November 28, 2011

The power of dedicated thanks & gratitude

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. Continue reading

June 27, 2011

Lessons learned from the To Mama With Love campaign


JustCoz, Twibbon, Google Docs were among tools used for community engagement

Guest post by Amy Sample Ward
Membership Director, NTEN

amy-sample-wardEvery campaign, every organization, every individual engaging with others online has a set of tools and techniques they’ve learned from and rely on every day. Building community and maintaining engagement is often a full-time job – even if it goes unpaid.

Epic Change is no different. The To Mama With Love campaign saw them try some new tools as well as some trusted favorites, even with no budget and lots of volunteer time.

Twitter is a major part of Epic Change campaigns and their daily engagement plan. To Mama With Love is no exception – but, as Stacey Monk, CEO of Epic Change, reflects, “It’s a much different medium than it used to be.”

Two or three years ago, you could have a conversation out in the open and have people organically join in. It’s much more challenging to do that now.

Two or three years ago, you could have a conversation out in the open and have people organically join in. It’s much more challenging to do something like that now. The 2011 To Mama With Love activity on Twitter was driven primarily by people very close to the campaign, whereas the first Tweetsgiving was driven by people Stacey didn’t know yet or hadn’t invested time cultivating relationships with.

More than 180 people with over 635,000 total followers signed up to participate by authorizing Epic Change to post via their Twitter account using JustCoz, an online relay system that lets you donate a tweet a day to help raise awareness for causes that matter to you. Continue reading

May 12, 2011

Four types of social media strategies for nonprofits


John HaydonMost nonprofits that jump into social media have one goal: To see how hot or cold the water is.

Only when they’ve gotten their feet wet do they scratch their heads wondering: “Why are we in this pool anyway?”

fifth-estateGeoff Livingston (1/4 of Zoetica Media) shared a chapter from his book “The Fifth Estate” — due out next week — about four different types of social media strategies:

  1. Participating with People – This strategy focuses on creating real dialogue with your stakeholders. Think Zappos (pictured at top).
  3. Serving with Content – This strategy focuses on using valuable and interesting content to attract and retain fans.
  5. Engage Influencers – This strategy focuses on leveraging real connections you might have with “influencers” (air quotes). You too should put air quotes around “influencers” because one’s influence isn’t half as valuable as their interest.
  7. Empowerment – This strategy focuses on empowering your fans to create and share their own content. One of the best examples of nonprofits that do this is Epic Change.

Of course, all these strategies can be used in combination. And, of course, you would start with your goals.

You can pre-order Geoff’s book here.

May 4, 2011

How to create love online: To Mama with Love

Honor your mom by supporting schools & women’s shelters abroad

Debra AskanaseWith Mother’s Day just around the corner, let’s give props to To Mama With Love, a collaborative online art project that honors moms across the globe and raises funds to invest in remarkable women who are transforming our world. An initiative of Epic Change, the folks behind Tweetsgiving, To Mama With Love is simply about creating and spreading love.

In the grassroots effort, which runs through Sunday — Mother’s Day — participants create socially shareable “heartspaces” that include words, videos, photos and investments in honor of mamas they love. The change-makers are four incredible women who have created schools and shelters for children who face poverty, illiteracy, and lack of opportunity in Nepal, Afghanistan, and Tanzania. Epic Change’s goal this year is to raise at least $65,000 to invest in Mama Lucy’s secondary school in Tanzania; Renu and Maggie’s schools in Kathmandu & Surkhet, Nepal, and Suraya’s women’s shelter in Afghanistan.

To Mama With Love is a social media fundraising campaign, and it has been designed carefully for success. Epic Change has taken every principle of great community organizing and integrated it into To Mama With Love. If you want to run a successful social media fundraising campaign, you can’t do better than to follow their lead. Here’s how:

Continue reading

May 7, 2010

How to make Twitter campaigns more effective


The secret: Moving up the Ladder of Engagement

Beth KanterWhole Foods is among those sponsoring a Mother’s Day fundraising campaign on Twitter. Whole Foods is donating a $1 for each retweet of this tweet to support The National Domestic Violence Hotline. I call this type of fundraising campaign the sponsored Tweet approach, where potential donors do not have to open their own checkbooks but instead retweet or use a hashtag to leverage a donation from a corporate sponsor to a charity. One of the earlier examples of this was the HoneyBees Campaign on Twitter sponsored by Haagen-Daaz Ice Cream. (See Juilos Vasconcellos’ analysis.)

With all fundraising and activist campaigns, I think it is important to think of your conversation and messaging strategies in the context of the Ladder of Engagement – whether you are focusing on one campaign or your fundraising campaigns for the whole year.


Think about all the various ways your organization interacts with different groups of people through its communications and fundraising efforts – through social media or other traditional channels. You will no doubt discover that some people engage with you lightly and others will engage with you more deeply. Face it, not every single person your organization touches will have the same level of passion or interest in your program. And, that is not a problem, it’s just the way it is. Continue reading

November 18, 2009

TweetsGiving: Ways to show your gratitude

TweetsGivingLogoAmy Sample WardThere are just six days to go before TweetsGiving! Next week, participants will share what they are grateful for through Twitter and other online media and attend gratitude parties around the world.

People will donate to a shared cause in honor of that for which they are most grateful. Funds raised will go to support the work of Mama Lucy Kampton (@MamaLucy), a change maker who has transformed her community in Arusha, Tanzania, through her school, Shepherd’s Junior.

Learn more and show your gratitude!

Scheduled for Nov. 24–26 (Tuesday to Thursday), the 48-hour event created by Epic Change will encourage participants to express their thanks using online tools and at live events. In honor of the people and things that make them grateful, guests will be invited to give to a common cause at events held across the globe.

Why TweetsGiving?

Last year, funds from TweetsGiving helped build a classroom in Tanzania. This year, the Epic Change team is working on building a technology lab there.  Continue reading