November 28, 2011

The power of dedicated thanks & gratitude

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EpicChange_Children
Students play at the original site of Shepherds Junior School in Arusha, Tanzania.

How your nonprofit can promote followership and build deeper relationships

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, foundations, cause organizations, businesses, brands, individuals, social media consultants, individuals.

Debra AskanaseI don’t think I’ve ever worked with an organization quite like Epic Change. Founder Stacey Monk believes that “intention makes a powerful difference.” Epic Change is really all about intention: intention to build, fund, and support a school that literally changes the lives of children. Intention to listen. Intention to include everyone who wants to be part of the organization, and let everyone own this thing called Epic Change.

Epic Change is an example of an organization that really gets the idea of following its members, and intentional listening. Allison Fine recently wrote about this concept of “followership.” The bottom line, as Allison puts it, is to “follow or become irrelevant.” If your organization isn’t willing to listen and include its followers, then it may well become irrelevant. As we’ve written before, Epic Change is anything but. Stacey and co-director Sanjay Patel invite anyone who is “heartfully connected” (Stacey’s words) to become part of every online campaign, from planning through execution. They have three signature events: To Mama With Love, LalaLove, and now, Epic Thanks. Followers’ ideas are listened to seriously and included in the final product. In turn, Sanjay and Stacey also bounce their ideas off of the group and ask for feedback, always listening and always respectfully incorporating ideas. What has become Epic Thanks is truly a result of great followership.

One example of followership is the gratitude dance idea. Sanjay Patel posted a video of the dance within the Epic Thanks planning group. Within minutes, the conversation within the planning group evolved from “I’m so not dancing” (me) to “what if we had a dance-off?” (Stacey) to” let’s make a thank-you dance video if we hit our target amount!” And, of course, Stacey replies, “Let me see what we could build to host the video…may be able to get something up tomorrow.” Later that day, Stacey writes that she’s already filmed Leah, Gideo, and Mama Lucy (from the school) dancing and ready for their final thank-you dance video.

‘Tis the season to embody followership

I cannot think of a better example of followership than Epic Change. This Thanksgiving season, as in years past, Epic Change is raising money to support the Shepherds School in Arusha, Tanzania. The past three years, Epic Change has supported the school through a worldwide gratitude event called Tweetsgiving. It raised thousands of dollars to build and support the Shepherds Junior School, a primary school. Now the kids who had nowhere to go for an education are hoping that their dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors and astronauts will continue with a secondary school education. The kids who started in fifth grade three years ago are ready for secondary school, but there is no secondary school in Arusha that will nurture and support these dreams. I met two of these students, Leah and Gideon, when they came to Boston two weeks ago with Mama Lucy. If I do nothing else, I want them to have a chance to make their dreams come true.

EC-contributions

So here’s my promise: I’ll dance if I reach my fundrasing goal of $100 for Epic Thanks. Please consider donating any amount, even $1, to a worthwhile cause. And to an organization that supports followership, intention and children’s dreams.

I’m a terrible dancer, so this could get interesting. (But not as bad as Matt, apparently.)

Photo at top by Stacey Monk, Epic Change, 2007Debra Askanase works with nonprofits and businesses to create engagement strategies that move people to action. She is a social media strategist and partner in Socialbrite. Visit her profile page, see her Community Organizer 2.0 blog, follow her on Twitter, contact Debra by email or leave a comment.

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