The Power of You

Two weeks ago I came up for air from my summer sabbatical because I was so bothered I couldn’t sit still. Two of Big Love Little Hearts‘ partner organizations, ICHF and Preemptive Love, shared a story that made me so ill I did the only thing I could do in the moment: I wrote about it.

I tweet this phrase almost everyday: “Build Community. Build Change.” Not because it sounds nice, but because I know it’s true. I knew that relaying this story to my community, who would then relay it to their communities, would not just build change – it would save lives. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened.

A lot of you shared my post via twitter (most notably Chris Brogan – thank you for helping this story reach hundreds of thousands people) but the chain that led to change was actually quite short. An hour after I posted the piece Rebecca Self read it and tweeted the link to TED Fellow, Esra’a Al Shafei, and her group Mideast Youth. Esra’a published the story on and less than two weeks later a donor read it and funded a mission trip that will save 30 lives.

30 lives were saved because the Founder of ICHF shared an injustice that I then shared that someone else then shared with someone else. Individual decisions to reach out and trust our networks…to trust the communities we cultivate through our blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.

The Power of You saved 30 lives.

The beautiful thing is that you have the opportunity to impact lives every day simply by using your voice. Whether you’re a non-profit or an individual you have a network of friends, colleagues, family, supporters, etc who care about a lot of the same things you do. That’s why they’re in your community. When you’re moved they will be too.

Want to test the Power of You today? Kindred spirit and fellow believer in community Scott Stratten was moved by a little boy named Tanner. Today with a tweet, with a $1, with a moment – you can create change in someone’s life. Find out how here.

Extraordinary thanks to everyone who shared the original post, Rebecca L. Self, Esra’a Al Shafei, the amazing donor who stepped up and to Dr. Bill Novick, Founder of ICHF and my absolute hero.

YOU can change the world. YOU can start now.


A Foursquare Experiment Gone Right

*this post originally appeared in Chronicle of Philanthropy and Community Organizer 2.0

I’d seen some good (and not-so-good) examples of how nonprofit groups had used Foursquare to raise money. But could Foursquare be used for awareness and advocacy?

I began thinking about this question on April 1 related to my work with Big Love Little Hearts, a nonprofit group that focuses on congenital heart defects. And I began framing that question around some basic statistics about these diseases.

One in 100 children are born with a heart defect. When was the 100th day of the year? It happened to be April 10. Could I come up with a campaign in nine days, launch it, and have it be successful?

I had no idea. But I’m not afraid of failure so I set out to create a Foursquare experiment.

We created a hashtag, #100X100, which stood for 1 in 100 on the 100th day of the year. I created a Web site to explain what it was and why it was important and to set the action steps we wanted supporters to take (spread awareness with the hashtag and call or write their representatives asking them to support the Congenital Heart Futures Act and Routine Pulse-Ox Screening). We also created a Facebook fan page and Twitter profile.

Then we recruited volunteers to commit to a guerilla, grass-roots effort to use Foursquare to spread our message.

On the evening of April 9, a few dozen Big Love Little Hearts volunteers added the following as a “tip” to 600 Foursquare locations: “1 in 100 children are born w/ a heart defect. Pulse-Ox screening saves lives – you can too! Check in with the hashtag #100X100”.

We also embedded a link in the tip to the One Hundred Squared site. We chose what we thought would be the most checked-in locations on a Saturday — airports, Starbucks and Target stores, gyms, etc. — in major cities around the U.S.

One of the benefits of using Foursquare as an origin point is that most people who use it sync their check-ins to Twitter and Facebook. This meant that one person checking with #100X100 had the possibility of being viewed across three platforms with three audiences. Talk about bang for your (time) buck!

Did it work? Better than I could have possibly imagined. My goal with this experiment was simply to see how social media worked for advocacy and awareness.

But something extraordinary happened.

I began Foursquaring/Tweeting/Facebooking about #100X100 at 12:01 a.m. on April 10. Big Love Little Hearts supporters followed.

By 7:30 a.m., an angel who was following one of our followers on Twitter (but not us) noticed our hashtag. It turned out that she is an adult with a congenital heart disease who was not diagnosed at birth and who is alive today because she received lifesaving surgery.

Her passion for our work led her to call me and commit to donating $1 for every time someone used the #100X100 hashtag until midnight on April 10.

How much did we raise? She gave me a cap of $25,000. I knew the moment she said it, that our group, which was not quite 10 months old, wouldn’t reach the cap.

But, much to my surprise, our supporters were so engaged that we made it almost halfway to that goal. By 11:45 p.m., the hashtag had been used 11,703 times across all three platforms. Our donor was so impressed that she donated the full $25,000.

That money was enough to pay for 12 surgeries for patients in developing countries. Twelve lives saved in 24 hours. Not bad for something we didn’t even plan for.

That’s great, but did it work for advocacy and awareness? A resounding yes!

What was the advocacy we wanted to accomplish? On April 22, about 100 people from various congenital heart-disease groups were set to meet in Washington for CHD Lobby Day.

We wanted to plant a seed for people who had used #100X100 on April 10 to call their Senator or member of Congress and let them know that they supported measures that would greatly improve the lives of the two million people in the U.S. with congenital heart diseases.

On April 22, we again used the hashtag via Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare to remind our supporters of our goal. By noon, more people had visited our Web site than had come to the site during the entire day on April 10.

I had seven appointments with senators and members of Congress from Illinois that day. There wasn’t a single one I walked into in which an aide didn’t inform me that constituents had been calling about this all day. People from other states text-messaged or called me to relay similar messages.

More than 500 people let me know they had contacted their representative. Some 300 more contacted the Big Love office to do the same. I cried with pride the entire day.

What was the benefit of using Foursquare as our social-media springboard? The tips we left are still there and will stay there perpetually. For several locations, our tip is still the most recent and therefore what shows up when people check in.

One last nugget—all of this was free. We raised $25,000, saved 12 lives, and set the stage for millions of lives to be changed. If you work at a nonprofit group and don’t feel like you’re using Foursquare, Twitter, or Facebook to its potential, e-mail me:

Find Big Love Little Hearts on twitter and facebook

Find One Hundred Squared on twitter and facebook

What Steve Farber Taught Me At SOBCon (part two)


I just spent an entire post talking about Steve Farber‘s concept of making someone Greater Than Yourself, so why do I need to blog about it again?

In my last post I was talking about consciously making someone, or a whole group of someone’s, Greater Than Yourself. In this post I’m suggesting that you already are and that you should start being aware of it! If you tweet a lot, have a blog, have a facebook following, have any kind of following…you are already making someone greater than yourself.

You are influencing the people who read your blog posts religiously. You are informing the decisions of the people who have you on twitter lists. You are shaping the people who interact with you on facebook. Just because that’s not your intention doesn’t mean it’s not true.

A few things happened to me right before, during and after SOBCon that made me realize I needed to be a little more thoughtful in my role as a leader. Right before the conference started I got an email from a student on the east coast who was getting her MBA in Non-Profit. She was writing to ask for my advice and help starting her non-profit but she began her letter thanking me for my blog and informing me what a role model I was to her and her classmates. She told me what an asset my articles were to her and to her class and how necessary it was to have a positive example of a woman doing so much in the non-profit world. These same words were repeated to me by students I met here in Chicago shortly after SOBCon during a mentoring program I participated in.

I’m not sharing this to pump my own ego but because I was floored to realize that anyone outside my close circle of friends and colleagues read my blog or my tweets! I was leading groups of future change-makers and didn’t even know it. Being at SOBCon, and Liz Strauss in particular, made me not just accept that I was a leader in my peer group but embrace being a leader and commit to doing so thoughtfully with trust and purpose.

When thinking about Steve’s call to make someone Greater Than Yourself I realize I need to take that attitude into everything – and every way – I communicate. Every status update, every tweet, every blog post, every video is an opportunity to inspire and share knowledge.

I challenge you to do the same. The moment you make yourself part of the social media fabric by creating a blog, a twitter handle, a facebook profile, a youtube channel, etc…you’re making yourself someone else’s role model. The next time you say something to your audience do it with the awareness that you have the potential to make them greater than you. You have the potential to help them achieve their own version of greatness. You have the opportunity to inspire them to do the same for someone else.

To that end I want to remind all my readers:

YOU can change the world. YOU can start now. Build Community. Build Change.


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!