Grassroots Fundraising with Social Media

Social media channels are perfect for grassroots organizers to quickly create buzz and find their following. Take the case of Help a Mother Out. Lisa Truong and Rachel Fudge saw an Oprah segment on the tent cities outside of Sacramento filled with homeless people with nowhere to go. They were moved to contact local shelters to see how they could help and the shelters told them their biggest need was for diapers and toiletries for babies and children.

Help A Mother Out

Then they discovered that Federal and State safety net organizations who support poor and homeless families do not provide diapers for babies. Federal support funds like W.I.C. and food stamps do not allow the funds they give to be used for buying diapers. This leaves poor mothers in the position of deciding to use what expendable cash they have to buy diapers or food.

So they set out on their own to change things. They contacted their personal network of friends and family. They set up Amazon wish-lists so people could donate funds directly, publicized the lists on their blog and set up several direct drop locations where people could donate. Although the original target date was for Mother’s day, the response was so overwhelming that by the end of May they had collected over 15,000 diapers, as well as thousands of other hygiene items for babies, children and mothers.

Lisa says “A year ago I was totally anti- social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, all that stuff. Once I got on Twitter and started talking about what we were doing it just took off!

Now we’ve got 700 followers and we’ve connected with so many people across the country that have the same passion as we do. We’ve seen some far flung friends who saw what we posted and became very closely involved and host drives in San Diego and Santa Clara. A friend in Italy heard about it and got her friends in Tucson to set up a program.

The blog has been good too. People are linking back to us. We got in touch with a couple of good connectors who had bigger networks than we do, and they shared it with their networks.”

While on Twitter Lisa noticed that some Silicon valley moms were talking to Katie Couric about children in the recession. She picked up on their Twitter hashtag and basically crashed their Twitter conversation to tell them about what Help a Mother Out was doing. Although she never heard from Couric, Kim Tracy Prince picked up on it, and became the Los Angeles coordinator for a program there. A producer at KGO radio in San Francisco ead a blog post about them on SFAppeal.com and brought them onto the show for an interview.

They also started a conversation with a diaper bank in Michigan, and Sally Lieber (a former California assembly member) started a conversation to encourage changes in the way WIC works so they begin to cover diapers.

Help a Mother Out teamed up with a tiny baby shop called Baby Buzz in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood for a donation drive. The goal was to bring in 1000 diapers for a local women’s shelter. Local bloggers picked it up and blogged and tweeted about it and a local bank (Valley Credit Union) saw it on Twitter, gathered up over 1,000 diapers and the staff delivered them to the shop that very day.

The immediacy of seeing something Tweeted, being able to take action and get immediate satisfaction of helping is a very powerful thing. Valley Credit staff did a video of the event and posted it on their Facebook page, which was linked to by many supporters of Help a Mother Out as well as people in Valley Credit Union’s network and it was a clear win for everyone involved. The store got great publicity and felt good for helping. Help a Mother Out donated the diapers to a family shelter and an Asian women’s shelter in San Jose. Valley Credit Union staff got the immediate satisfaction of taking action and helping out as well as positive press as caring members of the community.

“The Help A Mother Out campaign is exactly the kind of grassroots effort that is needed today. Social networking in service of supporting mothers in need is a fabulous idea. Through innovation and utilizing the free tools the internet has to offer, HAMO has made a big difference the lives of many women and children, and in such a short period of time.” –Danica Remy, President, Point Foundation – Publisher, Whole Earth Magazine & Catalog

There are hundreds of examples like this of grassroots organizations springing up organically around a simple desire to help. Social media allows them to quickly spread the word to their networks and if the idea is valid it’s likely to take off very quickly.

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