Tag Archives: Non-Profit

Joining HelpMeSee, the Campaign to End Cataract Blindness

I’m excited to share that I’ll be joining the HelpMeSee as a Social Media Coordinator beginning next week! In this new role I’ll be managing social media with daily updates and engagements to support fundraising for this global health care non-profit organization.

Founded in 2010, HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.  Over 20 million people are needlessly blind because of cataracts, and a further 82 million who are visually impaired will eventually go blind because they cannot access treatment. Cataracts can effect people of any age, race, or background, with women disproportionately impacted and less likely to be treated.  Most of the cataract blind live in developing countries, where there is a shortage of cataract surgeons trained to provide sight restoring treatment for the millions of people in need.

Fortunately HelpMeSee is developing a solution- using virtual reality simulators to train the thousands of cataract surgeons needed to fight blindness.  Continue reading Joining HelpMeSee, the Campaign to End Cataract Blindness

December’s 7

xmascard-finalEvery month I share a short list of ideas that I think deserve your attention, or at least commandeer my own.  This month I’ve included a few extra as an early holiday gift to readers.  I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays, and hope to see you in the new year.

Blog: Framing Science. Matthew Nisbet will change how you understand science.  We take for granted that the facts should speak for themselves, but our understanding of these complex subjects are largely a matter of communication.  His blog covers so much of what I learned in his classroom, and it is recommended reading if you care about climate change, public policy, or evolution.

Colleague: Nina Keim.  I met Nina as a Graduate student at American University (maybe Classmate is a better title), and have always been impressed by her initiative.  Unlike some of my peers, Nina displays an endless curiosity; she seeks out new ideas in communication and isn’t afraid to try them out for herself, often before their value is readily apparent.  Rather than merely acting as an informer, Nina embodies the role of an opinion leader in her own right.

Meme: PR does not equal “Press Release”. Sure Press Releases still work, but the question is “should you send one?”  At #PRCamp we first realized that the words Press Release should never be used near anything Social Media.  PR practitioners build relationships and tell stories, and in today’s media landscape that cannot be limited to broadcast and print news releases.

Music: Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart”.  I’ve made many jokes over the past month about the music video, which I’m convinced will soon become another Rick Roll.  What convinced this unassailable icon to record his first Holiday album may have been a favorite charity, but I’m convinced it must’ve been Santa.

PR Agency: 2ChicksInc. Full Disclosure – I’ve been working (as an intern) with this start-up PR group over the last month.  Working with the women who are its namesake, I’ve learned how a boutique PR firm can use their expertise to innovate online campaigns.  And their generous part-time position has helped me continue my own career search (thanks again for the opportunity).

Shameless Plug: The Brew Noob. My side project has evolved from 140 charecter beer reviews on Twitter into a Tumblr blog of own right.  As usual, I’ll test the brews so that you can enjoy tasty beers.

Social Network: Hot Potato. Why use hashtags or checkins if you only want to talk about an event while it’s happening?  It’s not meant to replace Twitter or Foursquare, but its a new take on an old idea. Another revelation we made at #PRCamp was that not everyone will use Twitter (the brand), but that SMS/mobile messaging (the idea) were here to stay.  Try it.

Continue reading December’s 7

The Birthday Challenge

What difference can one person make simply by asking their friends to make a charitable contribution? Any individual can help change the world, and this story is just another example to prove that (click here to play the video).

For my last birthday I challenged my friends to donate to a cause, People To People International (PTPI), instead of buying me a gift. I used the Causes application on Facebook for fundraising, and was overwhelmed by their support. I’ve written about my efforts before, and have since raised a few hundred dollars for PTPI.

My efforts earned the attention of People To People, who like most non-profit organizations are exploring all the new opportunities for fundraising that social media can offer. We connected though Facebook, where an interview was published highlighting my fundraising efforts in addition to how PTPI has impacted my life both personally and professionally.

We wanted to share my story and inspire others to try the same challenge for themselves, so I flew to Kansas City, Missouri to shoot this video. The birthday challenge has also been the subject of another recent interview accompanying the video, as part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of young people working with PTPI.

Thanks to Scenic Road Productions for creating this video promoting a good idea for a a great cause. And Happy Birthday for my friends at People to People, which celebrates their 53rd year of fostering peace through understanding this week!

Living Classrooms – Learning By Doing

Living Classrooms logoAny company can use online media to connect their brand with their audience, but how does a non-profit grow their organization despite expected declines in charitable contributions?   Even with a limited budget, digital levels the playing field to organic and earned media opportunities for non-profits such as Living Classrooms, a client I had the privilege of consulting for last spring.

Along with a team of classmates at American University, we set about creating a strategic communications plan for Living Classrooms, a non-profit organization serving underprivileged youth in the DC-metro community since founding in 2001.  One of the challenges unique to this client was their difficulty distinguishing not only from a successful parent organization, but also standing out from other non-profits in DC currently struggling for funds, so our team decided branding would become a strategy.  Their hands-on education approach meant almost all of their funding was used towards their programs, and presented a challenge to developing new sources of fundraising. Meeting these budget limitations helped us build a strategy with specific objectives (met through some work on our own part).

As discussed in our presentation (and memo), creating and using a blog and Twitter were critical tactics to meet the campaign’s goals.  These online tools serve an agenda-building relationship with the local news media, which Living Classrooms would try to earn media coverage without using expensive advertising. However social media is not synonymous with free media: even though these platforms are free to use, they require thoughtful and persistent work from dedicated professionals in order to work well.

Any organization can ask someone to Twitter for them, but only a professional can make it relevant for reporters, bloggers, and others who would want to tell Living Classroom’s story.  My role in this process was to build these media tools for them, and to start using these so that Living Classrooms would could model on them; unfortunately they did not have the budget to hire someone to write so my model was key.  While new media levels the playing field, a public communications professional can lift an organization above from the rest, so that a non-profit like Living Classrooms can stand out online.

These tactics also play a critical role in winning and retaining new donors, since they allow Living Classrooms to provide regular updates which demonstrate the value of their donation.  Because Living Classrooms, like so many non-profits, is involved in so many programs donors don’t always know about all the work their donation allows an organization to accomplish everyday.  These regular updates demonstrate the compelling work Living Classrooms does through stories told in words, videos, and pictures in the channels which new donors are likely to discover this cause.  This serves as a compliment to the newsletter and mailer our group designed, often adapting the same material for online use.

We’re still waiting to see which parts of our strategic plan will be used by Living Classrooms this year, so in the meantime please check out the blog I set up to learn more. For a communications professional with a strategic approach, online tools can become a successful tactic for non-profits to  overcome limitations and expand their communication budgets, ultimately changing minds and lives of those most in need of help.

Et cetera, Etc.

Here’s a few updates to previous posts, and some news on my professional life:

  • The Twitter Internship is soon to become simply An Internship.  Last week I was happy to join New Media Strategies as their intern, starting in May 2009. I’m looking forward to learning more about how they use new media tools, including Twitter where I got their attention to begin with, to participate in online communities where they promote and protect brands for their clients.  I think we’ll be a good fit together since we share the same inclination to try new online tools for ourselves so that we can understand any opportunities they offer for those we represent.
  • I have signed up for summer semester at American University.  The two last classes of my Graduate degree in Public Communication will be Crisis and Political Communications.  And since they take place in the evening, it shouldn’t be any trouble for my internship.
  • Rock the Vote, which I had previously applied for an internship, has begun to offer a fellowship program for young students like myself.  This largely self-defined fellowship encourages individual innovation using social media to reach young people and engage them in civics.  Although I probably will not be able to become part of their program because of my internship responsibilities, I hope to join their team and help out via Telecommuting over the course of their campaign.  Ask me or tweet Chris Kennedy for an invitation if you’re interested in joining the program.
  • To date I was able to raise $195 from 7 donors for People to People on Facebook.  Although this did not reach my goal, it surpassed my expectations, and has raised the bar for non-profits like PTP online.  I am proud of what I could contribute using these social media tools as an individual, and look forward to helping them in the future.

While some of these updates might warrant a post of their own, thanks for letting me be a little self-indulgent.  If you’re dying to keep up on the latest as it happens, why not join me on Twitter already? After all, it did help me get this internship, etc…

People to People

Before I turn 24 years old on March 15th, I have been asking my friends to donate $24 to a favorite non-profit of mine, People to People International.  So imagine my surprise when friends from Facebook, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years, donated the suggested amount without having ever heard of this charity before.

Using the Causes application of Facebook can be a great source of new donations for a non-profit like People to People, a Student Ambassador program I took part in for six years (age 13-18).  I was prompted by the Causes application to create a Birthday Wish for one of my favorite causes I had joined as a group member.  After selecting PTP I was provided with tools to promote my birthday wish automatically, including: pre-written status updates, posts to the wall, and private messages to send to friends asking them to give to your Birthday Wish.

Although I was impressed with the ability to utilize the power of my social network on Facebook to gain support behind this cause, I remained skeptical that anyone would give such a large donation for my birthday.  On my Birthday Wish page, I decided to put my money where my mouth was by donating $24 of my own money towards the $240 goal ($24 x 10 donors) I had set.  So naturally I was surprise when one of my Facebook friends from high school has donated the next morning.

Facebook Birthday Wish

So far I have raised at least $96 from 3 people for People to People, who took notice of the new donations almost immediately.  They like me had become excited about the new possibilities for small donors that the Causes application had enabled with the Birthday Wish function.  I was happy to discuss some of the social media tools they had at their disposal.  They also gave me a short interview that promoted others to try using these tools on Facebook.

Although many people are quick to dismiss social media as merely a trend that is difficult to measure actual results, I think this small effort by an individual shows its potential when this communication tool is used appropriately.  In this case the Birthday Wish was more effective than merely randomly asking my friends for donations; it used an effective appeal rather than posting just another link to ignore.  For non-profit organizations, social media like the Causes function in Facebook offers exciting possibilities by connecting the power individual networks with an audience of small donors that were previously much more difficult to reach.  The power of interpersonal communications is meeting the reach of public communications over the internet.

Follow me on Facebook, or learn more about People to People International.