Who is FORGE, the nonprofit that posted 423 comments to the One Post Challenge winning entry? Well here’s the story as written by FORGE founder and executive director Kjerstin Erickson.
By Kjerstin Erickson
One week ago Monday, I stumbled across the One Post Challenge after following a few links from the ‘Philanthropy Today’ update that I receive in my inbox every weekday. As a blogger myself, I first considered entering. But then I came across the $500 for your nonprofit entry and immediately knew that with the right mobilization strategies, FORGE would win.
FORGE is not a huge organization, but we have three things working in our favor:
a) an engaged and highly motivated network
b) a strong presence in today’s online social networking tools
c) a staff that understands the power of social media and is willing to use it
The beauty of web activism is that you don’t even have to know the people that you reach – they are often 3 or 4 degrees of separation away from you. I know everyone that has ever worked or volunteered for FORGE, but I only knew approximately 15% of the people that voted for us.
So what did we do? Every nonprofit keeps a master listserv of their supporters, but we didn’t even have to use ours. Rather, we depended on the personal connections of our core staff and alumni – approximately 50 people – who we then asked to reach out to others. Being requested to do something – anything – is much more potent when it comes from someone you know well. Therefore, dozens of smaller emails are often much more powerful than a few large email blasts.
Sending the request to our core staff was our original, ‘catch-up’ strategy. But we asked people to not reach deeper into their networks until the deadline was upon us. When there was just 12 hours left in the competition, we pounced.
Facebook is our networks’ social networking tool of choice, so we:
1) formed a Facebook Event and invited thousands of people to “virtually attend” (the event was named “FORGE go go WIN!” after comment #200, our favorite, from one of the refugee students we sponsor to University)
2) asked our staff members to “Post a Facebook Note” telling everyone in their network about the contest and how they could take part
3) asked our staff members to “change their Facebook status” to “Just Voted for FORGE at http://tacticalphilanthropy.com/2007/11/500-for-your-nonprofit”
Within 3 hours, we had 100 new votes. By the end of the evening, we had more than 260 new votes. And the rest is history…
Do I have any lessons to share? I think that the majority of the nonprofit world is blissfully unaware of the revolution that is happening in cyberspace. Many organizations have little idea what Facebook is, much less how great of a tool it can be for them if used properly. Web 2.0 has brought with it a great transformation of the possibilities for human outreach and interaction, and the social sphere is one of the best places to use it.
Everyone loves a little competition, and this contest was extremely fun for us. But perhaps the best part of it was not the winning or even the funds, but the way in which our ‘constituents’ – the refugees that FORGE serves – got involved from across the world. Most of the refugees we work with live in camps that don’t have electricity, much less internet access. However, we are currently sponsoring six talented refugee students to attend university in Lusaka, and they have internet access at the ‘flat’ where they live. The day I found the post, I decided to send them a quick email to let them know about the competition. The next morning, I woke to find that not only had they all posted a comment of support, but that they had gotten so excited about the contest that they went all over their apartment building, knocking on doors, and getting people to come over to vote for FORGE! When you are an African refugee, you have little opportunity to break down the barrier between ‘server’ and servee’ and fundraise for yourself – they took the opportunity with gusto.
And boy we’re they excited when FORGE won…you’ve just gotta check out the video and attached photos they sent!
FORGE Founder and Executive Director