The Power of Us: What Happens at SOBCon Doesn’t Stay at SOBCon

It’s no secret that I consider SOBCon to be one of the most powerful conferences I’ve ever been to. I’ve written about what I learned there here, here and here.  It’s also no secret that I’ve been on sabbatical, although I’m not really on sabbatical anymore. I’ve been working away on a new project…which brings me to the point of this post.

I can’t say much about the new project that I’m working on other than it’s for the non-profit community and it’s with Chris Brogan. What I can say is the reason I’m working on this project can be traced back to a single conversation I had with Chris at this year’s SOBCon.

I know I’m not even close to being the only person who left the life-changing event that is SOBCon only to start a business relationship with someone they met there because of  a conversation that took place there. About a week ago I asked Liz Strauss if she and Terry kept track of all the projects that were born at SOBCon. She asked where we’d even start. I said let’s just ask everyone…so that’s what I’m doing.

If you’ve ever been to SOBCon and can trace a project or relationship’s beginnings back to a conversation you had there, tell me about it the comments section below. I’m going to curate all your stories and turn them into a nice, pretty presentation for Liz and Terry at SOBCon 2011. I think know we will all be blown away by what the “Do-Tank” has actually done.


Bigotry & Racism in Philanthropy

I’ve been on sabbatical this summer to spend time with my little boy but I read a blog the other day that I’ve been sick over. My non-profit Big Love Little Hearts helps children in developing countries with heart defects get lifesaving surgery. We collaborate with other groups to get this done and one of them, ICHF, was set to travel to Iraq in just a few weeks to work with another, Preemptive Love, to perform surgery on some 30 children.

Nothing about that sounds sickening yet, I know – it’s wonderful in fact. Except it might not happen anymore. Not because it’s not safe enough for a U.S. team to travel there, not because the right equipment couldn’t be donated or because the right doctors wouldn’t volunteer their time. Because of bigotry and racism, plain and simple.

An excerpt from the ICHF blog:

“Our team was due to go to Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. We had been contacted by a foundation several months ago telling us they had $17,000 that had been given specifically for Iraqi children to be operated on. When we contacted the donor directly we were told that the funds were only for Sunni and Shia children, not for Kurdish children – and since we were going to Kurdistan the funds were no longer available.”

Their Founder goes on to say “Bigotry and racism have no place in this world…these two together have killed millions.” I couldn’t agree more strongly as I think all of us working in the non-profit community do. Need is a human condition. It is not bound by color of skin or language or geography.

What I don’t agree with is his next sentence: “Death is coming again to Iraq and this time the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are Bigotry, Racism, Misunderstanding and Vindictiveness.” Why not? Because I know that this won’t sit well with you either. And you have fans and friends and followers and blogs and facebook pages.

I’ve never used my blog for a call to action before but today I am. Today I have to:

Donate $5 – Save Babies and Fight Bigotry (double karma points!)

Tweet this

Blog about it

Talk about it

Facebook it (did I really just use that as a verb?)

A few dollars, a few minutes…however you do it, I’d love your help standing up to the new Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Children shouldn’t die because of racism.

What Steve Farber Taught Me At SOBCon (part one)


Almost a month later I’m still reeling from the subtle and not-so-subtle ways SOBCon changed my thought process and the direction of just about every project I’m involved in. In my last post I talked about how Chris Brogan‘s call to action changed not one but all three of my heart defect related non-profits. It’s been in the restructuring and implementation of their various programs that Steve Farber‘s incredible message of GTY has not just inspired me but informed my decisions.

What is GTY? It stands for Greater Than Yourself. Steve presented on this concept at SOBCon…I was truly riveted. This is not just a presentation for Steve – he has a book, website and project devoted to GTY. Because I believe Steve does a much better job than I explaining his concept and because I believe you should buy his book and read it yourself, I’ll give you the gist of GTY: Make a commitment to make someone greater than yourself. Be a mentor to someone. Guide them, teach them, help them grow until they achieve more, succeed more…until they become more than you.

I was drawn to this immediately because it’s something I already do just not in as conscious a way. I started 4F Club because so many people contacted me asking them to be their mentor as they started their own non-profit…I’ve always been happy to help in this way – I love supporting people in their own quest to improve the world! While the idea of GTY is basically the idea behind 4F Club, I’d never really thought of how to utilize it in my heart defect-related non-profits.

Since SOBCon that’s definitely changed. Big Love Little Hearts is on a mission to change our entire cause community…not just the children we seek to help but all of the organizations that work to help them too. Accomplishing this requires the creation of a collaborative community whose sole purpose is to make every non-profit doing congenital heart defect work in developing countries greater than they already are and much greater than we are. We are not relying on them to carve time out of their missions to help create their own space in this community – we’re doing the work for them. Why? Because we know that making them greater than they are – greater than we are – will only help those who really need it…children with heart defects in developing countries.

We’re creating each organization’s space in this community with interns (part of our Building a Team of Disciples strategy gleaned from Chris Brogan at SOBCon). Each intern is yet another GTY opportunity. I don’t like creating internships for people that are just looking for the easiest way to fill a community service requirement. I like showing people how their work, however minor, can have true impact on not just an organization but the lives they’re trying to change.

Not only will each of our interns (almost 100 total for the summer) have ownership of a project that they will be able to see the impact of, they will be trained to approach problems in developing countries with collaboration and a networked community to decrease waste in resources and increase reach of service. They will be given opportunities to communicate directly with other non-profits doing work in developing countries and to build relationships they can take with them after their time with us is through. They will have opportunities to stay on with us and train the next generation of interns to be GTY.

Steve, I took your call to make someone greater than myself and applied it to everyone I work with at Big Love Little Hearts and then I applied it to my entire cause community. Thank you for making me conscious of carrying out something professionally that I already believed personally.

There should be no competition in the non-profit community. We should be supporting one another both individually and organizationally. Authentic, lasting change is not something that is created by “i” – it is created by “we”.

Are you implementing Steve’s call to make someone GTY in your life? Tell me about it!


What Chris Brogan taught me at SOBCon (and why I’ve been so quiet)


Has it really been three weeks since my last blog post? Yes. Yes it has. Odd for a wordy girl like me, right?

So what has kept me so busy I couldn’t slow down long enough to write? Implementing what I learned from Chris Brogan during his great presentation at SOBCon 2010. Chris talked a lot about how he’s been restructuring his business lately and why he needed to do so. It felt like Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker had asked him to come to speak just for me. I know I wasn’t the only person to feel that way but what he said impacted me so much that I’ve spent the last 10 days restructuring my organizations.

If this isn’t your first visit to my blog you already know that I’m the Founder and Director of four non-profit organizations. What you might not know is that I also work on a Development Mapping Initiative out of Secretary Clinton’s Global Partnerships Office, I’m the creator of The CHD Solution Workspace and am working on two Mobile Health initiatives – one in the U.S. and one in developing countries. I am very passionate about all of these things but I’m only human. At some point one of these is not going to get the attention it deserves.

Chris spoke about his many businesses and projects (he actually has more than I do!) and how he had come to the same conclusion – no one person can do this many things. So Chris decided to do two things – consolidate and build a team of disciples to carry out his vision. Chris is a pretty smart guy and I like to take advice from smart people so that’s exactly what I did.

In the last 10 days I have restructured everything.

  • Little Leo Foundation, my first non-profit that delivers care baskets and these soft and cuddly lions to children that have just had open-heart surgery, is no longer an organization. It is now a joint project of Big Love Little Hearts and One Hundred Squared. Why? I’m a firm believer that if there’s another non-profit doing what you’re doing you should either partner with them, find a way to do it better or step out of the way. When I first started Little Leo Foundation almost four years ago Saving Little Hearts was also delivering care baskets to heart families but they were regional to Tennessee. Since then they’ve partnered with Mended Little Hearts to deliver them all over the country. Because the only thing our baskets have that theirs don’t is Leo Lion (the aforementioned stuffed animal) that’s all we’re going to deliver – both here and abroad, through Big Love Little Hearts and One Hundred Squared. Making that change just bought me an extra 20 hours a week. Easily.
  • One In One Hundred is now One Hundred Squared – I’ll talk more about this in an in-the-near-future post, but we changed our mission and our name. We did this partially because the mission of One In One Hundred will very likely be completed by 2011 and because I needed a more structured umbrella for my two congenital heart defect related Mobile Health initiatives. Again, expect to hear a lot more about this very soon.
  • Big Love Little Hearts is where Chris’ call to build a team of disciples really hit home and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re expanding the role of volunteers and interns to cover nearly every aspect of our work. This involves building specific teams within the greater team and will increase our manpower from two to 87 by the end of the June. I can’t even begin to calculate how much more time that will give me to be entrenched in the aspects of my work that can truly only be done by me.

That last sentence is an idea that’s fairly profound for me – that there are things that don’t have to be done by me and me alone. Thank you, Chris, for instilling a lesson I needed to internalize. Thank you Liz and Terry for creating an environment where I could do so.

Is that the only thing I learned at SOBCon? Not even close. Check back in the next few days for more posts about what I experienced at SOBCon and how I’m implementing it in my own organizations.


Small, Young Non-Profit? You – Yes, YOU, Can Run A Cause Marketing Campaign!

As I type this, my organization Big Love Little Hearts is about a week shy of our 10 month anniversary. I’m beginning with this fact because I hear a lot of young non-profits lament that they’re too small, too green, too you name it to embark on a Cause Marketing Campaign. I don’t know if this is because there’s not a clear understanding of what cause marketing really is, or if it’s because most non-profits assume that the only suitable partners for a CM campaign are giants like American Airlines or Pepsi. I’m here to tell you that any organization can run a cause marketing campaign, no matter how small or young you are!

If you don’t feel like you’re familiar with what constitutes cause marketing and what doesn’t, head over to Joe Waters’ excellent blog, Selfish Giving, my favorite (and hands-down best) resource on the topic out there and educate yourself.

Back yet? Okay…now that we’re all on the same page regarding what exactly cause marketing is I want to share how we successfully implemented a CM program at Big Love Little Hearts this past February when were just under 8 months old.

Awareness Week for Congenital Heart Defects is February 7-14, with our official Awareness Day falling on Valentine’s Day. My cause community is very lucky that this falls during a huge consumer holiday. Like any good student of marketing (I got my non-profit education at Kellogg) I sought to take advantage of this. We came up with a program called Eat Your Heart Out, where participating restaurants gave us $1 from every check on Valentine’s Day or some other night during the week of February 7-14. When they presented the check to the customer they included an Awareness Card that talked about heart defects, CHD Awareness Week and Big Love Little Hearts.

We didn’t begin recruiting potential partners until January yet very easily managed to forge relationships with restaurants from two major groups in Chicago: Francesca’s and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Of the many restaurants we recruited the most fruitful was HUB51 because they were open on Valentine’s Day from brunch through dinner. This netted us the most donations and biggest awareness impact but all of our participants were a successful partnership. It cost us nothing to print up the awareness cards, we created no fancy presentation for potential restaurant partners, we raised a fair amount of money and most importantly gained exposure among an audience we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Eat Your Heart Out was so successful for us that we’re not only expanding the scope of it in Chicago (our home base), we’re also rolling it out in at least 5 more cities next year (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta). We plan to start recruiting partners much earlier this time around (in October of this year when restaurants are planning their 2011 first quarter budgets) – with this increased time to plan and lessons learned, we expect to raise several thousand more dollars than we did this year and to reach several thousand more people.

This is an example that can easily be adapted for your cause during your awareness week or any other special day of your choosing. It can be done on a small or large scale and requires virtually no budget or staff time. It is cause marketing at its simplest and promotes awareness in ways that many cause marketing campaigns don’t. Feel free to steal the idea outright or use it as a jumping board to brainstorm a simple and effective campaign for your own non-profit. Whatever you do, just bring your brain around to the idea that cause marketing is for you, no matter how small or young your organization is!


U.S. Based NPO Doing Work in Developing Countries? Why You Should Care About What’s Going On At Home…

Not surprisingly, I am once again blogging mid-flight. Last week it was on the way to NTEN’s excellent Non-Profit Technology Conference, this week I’m headed to Washington D.C. to talk Development Mapping and take part  in CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Lobby Day.  Although my participation in Lobby Day is on behalf of Little Leo Foundation, One In One Hundred and Big Love Little Hearts (three of my non-profits), I’d be going even if I was only representing Big Love Little Hearts. This piece is written to CHD groups that work in the developing world, but this applies no matter what your cause community is.

So, why would I invest time and money going to Washington to lobby for things that affect children in the U.S. when Big Love helps children in developing countries? Better yet, why is this a question I feel the need to pose or answer? Quite to my surprise, this is actually a question that both a donor and one of our Provider Partner Organizations asked me!

The answer is very simple: what happens in this country will inform what we’re doing in developing countries the next decade and the decade beyond that. What we’re able to do now is a result of research the NIH funded to create new surgical techniques and improve on old ones in decades past.  Diagnostic techniques developed in the last dozen years make it possible to find children we never even knew needed our help before. Everything we do  in the undeveloped world is because someone in the developed world fought hard to fund the invention and/or implementation of it.

Right now there are three reasons to be in Washington D.C. if you care about or work in the CHD community in the developing world. The first is the Congenital Heart Futures Act. The research this will fund and the registry it will create will allow us to do our jobs more efficiently and effectively for decades to come. This translates into more lives saved, period. Mortality rates for CHD have declined 30% in developed countries in the last two decades – how wonderful would it be to see those same rates in the developing world, where we’re still losing at least one third of children born with heart defects?

Pulse oximetry is the second reason and perhaps the most relevant to those of us working in the developing world. One percent of the world’s population is born with a heart defect – that’s roughly one million new cases of CHD every year. 90% of children born with CHD will be born in developing countries. Only a third of them will ever be diagnosed.  Pulse oximetry is a simple, reliable and cost effective means for diagnosing critical congenital heart defects. Adding it to the National Newborn Screening Panel in the U.S. will pave the way for its use worldwide. Advances in mobile technology make it likely that in a very short time we can perform this test, log the results and send them to a doctor from a smartphone out in the field…from the places where children never get diagnosed because no one ever sees them.

The third reason to be in Washington D.C. right now is that the global CHD problem will never be solved by any one group. It won’t be solved by any one government. It won’t be solved by any one organization working in the U.S. and it won’t be solved by any one organization working in the developing world. It won’t be solved by any one doctor. It won’t be solved by any one University. There are 7 million children waiting to have their hearts repaired worldwide who can’t afford it. Even in the U.S. where qualified care is abundant, we are losing 10% of our CHD kids before they’re a year old. This doesn’t even take into account those who die while they are toddlers, children, teens, adults…this problem is gigantic and it’s going to take all of us working together to solve it. The opportunity to meet your fellow CHD crusaders and to form partnerships with them makes this not only the final, but also the most important reason to be at CHD Lobby Day.

If you’re a CHD group doing work in the developing world and aren’t planning to participate in Lobby Day, I urge you to change your mind. If you can’t make it in person please call your representative this week and/or email the national newborn screening panel. Be part of changing the lives of CHD kids who haven’t even been born yet. 10 years from now….20 years from now,  you’ll be glad you did!


Why I Love Social Media for Non-Profits

During many of the breakout sessions at NTEN’s 10th Annual Non-Profit Technology Conference in Atlanta last week I heard a lot of people from older, more established non-profits talk about their organization’s reluctance to embrace social media. My organization, Big Love Little Hearts, has had such great success with various social media platforms that I wanted to share our greatest ones for the disbelievers and stragglers out there.

Three Reasons Big Love Little Hearts has BIG LOVE for social media….

Building Partnerships – We rely on partnerships. We have provider partners, we have referral partners. We can always use more. Since we’ve been on facebook (9 months) and twitter (3 months) we have formed more than 30 new partnerships through those two platforms with very little effort.  Beyond building them, social media has been an excellent way to strengthen and personalize existing ones. We now communicate daily with partner organizations that we used to communicate with weekly or monthly.

Efficiency – We connect children with heart defects with people who can help them. Before our entry into social media that could take days…or weeks. Recently, we were stuck finding help for a boy in Mexico. We posted a plea for help on twitter and facebook and had a surgeon and hospital to help this boy 16 minutes later. Days before we made a similar connection in 24 hours. The speed with which we can perform our mission through social media amazes me every day.

Fundraising – I don’t believe social media’s best use by non-profits is fundraising. It’s a far better communication tool, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for fundraising. Last Saturday, April 10, we ran a campaign called #100X100 across three social media platforms – twitter, facebook and foursquare – and raised $25,000 in 24 hours. That’s more than we’ve raised in an entire quarter of our 9 month history let alone a single day! No one was more surprised (or more grateful) by this than me – we got to move a dozen children off our waiting list to have their heart surgery funded. 12 lives saved in 24 hours.

These are only three examples of the myriad ways Big Love Little Hearts benefits from social media everyday. If your organization is not using social media to its fullest, get them on board today…and if your organization is rocking social media, let me know how it’s been successful for you in the comments box below!