A couple of months ago I was contacted by the dean of the Montessori School in Lutherville, MD. One of the teachers had brought our organization to her attention. The school is generous enough to host an annual fundraiser for a deserving charity and this year we were lucky enough to be selected. I was thrilled to hear about this as it demonstrates that our social media efforts are indeed paying off. Lutherville is just north of Baltimore, 51 miles away from us and we personally knew no one who was related to this school.
MaryMargaret was invited to speak there and she did just that about a month ago. The Montessori school is a very small school but the room was full of kids ranging from first to eighth graders. She was very well received and the kids were extremely attentive. MaryMargaret and I both are looking forward to meeting with the children again.
The fundraiser will be in the form of an art show. All the kids from the school have created their art in support of Kids Are Heroes® for display. Attending adults will be charged an entrance fee of $8.00, 100% of which will go to our charity. Entrance for kids is free!! MaryMargaret and I will also be there to greet the attendees and hand out our information. This event is open to the public. So if you are in the area, please come out and support us and the kids of the Montessori School!!
A few weeks ago I learned about JustCoz.org, which allows people to sign up and permit non-profits to tweet once a day through their Twitter stream. I was a bit reluctant at first to sign up because I saw it as something that can easily be misused and our reputation is so important to us, that I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression. (How it works is explained here.) After using it I quickly realized how much it can help us, so have been asking (admittedly sometimes too much) for people to join our “Twitter Team.” In approximately three weeks we have just over 200 people signed up to this service. (To see what we’re talking about, visit http://justcoz.org/KidsAreHeroes).
So far it has been going quite well. A few people didn’t fully realize what they had signed up for and couldn’t understand how I could be tweeting through their stream. Again, to make sure this is a pleasant experience for everyone, I quickly told them how they could opt out of it (which I will repeat a bit later in this post.) When you work so hard in social media as I do, it becomes almost intoxicating to have such instant gratification when you can tweet through so many people’s stream simultaneously. There was one comment about someone being annoyed because the same tweet was coming out of a someone’s Twitter stream once a day. Although the complaints were extremely few and far between, their point was taken. If 20 people join then imagine how much more of an impact 40 would make. Once you hit 200 supporters then 400 looks amazing. For us this is the perfect application because getting the word out to as many people as possible is paramount to us. We are reaching thousands in our Twitter stream, but ultimately we plan on reaching millions as we truly believe what we are doing can have a worldwide impact. So of course the tweet I am going to send is to ask more people to join our JustCoz campaign.
However, the point about the same tweet going by is a valid one. My initial plan was to get as many supporters lined up before we start marketing our huge event in May (blog post to come on that one). But this is social media, and our mission is to support our kids, so I have decided to change the tweets up a bit to support our heroes and other related things. The timing of the first one was perfect, for several reasons. If you know us well enough, you know that for a year and a half we have been trying to help Austin get his wish. It just so happens that the Extreme Home Makeover people are looking for a family in his area right now. So here is the tweet that went out this morning:
“Please help 11 y/o @CalistaCares fulfill her brother Austin’s Wish. http://bit.ly/245A7p #DT @KidsAreHeroes” (For the record, the #DT @KidsAreHeroes” is appended to every tweet I send out of JustCoz. I have no control over that.)
Even though I tweeted it out on a Sunday, it got quite a bit of notice. I would like to iterate what John of @mcleansports wrote in the Comments section:
“I will foward this story to a few people i know here in NY and see if we can get the ball rolling for him. Also, Will send to News stations as well. I am sure someone will see it and touch them enough to keep things going and word of mouth is the best way to get his story out. With this i am sure that word will get to them and this Dream will happen. If it is fixing current house or Building a new One. Together we will make this happen. I will start with Three Talk shows and see if One of these will be moved enough to start the process. God bless you Austin and Don’t Worry Dude this will happen for you.”
So of course this made me feel good — a lot better than getting a few more supporters. Since the EMHO campaign goes on through the end of March I plan on doing it again, maybe on a Thursday or Friday morning where Twitter traffic is pretty heavy.
But this taught me that I should mix it up a bit so as to respect all the people who have given us the privilege of using their Twitter stream once a day. So if you sign up, this is what I promise:
What I Will Tweet
I will tweet posts like the one I wrote for Austin. I will also send links to our heroes’ profiles on our site and/or blog posts where I interview or feature them. I still will occasionally ask for more JustCoz supporters. I will also sometimes point the links to our donor walls, as this serves two purposes. 1) It rewards and encourages the supporters who have already purchased a “brick” on our walls and 2) it should indeed help with our fund raising efforts. This is the least obnoxious, most efficient and even fun way I know to ask for donations. On a rare occasion I might send out our Facebook page, although I get turned off when people on Twitter always want to “connect on Facebook.”
Starting in the next few weeks, I will also occasionally send out notifications about our huge Tweetup hosted by @DabneyPorte and her company Social Marketing Concepts. They are hosting this event in the greater Baltimore area in May and all the proceeds go to Kids Are Heroes.
And from March 17-25 I will send out tweets asking for votes for our founder MaryMargaret, who is a semi-finalist for The “Energizer Bunny Hall of Fame” contest, where if she wins she will receive a scholarship and a sizable donation for Kids Are Heroes.
What I Won’t Tweet
I will not attach bogus hashtags with my tweets just to get more visibility. That would be spamming through your Twitter stream and I’m not the type who would bite the hand that feeds it. Everything will be G rated and hopefully inspiring to your followers as well.
So if you’d like to sign up, here you go. We’d love it if you did. Visit http://justcoz.org/kidsareheroes and click the “Donate a Tweet” button. Each day I do it, JustCoz will send out the tweet I write for everyone. And as a thank you gift, we will grant you one free promotional brick on our JustCoz Wall just for the asking. To opt out, visit the same link, log in with Twitter, and click the “Stop Supporting” link at the top, or you can simply Revoke your JustCoz Twitter connection at any time. Either way I want this to be a positive experience for all. If there ever is any issue, send me a mention @KidsAreHeroes and I will address it as quickly as I can. And again, thanks so much to everyone who is supporting us!!
These days I find myself referencing more and more things that most people haven’t heard of. I guess that’s part of the price you pay to get older.
Anyway, when I was a child (in the 3rd grade) growing up in the suburbs of Montreal, Quebec, I would come home for lunch each day to enjoy some quality time with my mom. I’ll never forgot the wonder of getting a new TV that was actually in color. It seemed as if the whole room even smelled differently. We would watch Hollywood Squares followed by Jeopardy and then I was back off to school.
I have very fond memories of those times. Not sure why a third grader would like those shows, but I sure did. Now enter the reason why I’m mentioning it. We recently launched our Donor Walls, where anyone can buy a square for a small donation and get publicly thanked in return with a link back to their website. It is a fun way for folks to get involved with KAH and get promoted to more than 30,000 Twitter followers and Facebook fans for a very small donation. The Hollywood Squares show would have a “secret square” where if you chose it and got the answer right you would win extra prizes.
We decided we would incorporate the same thing. Behind one of the squares in our Foundation Wall is a secret square where, if you have purchased it, you will win special prizes. Once all the squares are filled we will film MaryMargaret drawing a square out of a hat and whoever has purchased that square will be the winner. Since we have some time before all that happens, we are also soliciting for donations to add to the list of prizes. Maggie, one of our heroes, has generously donated one of her bracelets (worth $25) to the cause. We will also add KAH wristbands, a piggy bank and a T-shirt. This will be great PR for whoever donates goods to the square as well as for folks buying squares on our wall. We are going to keep a running list of items on this blog post which will mean that this post will be featured prominently and many times over.
So think of something that can be easily shipped to anyone, anywhere and is something truly of value. And we thank those who have generously purchased a square. Let us know if someone found you through our wall. Contact us here if you would like to donate something.
That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? What I’m referring to is a new discovery in the realm of fund raising. I’ve openly admitted this has been the biggest challenge Kids Are Heroes has faced to date. My palms start to sweat when I think about asking for money. I’m simply not good at it. Period.
So when I saw this new idea (at least new to me) I said to myself, “I have to get that for our site!”. I stumbled across something I thought was called the Support Wall. Since I heard about that someone else told me about the new Promo Wall. The basic idea is that people buy squares on the wall for a relatively little amount of money. They can be in denominations of $25, $10 or even $5. What makes it interesting is that for that little amount they get to purchase real estate on that wall that can be used to promote their business or non-profit. The square can be hyperlinked to their web site, Twitter or Facebook account, or wherever they want it to go. They can even have a message that pops up when the mouse hovers over the image. So I couldn’t wait to sign up. The problem was that these sites weren’t going to be ready for a month or so. I loved the idea so much I built our own on the Kids Are Heroes site. We call it our Foundation Wall. People can buy three different kinds of “bricks”. 100x100px spaces are $25, 50×50 are $10 and 25×25 are just $5. Check it out in all of its glory here.
Why I feel so strongly about why this would be beneficial to us is because we are giving true value for their tiny investments. Between Facebook and Twitter we can invite more than 30,000 people to go to this page as often as we want to. We have our own traffic to send to it. It’s actually fun to see who is up on the wall and why they bought a square. We often think that $5 is so little so why won’t people donate it? The reason is because it’s too much trouble and normally you get nothing in return. Everyone’s asking for just a small donation. But If I can give $5 for a plug and a link back to my site while helping a charity on a page that will get lots of traffic, why wouldn’t I do that?
So I am encouraged by our first square purchased right away and a promise of another. (As this was being written another $25. square was also gobbled up.) It remains to be seen how successful it will be, but on paper it should be amazing. It encourages people to buy early as if they do they will be on the wall for a longer period of time. Our wall has a capacity of raising $2500 for us and when it gets filled we simply start another. There is virtually no cost to us yet the squares offer real value to our donors.
So, in the indomitable words of Peter Marshall, pick a square!!
Update 3/03/11: Well the Foundation Wall got off to a GREAT start. We sold 5 big squares last night and the reviews were very positive. This gave me another idea. Why not build a second wall for corporations? The bricks would be a bit more expensive but they would be up longer as this wall won’t get populated as fast. And at $100 for the most expensive square it’s still very reasonable. So the corporate wall is up and we have already sold 2 $100 squares!! Looks like we might be on to something…
Please help MaryMargaret, the Founder of Kids Are Heroes.
A Twitter colleague, @DabneyPorte, sent me a link just yesterday. It is a new (at least to me) website strictly for non-profits. It’s called JustCoz and it is a “tweet donating” service. The address is justcoz.org. The concept is that non-profits register themselves and then ask their Twitter followers to donate one tweet per day. Once the charity supporters have granted permission through the site, the non-profit can broadcast through JustCoz and the tweet will go directly into every supporter’s Twitter stream. This can happen at most once every 24 hours.
Here’s how it works. You pick a charity, let’s say for example Kids Are Heroes. You simply go to our page at justcoz.org/kidsareheroes and click on the button that says “Donate a Tweet a day“. It will validate you through your Twitter profile and you are done. You can opt out at any time, but if you support us we would be extremely grateful. To further explain, if you sign up for this, JustCoz will send one tweet created by me in your Twitter stream once a day. I cannot do this more than once every 24 hours. To opt out, go to http://justcoz.org/kidsareheroes and click on Stop Supporting, or Revoke Access to JustCoz altogether in your Twitter connections. I want to be clear on this as a few people didn’t understand exactly what was going on once they signed up for it. This should clarify things.
As it turned out I had seen this floating around Twitter before it was suggested to me, but as usual I am a late adopter and I never “get” things when they first come out. That’s why I’m glad I have Dabney at my side. As of this writing we already have more than a dozen supporters (we just signed up last night) and with our big event coming up in May this will help us create a great buzz about it.
So if you are on Twitter we would humbly ask that you donate a tweet so the smile can be restored on MaryMargaret, the founder of Kids Are Heroes as pictured above. As a matter of fact, you can see in the Comments below that she hates this picture and would rather have a different one posted. I told her I would do that when we reach 1000 people donating a tweet a day. (Update: We are now over 200 but we still have a ways to go!) The rest is up to you!
UPDATE 03/16/11: To thank everyone who has joined this effort, we offer a free square on our JustCoz Donor Wall. If you have signed up to donate a tweet a day, visit this link to get your square. Thanks!!
On February 12, 2008 I happened to be watching an interview with Sir Richard Branson conducted by Charlie Rose. I was fascinated by it as this was the first time I had heard the term “social entrepreneurship”. This concept basically means that individuals and/or companies use their technology, skills and hard work to solve issues instead of just throwing money at a problem. I became totally enthralled by this idea. As a matter of fact, it was (and still is) one of the main influences behind the creation of Kids Are Heroes. But what happens when the word “profit” is brought up?
For over a year now, Kids Are Heroes has been an effort that my 10-year-old daughter and I hold exclusively. There is no company, no income, just a web site that inspires children all over the world to include philanthropy as part of their everyday life. If you know me personally then you know how passionate I am about this site and the kids that are featured on it. In the first year we have grown substantially, keeping expenses to a minimum but still paying the bills. We know we can do much more once we are funded, so that is why we submitted our two minute video “pitch” to Richard Branson for his new PitchTV show. Thanks to all the support we have on Twitter, we won the contest and are featured on his web site. One of the comments on our pitch suggested we take out ads on our site to help fund our efforts. Another person countered this idea saying “please do not [do this] …this will make people suspicious that your intentions are commercial at heart.” She goes on to say, “…I don’t think you need to. This idea is a winner!”
Hmmmm.. I am wondering what the second part of that comment meant: “I don’t think you need to.” How do we get funded? Where will this funding come from? Is someone with deep pockets going to give us money? What happens when that runs out? Wouldn’t it be better if we worked for the money instead of asking for a handout? Interestingly enough, the second PitchTV show featured an effort called Project Rhythm Seed (which I voted for by the way). They align themselves with Paul Newman in that they plan to create a “Newmanesque” type company that once funded it will no longer need donations. They will sell products and with the proceeds they will fund other non-profits. This is a wonderful idea. Will they have expenses? Will people get paid? I would imagine so unless they are independently wealthy. Richard Branson was asked in the interview in 2008, “Would you be in favor of a huge taxation on those who have benefitted the most from the system and redistribute it through the state?” His reply was interesting: “I’m not sure it would work…It sounds right and it sounds fair, but the state is not that good at redistributing money. So I think it does mean that those of us who have got money must make sure that we really use it properly and put it to good use.” As I watched this program I was a bit jealous that I didn’t have the resources he did to make such a positive effect on the planet. But I do have a small talent that can be leveraged which is that I can build a web site. Interestingly enough, at that very time my daughter asked me to build her a web site that helped animals. That is indeed how Kids Are Heroes was born. If I had Mr. Branson’s money there would be no question. I would fund it and make it my life’s work. But would it be better to do that or to build a company that creates jobs and still funds the non-profit end of it?
So why are some companies questioned by others as to their true motives when they give away part of their proceeds to non-profits? A friend on Twitter, Zephora Haddon, owns a company called “Amber Alert Registry” which offers the service of a secure database with key data and photos to assist law enforcement if a child were to go missing. AAR had decided from the get-go that, not only did they want to help protect children in a vital way, but equally work to aid nonprofits and the education system in their own deepest issue: raising funds for their own purposes. At the same time, they donate significant sign ups so that their secure database reflects all economic fronts and that their service is available in a balanced way to everyone. Says Zephora: “I think it’s interesting that people may think to judge us for making money from the potentially life-saving service we provide. As a parent myself I would think a few dollars a month (less than $2) for this important peace of mind is priceless. Additionally, we raise funds in a tough economy where 501c3′s are struggling – and we do it by providing a great service. And we give it away to those who can’t afford it. Shouldn’t this integration of business and giving just be the way business is now performed?”
Another great effort you might have seen is Tom’s Shoes. They have a simple tag line that I quote from their web site: “For every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.” Is this person making money? To be honest I certainly hope so because I feel he deserves it. I just wish more companies lived by these rules. Wouldn’t it be great if more jobs were created that in some way worked for the greater good? This, I hope is the dawning of more “philanthropreneurial” companies, those that are socially aware and conscious, and actually have a culture where everyone is working to help benefit the planet in some way.
So I am really curious as to what you think about this subject. Your candor is both welcomed and appreciated.
I am going to deviate a bit from my normal type of post. My usual fare is dedicated to Kids Are Heroes, Twitter or something to do with our dogs and family. This time I am going to discuss my brother Greg and one of the organizations he is associated with which is SCAW (Sleeping Children Around the World).
Quite a few years ago my brother had a life changing event which affected his entire outlook. He had always been associated with social work as a vocation, but in the end that did not prove fulfilling to him. He discovered his true passion, and that is traveling around the world to serve others. For years beyond my count he has helped build homes for indigent people with Habitat for Humanity in every corner of the globe. His latest venture is just coming to an end – in fact as I write this he is in the midst of a 15 hour flight home. He visited Uganda where he helped SCAW deliver 6000 bedkits to needy children.
“Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) donations provide bedkits to children of any race and/or religion who will benefit the most; typically being located in underdeveloped and developing countries. No portion of a bedkit donation is spent on administration — 100% reaches a needy child. Each *$35 donation (Canadian funds) provides a bedkit that consists of a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket, mosquito net (if applicable), clothes outfit, towel and school supplies. Bedkit contents vary from country to country depending upon local needs. Since its founding by Murray and Margaret Dryden in 1970, SCAW has raised over $20 million to provide bedkits for over 900,000 children in 33 countries. In 2009 we will reach our millionth child.”
One of the keys here bears repeating: “No portion of a bedkit donation is spent on administration — 100% reaches a needy child.” This is critical (and highly unusual) because people who donate to this organization can be assured that all their money is going to the desired purpose.
When Greg is at home he helps cancer patients by driving them to their treatments and connects with hospice patients in a way that can only be seen to be believed. Due to his somewhat shy and introverted nature he would more than likely be mortified that this is being written about him, but I will just ask him to “get over it” because at the same time he is getting more exposure for his organizations. He and I often discuss reasons for doing things such as this. For him it is food that provides spiritual sustenance for him every time he does it. He is not independently wealthy and must fund these trips himself. As a matter of fact I don’t know how he manages. He did tell me that if he had a sponsor he would make several more trips per year. If this post touches you and you know of someone who is in the position to help fund some of his trips, please contact me here.
Many people have said very nice things to me about our efforts with Kids Are Heroes. What makes Greg different is that he puts himself at risk each time he does this, traveling to places where diseases are more prevalent and where kidnappings are not uncommon. This is something I do not believe I could ever do. Most everything I do is from the relatively luxurious comfort of my own home. I would love nothing more than to be able to be the catalyst that helps him do more of what he is passionate about. Greg is indeed a real hero.
UPDATE: 06/12/09 Well now Greg has returned home and has written a report of his experiences. A very powerful read:
SCAW UGANDA DISTRIBUTION JUNE 2009
by Greg O’Neill
“While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about”. – Angela Schwindt
Imagine the joy and exhilaration of being greeted so enthusiastically by a sea of 500 smiling children dressed in brightly colored tee shirts of red, green, yellow and orange all cheering, chanting and clapping as the SCAW team approached them for 12 times over 10 consecutive days! Each day we had a distribution was a true adrenalin rush for each of the SCAW traveling volunteers.
On one of the early distribution days, I approached an open truck loaded with children, parents and bed kits as they were preparing to return to their villages. One boy wanted to share his feelings with me while at the same time representing all the other children on the truck when he said with a broad smile “we are very happy.” He then went on to ask me if it were possible for him to go to Canada. I told him that he certainly could provided he stayed in school and worked very hard. He then asked me “are there any dark people in Canada?” He seemed quite satisfied when I told him there were many Ugandan people living in Canada as well as people from almost all of the countries of Africa. His next question was “what kind of food do you have in Canada?” When I answered we had beef, chicken, goat, rice, potatoes and cassava as well as pineapple, watermelon and bananas he seemed quite overjoyed. As the truck pulled away amid cheery good-byes and high fives, I couldn’t help but feel that in addition to providing a good night’s sleep to the 6,015 children who received bed kits, we may also have provided those same children with a beacon of hope for a bright future.
Another highlight of the trip for me was spending two weeks with the members of the Inner Wheel Club of Kampala. They are clearly an amazing collection of ‘angels’ who worked tirelessly and seamlessly not only on behalf of the children, but also making sure that the experience of the SCAW team was as enjoyable as it was comfortable. To them I extend my deep thanks and gratitude for their warm, gracious and generous hospitality and especially for their friendship.
Last but not least, I would like to express my thanks to each and every donor who contributed bed kits for this distribution. It was a joy and a privilege to represent you and present your gifts to these children and their very appreciative families. Endless expressions of their gratitude were conveyed to us every day through their smiles, their gestures and their “thank yous”.
As we leave Uganda having completed the distribution, the faces of the children and the gestures of gratitude from the children, their families and members of the community at large are indelibly etched in my mind and my heart. I will return to Canada with humility, a profound respect for the people whose lives have touched ours and a deep appreciation for all that we have waiting for us back home.
(Extremely well put. Now I know where the lion’s share of the brains ended up in my family…) I spoke to Greg on the phone today and the conversation was very inspiring. It had me dreaming of joining him on one of these missions someday…