I often talk about individuals when I’m discussing the way social media can be used to support organizations. Why? Because social media may be about networks, communities, and collaboration; but it is only possible because of the dynamic and powerful tools individuals are using. Social networks are built from all the content individuals share.  Collaborative tools are valuable because of the options for bringing individuals working on a project into a shared space.

Is you’re organization looking to support free agent fundraisers and the changemakers who are passionate about your cause, want to support your work, but do it their way? One thing you can do right now to help is create a Supporter Toolkit on your website with logos, ready to use content and mission statement, links to all your social media profiles/presences, and anything else that would be helpful for someone looking to fundraise or campaign for you.

Case Study

I recently connected with Darah Bonham, the driver behind @abolishcancer. A free agent changemaker having success fundraising with Twitter. I want to share that story!

In Darah’s words:

I basically started the site in November as a combination of social media interests and helping others in their fight vs cancer.  I thought that the Twitter feed @abolishcancer, which is the entire org, except for the blog, would be strictly focused on developing a following that had one thing in common- to fight cancer.  The premise was that if I could sponsors of my site for a day, we would donate $1 for every new follower we received that day.  The sponsor would be committed to pay the charity at the conclusion of the day.  The end result would be more followers for us, great PR for the sponsor (and a good deed) and $ and awareness through tweet to the cancer charity.
Originally we recommended that all the donations from the sponsorships would go towards American Cancer Society.  I had a girl from Ireland agree as my first sponsor in November and we earned 65 new followers. She made the donation the next day and we were off.  Although, it was fairly slow in sponsorships early going.  I had several hundred followers and was following a thousand or so and getting a sponsor about every two weeks or so with an average of $50 new followers each time.  Not bad, but nothing fantastic.
Then @THON came along.  THON is the largest student run philanthropic organization and is run by students at PSU.  I stumbled across some of their senior leaders and began to form a relationship through our tweets.  In January I asked the typical “looking for a sponsor” tweet and a junior from Penn State @PatHowley agreed to sponsor on that Friday.  I told him that the average was $50 new followers and we were set.  Around noon that Friday I noticed my followers going up at a steady pace, about 150 or so, then it happened… the followers started to go off the radar.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I started looking at the mentions and noticed that Kim Kardashian had retweeted it.  With over 1 million followers, that’s all it took.  By the end of the day I had 1.734 new followers which = $1,734 owed by Pat to THON ( who we agreed the money would go to ahead of time) from a bus boy trying to make ends meet.  The story had an even better ending as Pat was able to leverage the publicity from the event and raise a total of $8,000 to donate.
Since, we have let the sponsor choose whoever they would like as a cancer charity.  We have been fortunate that a nectar company in California, @Delprado, has now done 3 sponsorships One for @VTRelay for $1,400, one for 5 yr old boy & mom with cancer $3,200 and one for @Shannonleetweetd’s @RallyForKids $3,600.  In all total we have raised over $11,000 by simply tweeting and getting followers.  I have never touched a dollar of the donations and make nothing.  My value is the collection of followers for a common cause.
I have been fascinated with how a message can go viral and have learned some interesting tricks as to how to make a message get retweeted.  Obviously, with celebrities tweeting about your message, the odds improve. George Lopez, Shannon Tweed, Russell Crowe, Alyssa Milano, Larry King, and others have tweeted and in some cases followed our work.  I trully beleive that a community can be formed and connected through something like Twitter and they can be a force to be reckoned with.
My goal is to get 1 million followers, but more importantly to get a sponsor for each day of the year while support ing a new charity each day.  The key, of course, is that I need sponsors for each of these days.  These are somewhat slow to come by but my justification is this…for $5,000 or less (unless Ashton Kutcher OR President Obama tweet about it) a sponsor will help out a cancer charity and will get at least that many tweets about their sponsorship.  5,000 NEW followers to abolishcancer would = at least 5,000 tweets about the cancer charity and the sponsor b/c people have to go out and get NEW followers, existing followers don’t count.  Hopefully businesses will see the value in this and start stepping up more.
At any rate, it has been very fun, educational, and heartfelt with the response and results we have gotten.  I only hope we can continue to sustain it.  In the meantime I get lots of pleasure (and sadness) by retweeting about people’s needs, successes, and plights as it relates to cancer.  Awareness is as important as the $ itself.
As my tag line says, for which I believe, “Power of the People, through Twitter, to help @abolishcancer
If you want to learn more or get involved, connect on Twitter at http://twitter.com/abolishcancer
Looking forward to conversation about this story – what are your questions? Ideas? Reactions? Do you have an example to share, too?
Case Study in Free Agent Fundraising @AbolishCancer
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  • Would love to hear your thoughts! Case Study in Free Agent Fundraising @AbolishCancer – http://amysampleward.org/2010/06/18/case

  • Thanks for profiling this Amy. You nailed in the head in terms of providing those key tools and insight to get your supporters activated. When the foundation is there, it provides a great opportunity to open up the creative floodgates and decreases the barriers to participation. This is a great example of how big impact can be generated from putting a small twist on everyday use of a popular social platform. Cheers.

    • Thanks, Scott! So glad you found the profile helpful. I was excited to share the example as I think there are so many “free agents” out there and organizations could really benefit from supporting them, but it’s hard for organizations to wrap their mind around the ways free agents are operating if they haven’t yet encountered one!

      Thanks again

  • I’ve been looking for something like this for a while to share with readers of my own website. Totally agreed regarding social networking and social media websites laying down the foundation which we then build up upon. Websites like Facebook and Twitter would be empty shells if it wasn’t for people like you and me coming along and making our own profiles filled with content we created. And it just so happens that if such foundations are manipulated in the correct manner they really can make a difference in our world. I love this case study so much. I’ve subsequently shared it via my own website, but don’t worry, you’re fully credited and linked to etc 🙂

    Thank you so much, I love this.

    • Hi Steve-

      Thanks for joining in. Happy to share something you and your readers find valuable as well!

  • I’m so glad you profiled her – I’ve been curious about how this came about as well.

    Darah IS creating community. She’s connecting causes, people, organizations, sponsors, and weaving them into community. She’s an original network weaver and she proves that one person can weave a network. The next step, it seems, would be for her to really create a community online where each person who has been touched by the organization can connect with the others. Does she have any plans for doing something like that with @abolishcancer?

    • Hey Debra-

      Thanks! I’m really happy to share Darah’s example and highlight the impact achieved via @abolishcancer – my pleasure!

      I couldn’t agree with you more, though – she isn’t just catalyzing funds for organizations; she is also creating a community of people, organizations, and sponsors passionate about finding a cure for cancers. And doing it within the social media tools that so many people are using allows the networked effect of actions to amply that impact and the connection to the cause.

      I’ve pinged Darah to get follow up to your question as well.

  • Amy- thank you for the post and Debra thank you for the question. (BTW i’m a male, but i won’t hold that against anyone 🙂 In response to your follow-up question about next steps… we are considering a couple of different options for where to go next…but you are right, in that the network and community is what makes the twitter feed work. So many people have been touched by cancer that it’s no longer taboo to talk or tweet about it. Anyone can get the support or give the encouragement.
    Another fascinating component to the way the site works is the felling that, even though someone can’t donate money and can only follow one time to have a $1 donated, they feel empowered to GET OTHERS on board to do the same. On the most recent day when we had a sponsor, there was a frantic sending of tweets by people that none of us knew, to get celebrities and people of pwer to tweet about us and follow. It was as if they knew they could make a difference by connecting through Twitter and getting the message to go viral. The beautiful thing about Twitter is that YOU CAN connect with anyone, including the rich and famous.
    One, of very few critics of what we are doing, tweeted back that we were encouraging false hope to get a cure. I replied that we were doing the opposite, we were providing more hope becuase people were connecting and able to make a difference.
    We truly believe that a revolution can be started on Twitter (or other social networks) when people believe in the message and feel as if they can make a difference. What’s not to say that we could be over 1 million strong one day, and a powerful voice in leading a “common man’s (& woman’s) charge to end this disease.
    Maybe I’m crazy, but maybe, just maybe, I’m on to something.- Darah


    • Hi Darah-

      Thanks for following up to Debra’s questions!

      I think you’re right about one of the unique things in using Twitter is that it is so public and accessible – I could connect with anyone that’s on there, even if they’re famous 🙂

      I definitely do not think you are crazy and I really do believe that you are catalyzing hope and community around finding a cure. I’m curious about your thoughts, as Eric points out, on leveraging something like video. There are various tools that allow you to tweet videos, like you can photos with twitpic etc., and even bringing in video to the site using youtube and embedding tools. The personal stories are so powerful to work like yours and I am curious if you see the @abolishcancer work using other tools like that?

  • Very interesting case study. I had never heard of @abolishcancer before, but I just followed them on Twitter. Maybe I should have waited until there was a sponsor ready so a $1 could have been donated:)

    Darah, have you established communities anywhere else online (e.g. facebook, youtube)? I would think that assist in spreading the word. You can also use youtube to show videos of the organizations that have benefited from your fundraiser. That can really motivate others to share. Good luck

    • Hi Eric-

      Thanks for joining in – I’m glad you’re following @abolishcancer now and think it’s probably a good idea, even without a sponsor 🙂

      I like your idea of leveraging videos in the @abolishcancer strategy as it is driven so much on personal stories. Videos could certainly support that! Would love to hear from Darah says…