NPO 028: Planning an International Trip for your Nonprofit (Margy and Randy Roberts, CROSO)


Today's Guest: Margy and Randy Roberts 
Margy Roberts has been a board member for CROSO (Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization) for the past 6 years. On the CROSO Board, she serves as the board secretary, as one of the CROSO Liaison Coordinators, and as a member of the Scholar Support Committee. She and her husband Randy have been involved in CROSO as volunteers and donors since CROSO began in 2007. Margy has also been writing as a CROSO Liaison for the past four years with Gabriel and Norah, two CROSO Scholars. As a result, Margy's whole family (and most especially Randy) has gotten to know these scholars.  

Nonprofit Spotlight: CROSO (Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization)
Based in the Chicago area, CROSO provides post-secondary scholarships to former street children in Uganda. All CROSO Scholars were once street children and were previously supported by C.R.O. (Child Restoration Outreach), a nongovernmental organization registered in Uganda. C.R.O. doesn't have any funding support for beyond secondary school, so that's where CROSO comes in. The CROSO Scholarships provides tuition, housing, food, transportation, internship fees and provides each scholar with a laptop. Each Scholar is also paired with a mentor in the U.S. called a CROSO Liaison with whom they correspond monthly.  

Lessons Learned:
In our conversation, Margy and Randy shared about their recent trip to visit the CROSO Scholars in Uganda. In addition to sharing the highlights of the trip, they also touch on these topics:

  1. Plan your schedule in advance:

    1. Work with your partners on the ground. Get their expert advice about what to include in your visit and how much time to take for different aspects of your visit.

    2. Transportation in other countries can be confusing and/or time consuming. Be sure to work with trusted people on the ground to arrange your transportation in advance and take into account the appropriate amount of time. If possible, leave some wiggle room in there.

    3. Creating your schedule in advance allows you not to worry about as much once you are there. For folks visiting the country (or part of the world) for the first time, this might be a very overwhelming experience. Removing any worry about what is supposed to be done in the day by planning in advance can be a helpful tactic.

  2. Try to spend time with folks beyond JUST the top leader of the organization.

    1. Getting to know the people who do the daily work for an organization can be so helpful in better understanding the day-to-day experience.

    2. This is also a great way to show your respect for people at all levels of the organization and helps build a stronger relationship between you and that organization. 

  3. Incorporate processing time.

    1. Build in time each day to think through the day, remember specific moments with different people or reflect on new information gained. International trips that have an immersion equality can often be overwhelming and filled with so many new stimuli. Building in time to process is helpful.

    2. For future trips, CROSO will create a small packet of reflection questions and materials. For this trip, Molly had a couple printed readings and poems to reflect on and then had a long list of questions, but didn't have them prepared in a packet in advance.

    3. Regardless of the amount of processing time built in, there will ALWAYS be more processing required once you return back to your normal environment. Be prepared for this too. Plan a couple post-trip meetings for processing and planning for the future.

  4. Transportation provides opportunities for relationship building and learning too.
    1. Randy strongly recommends long car rides with someone from the country. Because we spent time on several different days (include two LONG days of driving) with Johnny, we were able to get to share deeply with him. These conversations led to great learning about him personally, but also about the country and political climate. It also led to very honest sharing about ourselves.
    2. Molly also recognized the benefit of using Uber for our short rides around the capital city. Being with a complete stranger who is unaffiliated with our programs and mission in Uganda gave us an opportunity to hear unbiased perspectives about the country.
  5. Create long blocks of time with the key people you're visiting.

    1. Think about building in long chunks of time with the people who you need to be strengthening relationships with and those who you need or want to engage in more serious and/or sensitive topics. For our trip this meant the scholars and our partners at C.R.O.

      1. During our trip, we had 2 scholar gatherings that each lasted about 7 hours held on Saturdays. These days provided great relationship building opportunities, allowed us to get answers to important questions we didn't previously understand, and gave lots of space for our scholars to become comfortable.

      2. Molly also spent about 5-6 hours in meetings with Moses, our main contact from C.R.O., on our last day in Mbale. This was after spending lots of time together during other aspects of our trip, but this time was meant for diving deeper into some of the more nitty-gritty issues we've been discussing. One change I'd encourage is for this not to be the absolute last day of your time together. There were a couple issues that arose in our conversation that would have been helpful to have a little time to think through and touch base again before we had to leave.

    2. Here's the calendar we created before we left the U.S. based on conversations between Margy, Randy, and Molly, and between Molly and Moses.

  6. Not discussed in this podcast, but one thing we did that has helped engage donors was that we posted one update each day from our trip describing our day and sharing one photo on social media. Our board, volunteers and donors back in the U.S. were able to follow our journey and it inspired many more people to think about participating in future trips. Here's a PDF summary of our whole trip's social media posts.

Find CROSO online:


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