I was reading my twitter feed and feeling concerned about the earthquakes in Christchurch and the enormity of what is happening in Libya and wondering about our capacity to be ghoulish voyeurs in times of crisis and feel helpless, overwhelmed and powerless. Someone commented that it’s a crisis a week at the moment what with floods, cyclones, bushfires as well as a revolutionary fervour rolling through northern Africa and the middle east.
Anyway, I came across a tweet from @operation_angel which is the not for profit organisation set up by Jacqueline Pascarl (famous for the abduction of her children by her Malaysian prince ex husband so many years ago). Operational Angel now acts as a resource for areas hit by disaster and I noted a few weeks ago that they were gathering together resources – and not cash – to help out the QLD floods. They had amusing posts asking for knickers, gumboots, sanitary napkins and things which really are essential, but probably not at front of mind when a natural disaster hits.
I decided to follow their twitter feed mainly because it made me smile – they had silly puns and it was always fun. Mind you, I didn’t send them any gumboots or knickers. I was thinking they needed pallets and pallets full and that they were appealing to people with shops and stock and quantity. (But I felt virtuous by supporting them in spirit). The way it works is that they act as a conduit to ship these items to where they are needed (so you can post stuff to them and they will forward it – they never ask for money).
Today they asked for blood donations from Australians for Christchurch.
My longterm excuse for not donating blood is that I am ineligible to do so, as I lived in the UK in the mad cow years and the blood bank considers me to be at risk of carrying BSE (even though I never ate a hamburger while I was there). I call it my “excuse” because I am actually very squeamish and know that I would faint if I were relieved of my plasma.
But – I thought this was a good idea – so I thought I could help out by publicising this need, and re-tweeted their message with my own little addendum (ie great idea, I would help out like this but I am not allowed to -see pic at bottom of page).
Lo and behold, within 10 minutes, Operation Angel came straight back to me with a suggestion of how else I could contribute – a very clear, tangible thing – something they need which will help them work in Christchurch on relief efforts. They called me out on copping out of donating blood myself – they could see that I wanted to help somehow, and they asked me to buy a sleeping back for their relief coordinator, Dean, who is going to Christchurch on Monday. How could I say no when they even sent me the link to where I could acquire one for them?
I think we should never underestimate the power of a direct ask – not only did I feel special that I could make a particular contribution that connects to something I can understand, but it furthered my relationship with both the organisation and the relief worker (whom I contacted via facebook). In a way, they were challenging me to put my money where my mouth was – and this was one of the most satisfying interactions I have had all week.
Let’s not forget that social media is social – and that if we utilise our networks well, we can see great results.
I am hoping to complete the purchase of the sleeping bag tomorrow (unfortunately the online checkout at Aussie Disposals wasn’t working today) and Jacqueline will collect it from the store not far from her.
my takeaways: social media is interactive
donors like to feel motivated and special
let people contribute in the ways that they can – don’t only dictate what you want and need but have it broader (in case they can’t help in the way you feel you most would like).
If you do this you are well on the way to becoming a Networked Nonprofit
I have learned something from this about creating connections, and feeling that I can contribute in surprising ways.
What do you think about direct and personal calls to action? What do you think motivates your donors?