What stories do your communities tell?

I have written to some of you before about my friend Sarah’s son Thomas.  He is two, and has a brain tumor that has now spread to his spine.  You can read details in her blog.

So began an email I received a couple of months ago from an acquaintance determined to help raise funds for friends so they could afford to stay by the bedside of their dying toddler. My friend sent the heartfelt email to everyone in her address book, asking for small donations. Within 3 days, she raised over $1000.

My friend’s email led me directly to Paypal button on the family’s blog, which chronicles the challenges of parenting a two-year-old with cancer. In a recent post, Thomas’ mom writes of having to constantly re-explain her situation to people she meets. She sums her experience up in five words: “Cancer. Quit job. Expensive. Sad."

A couple of days ago, a Twitter friend pointed me to another cancer blog, 4tricia.com.  Tricia is a young mom with an aggressive form of breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy only 9 days after her diagnosis.   Her brother created the site to help keep family and friends up to date about Tricia’s condition, and to help raise money for Tricia’s expensive care.  The site features a billboard where visitors can purchase pixels do display a logo linking to their blog or business.  The family donates 25 percent of the pixel purchase goes to American cancer Society and Frozen Pea Fund.

Recently, Randall Moss discussed one man non-profits and the disadvantages of duplicated of efforts resulting from people doing the same work for the same cause across multiple organizations.  With social media, it’s not just one man non-profits on the rise, but one-man/one-woman causes. How do blogs like Tricia’s and Sarah’s change the non-profit landscape?   No doubt, they add deeply personal dimensions to causes like cancer, increasing awareness and empathy among readers who stumble upon their writings.  Should non-profits reach out to these vocal members of their community?  In what ways?  How do you find them?  What can organizations learn from individual social media efforts?

As story-telling proliferates through social media, those organizations and individuals best able to convey the compelling stories of their communities have a clear fund-raising advantage.  So many non-profits serve communities that lack the technology and education required for blogging and other social media outreach.  Even in the communities where many individuals have access to technology, there will be those that do not.  As a result, it is critical for organizations to help level the playing field by finding ways to give voice to the voiceless in their communities.

How are you helping the people you serve tell their stories?   

One comment

  1. I think the successful “causes” or “movements” will be, for the lack of a better word, “clouds” of connected people who share the same passion. We got highly structured entities like the ACS from the 20th century limits on how you could organize people for concerted action. Now I think the whole thing is changing and effectiveness is related to mobilizing people to action at the right times. Traditional structure is not so important. Social media facilitate the episodic self-organizing of the cloud of interested people.

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