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

November 24, 2010

Plant the seeds of hope wherever you can

Storytellers for Good: Mama Hope from Storytellers For Good on Vimeo.

JD LasicaNow that Thanksgiving is upon us, I want to leave you not with a request for a campaign donation for a worthy cause, but with a thought:

What can you do to help change the world? Because the potential to change the world resides within each of us.

Two quick stories about mothers:

In the video above, Storytellers for Good (which we’ll profile here next week) traveled to Kenya to tell the poignant story of Nyla Rodgers, founder of Mama Hope, a nonprofit community development organization that helps develop self-sufficient communities in Africa. Watch it and be moved as the filmmaker connects one woman’s journey to a universal truth.

A second mother that springs to mind at Thanksgiving is Mama Lucy of and EpicThanks. A year ago we wrote about Tweetsgiving and how Mama Lucy’s efforts brought the Shepherd’s Junior School to a town in Tanzania with the help of Stacey Monk, her team and people like you. (Stacey’s To Mama With Love campaign appeared at the top of Mashable’s list of 9 Creative Social Good Campaigns Worth Recognizing.)

Some 400 young students attend the school, and now it’s ranked #2 out of 123 schools in the region.

But the story doesn’t end there. My colleague Janet Fouts writes:

Now there’s a new issue with the school. Primary education ends at grade 7 in Tanzania and next year the kids will finish their final year at Mama Lucy’s and if they test well the government will place them in available spots in new schools. Many public secondary schools are severely lacking in Tanzania and to take these kids from a great program and drop them into a school lacking in teachers and teaching materials could cut their promise short. The school needs to add classrooms so the children can continue their educations in the quality and supportive environment they need to reach their potential.

You can help out by donating to Epic Change and following them on TwitterFacebook and at their blog.

Or, you can help out Mama Hope. Or some other effort that could use a connection. As the Epic Thanks page puts it:

“TweetsGiving was never about twitter or social media. It’s about the gratitude in our hearts, and the transformative power our thankfulness can have when we share it with one another. It’s about cultivating a deep sense of for those remarkable souls who create hope in our world. That’s why this year, TweetsGiving becomes Epic Thanks.” Look for the #epicthanks hashtag.

The thanks shouldn’t end this week. Janet rightly asks: Why isn’t every day the season for giving? Find whatever is inside yourself today to make the world a better place.

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

January 13, 2010

How to make giving on your site more social

Welcome to the 31 Day Challenge To Optimize Your Blog With Social Media. Today guest contributor Frank Barry talks about optimizing donation pages.

Guest post by Frank Barry

CC photo by cambodia4kidsorg

CC photo by cambodia4kidsorg

As the Web becomes more social in nature, people grow to expect more social behavior on your website. Have you thought about how that affects you? Or how it affects the way people give online through your site?

Here are a few things to get you started. Hopefully they’ll give you ideas about how you can make the online giving experience more social for your donors! Once you’ve put some thought into it, I’d love to hear what you’ve decided to do (or please share a link in the comments if you are already doing some of these things).

Follow the rules

There are some well defined guidelines that everyone needs to know, but I’m not going to rehash this because it’s been covered well by the industry leading  Nielsen Norman Group in their study Donation Usability: 58 Design Guidelines for Improving the Donation Process and the Usability of Essential Information on Charity and Non-Profit Websites. You can read more about it on Steve MacLaughlin’s Blog.

For now, here are a few key points you can’t miss when it comes to making the online giving process more social.

  • Explain why someone would be interested in donating.
  • Use real examples of people you have helped and situations you have improved.
  • Provide information about your organization’s presence on social outlets so users can connect with you on them.
  • All this info shouldn’t live right on the page where the donation form is. Just make it easily accessible from the donation form.

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