challenges you have running anything that is remotely successful is just making sure to focus. There's always a constant stream of ideas and directions you can take, but not all warrant your attention and time.
I find it hard to take time for myself and I know this is a common problem among activists. Do you have any self care tips?
It's ok to say "No." That's how you limit what's on your plate in the first place. If you decide to commit to something, always under commit and over-deliver to be safe. Lastly, create sacred times to unplug. For example, I'm the worst to get a hold of from 6 - 9pm because I unplug for those 3 hours to spend time with my family. Like if the world was burning, I would have no idea because I don't have access to any technology those few hours.
Can you tell us about some of the folks you've worked with?
I'm lucky in that we've been able to have an impact globally. So that can range from working directly with Linda Sarsour on flash campaigns to raise funds for Black churches that were burned down in the South to launching a campaign to support jobs for Palestinian refugee and low-income moms in the West Bank.
What's next for LaunchGood?
Well we've got a few projects in beta testing mode, but one thing I can share is that we are working on launching a blog soon to share some of our best practices and more in depth stories of our campaigns
What advice would you give to someone who is reluctant to start a crowdfunding campaign?
Talk to us! We know it can be a bit scary to raise funds. Feel free to send as an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you figure out if crowdfunding is a good fit for you for your idea, and share past campaigns similar to yours so you feel prepared and excited to start.
How can we support Muslim activists like yourself and LaunchGood's initiatives?
Support the campaigns on LaunchGood or create one yourself! I think that many people don't realize that it's never about how much you give but always about the emotional support that your contribution sends. Although the Muslim community can be divided in our ways of practice, our hearts are still very much connected. We've already seen what can happen with the power of the crowd, and its about helping each other realize that when we work together we can accomplish so much more by nurturing a global ecosystem that supports LaunchGooders everywhere.
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
Blair Imani is a Black American Muslim activist living in Brooklyn, NY. Blair is the founder and Executive Director of Equality for HER.