2006 Nothing but Nets Campaign
Sportswriter Rick Reilly first learned about malaria’s toll in Africa from a BBC documentary. He was struck by the film’s rhetorical question: “Did you know that every day 3,000 children in Africa die of malaria, needlessly?” Reilly was even more impressed by the ready availability and low cost of one easy solution: $10 bed nets treated with insecticide. Reilly dedicated his May 1, 2006 Sports Illustrated column not to sports, but to malaria. He exhorted his readers to donate ten lifesaving dollars. He arranged for contributions to be collected by the nonprofit Roll Back Malaria.
To his great surprise, the campaign collected nearly $1 million in its first week. Soon, celebrities and public figures lent their support to the campaign. Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association became sponsors. The United Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church pledged to raise up to $100 million each. Corporate sponsors like Orkin Pest Control and Makita Tools joined in. The initiative soared primarily on a multitude of small donations from more than 70,000 individuals, averaging $60 each. Because Ted Turner’s $1 billion donation covering all of the administrative costs of the United Nations Foundation (which managed the Nothing But Nets funds), 100 percent of the giving went to mosquito nets (whose price dropped to $3 per net as production soared over the next several years).
While governments and international organizations have strived to eradicate malaria for years, Reilly’s campaign raised public-awareness cheaply and at unprecedented speed. Nothing But Nets made possible the distribution of more than 6 million mosquito nets to vulnerable residents of Africa. “The effort primed the pump for the nearly simultaneous establishment of Malaria No More, a group that took the anti-malaria crusade to a larger scale. Founded in 2006 by financier Wesray Capital principal and philanthropist Raymond Chambers, this wider effort made malaria nets an international phenomenon. As of 2014, 427 million nets have been delivered to Africa, along with millions of treatments and diagnostics. Annual malaria deaths dropped by 350,000.
- Original Reilly column, sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/rick_reilly/04/25/reilly0501/index.html
- Origins of Ray Chambers involvement, givesmart.org/Give-Smart-Blog/April-2013/Ray-Chambers-Philanthropy-Malaria-Focus.aspx