I want to share the fascinating experiences I have had in understanding the power of the online community in the past month.
I raised money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation in October this year, I put on a dress everyday, documented my fashion choices on Facebook, Instagram and [occasionally] Twitter, and collected donations from people through my online donations page. I didn’t actually do any traditional door-knocking around my neighborhood; it was all online. I campaigned with my own image, photos and selfies of me in dresses – I got $2,500 for it from friends and family. All without engaging the wider Perth community.
The hardest thing I did was choose which dress to wear. Seriously.
It was easy because the cause was close to my heart, as my dear Grandmother survived Ovarian Cancer, and then Bowel Cancer three times.
Celebrating what was gained, instead of mourning a loss
I did it because I wanted to change the way Cancer is thought about in my ‘sphere’ of life. Relatives of mine have died of Cancer, but I wanted to celebrate survival instead of mourning a loss, the latter seems to be the default reaction. People should feel good about celebrating survival; that’s why it felt so good to put on a dress each day. Like dressing up for a party to celebrate the fact my Grandmother opened her eyes and breathed after each of her operations, that she is still with us at 86.
What did I learn?
1. Campaigning online is easy and hard. It was easy in that I didn’t have to leave the comfort of my home whilst ‘campaigning’. All I did to ‘campaign’ was post selfies [essentially] done up a bit on Instacollage, with a caption, and updates on how close I was to my goal of $2,000. Ended up with $2,500. I was, am and continue to be thrilled with that. Little old me and my too many dresses raised $2.5k!
Social media and email is a hard thing to campaign ‘through’ in a personal sense. I had to be quick to thank people after their donations so they didn’t feel like they were just ‘chucking’ money at me because I was asking for it. The money raised goes towards creating an early detection test for Ovarian Cancer – so I personalised my donations page by including my story about my Grandmother, and how I wanted to channel my fashionista powers to do something positive.
2. Story-telling is a powerful thing. For my first attempt at fundraising, I tried to make it as personal as possible – I told the story of how Ovarian Cancer has affected people in my life, dedicating my fundraising to a family member, talking about my too many dresses and how I wanted to make a difference. When I saw people face to face, my dresses became a talking point – “what dress are you wearing today?” “ooh I like this frock!”
I also told the stories of my dresses, where I bought them or borrowed them from, whether it was the first or millionth time I’d worn it. I never realised how many people admired my style – it was a humbling experience to be complimented so many times. Because I told a story, the dresses became like characters in a story – metonyms for my fundraising journey.
3. People on the internet are generous people. Human beings sit behind computers and above phones at the end of the day. Majority of my donations came from my friends, Gen Y – people aged 19 – 35. It bucked all my expectations. I didn’t actually tell my family about Frocktober until a couple of weeks in, and they were very quick to support me.
4. Fundraising and Expectations can be very different things. My expectations of my total went from $1,000 to 5,000, to $3,000 and I eventually settled on $2,000 as my target. I got $370 on my first day of fundraising and hit $1,000 just after the 10th of October. I wanted in my heart to reach $5,000, hell, I wanted to reach $1 000 000 if I could – but I had to adjust my expectations, which was hard, but I am still very proud of my $2,500 and will be doing things better next year!
Fundraising is like weightlifting, some people can raise the bar, but if you can’t do it, you have to accept you can’t do it.
5. The online community has yet to be fully maximised. It’s not enough, as an individual or a company to just turn social media into a digital highway full of ads and bleeding heart stories. Authenticity and a strong brand are essential to distinguishing yourself; to make people stop, take notice and engage.
A great irony of social media is that some people negate the ‘social’; which is the most integral part. You cannot just be a spectator, you have to get involved. You cannot expect to be noticed as a person sitting in a stadium of say, a million people, when you could get out on to the playing field and get noticed.
Politicians have a way to come with social media. Having an account is not just enough; social media isn’t just an adventure, it is a commitment to transparency and accountability. If you want to be on the playing field, you can’t expect people won’t watch and not ask questions; be prepared to give answers. You can’t get out on to the playing field and hide behind the goal posts.
MEETING MICHAEL AND AKRIM
Along with my Frocktober experience, these guys, through their work to eradicate global poverty, have re-inspired me.
Pictured: Michael in the blue shirt, Akrim in the white shirt surrounded by committee members of the Australian Institute of International Affairs WA Branch.
The End Polio campaign has had significant successes – it’s not asking people for money so a charity can ‘resolve’ an issue, it is actually getting people involved, getting people to unite. Encouraging people to write to MPs and public figures to express their opinion – I think society has forgotten that we are well within our rights to do so. We can make change simply by doing.
Unity and People Power are coming back through the hand of the internet. Just got to get people to get up, off the computers and act. To make a difference.
You could join Russell Brand’s Revolution!
Worth a watch. Not that I’m a massive lefty, it’s all very V for Vendetta [a favourite movie of mine] and in classic Russell style, he is honest, potentially bordering on facetious. If you haven’t got 10 minutes, watch from about 08:30 onwards.
It’s interesting, he holds himself very well – but he’s big on the idea of people power:
I believe in people.
I believe in people power.
I believe people don’t realise how much power they have.
I believe in the internet and social media.
Would love your thoughts!
Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing.