Social Media Fundraising FTW!

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PierreAs I flew from San Francisco to San Diego last Friday afternoon, I was followed by an email from a woman named Mary. She had heard from @melle who had heard from @sassymonkey that I could possibly help get an iPad for Pierre, her non-verbal son with multiple special needs. Pierre had been using AAC/communication apps with his speech therapist, and even though his communication had shown real progress, his treatment hospital had stopped donating iPads to families in need. Mary knew how much Pierre needed an iPad, but told me her family was already financially strained by Pierre's out-of-pocket medical costs. Mary simply couldn't afford to buy Pierre the iPad herself.

I emailed Mary back, told her about several iPad fundraising options, and let her know that I'd be happy to promote an online campaign via Facebook and Twitter if she would set it up. Mary set up a $1000-goal GiveForward campaign within the hour, and I spread the word word on Twitter wings and Facebook statuses as promised. Then I went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, Pierre's iPad campaign was already fully funded. Social media FTW!

The campaign ended up being overfunded, actually -- Mary decided to close the campaign early, since it garnered $800 more than she'd asked for -- enough to get Pierre his iPad, a case, AppleCare, and the apps recommended by his SLP. While much of the funding came through Mary's & Pierre's family and friends, all the monies were raised and collected online. There is no denying: While Pierre's family is "so blessed by everyone's encouragement and actions!," they can also thank social media for his new iPad.

This isn't the first time I've wanted to bearhug every last person on the Internet, or witnessed effective and lightning-fast fundraising happen thanks to social media connectivity. In 2006, the Blogosphere blew my mind by raising $700 in less than four days to get my son Leo and his local special ed friends a therapeutic ramp for the district's occupational therapy room, using the now-defunct online fundraising site DropCash.com. I was already an enthusiastic blogger, but once I saw Leo ride that Internet-enabled ramp, I became a social media true believer. The Internet has helped a teenage friend experience the once-in-a-lifetime journey of The Sojourn Project, has helped other friends get through tight financial spots, and has never let me down.

Melody from ASParenting has also experienced social media's conjuring ability first-hand. She cobbled together a variety of social media resources and was able to get an iPad for Daniel, her (adorable) son with autism, to open on Christmas morning. Melody wrote:

"Thanks to my readership here [on the blog], my contacts within our local Autism community, plus good ol’ fashioned friends and family, we started to raise money. We started with $25, then $45, before we knew it, we were above $200! I tweeted, I blogged, I updated my Facebook and wrote “Note” after “Note”. I was surprised at the people who took notice. There were so many along the way that retweeted, posted the story to their news feeds. I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of those in the Autism community that reached out."

Watch Daniel open his gift-wrapped iPad. Get yourself a tissue first, though:

 

Daniel's iPad has become a learning nexus and a social catalyst. It has made a real difference in his life. And he might not have it if it wasn't for social media. I have to wonder, how many more Daniels are out there? Leos? Pierres?

This kind of fundraising isn't just for iPads. It can be used for any small-scale to moderate need. The biggest hurdle, I've found, is folks' hesitance to ask in the first place. And I understand, I've been there. Asking is hard. Asking puts you in a position of trust and vulnerability. But people can't help you or your child if you don't ask them to. If your need is real and your story inspires, trust me -- social media will provide.

Additional special needs fundraising & iPad grant resources:

P.S. I was staying with my mother during Pierre's campaign's literal overnight success. She had a front-row seat for The Internet at Its Best. And I suspect that, just maybe, she'll now stop teasing me about my Facebook and Twitter usage. Bonus!

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Shannon Des Roches Rosa writes for ThinkingAutismGuide.com, BlogHer.com, and Squidalicious.com. She spends less time on Twitter and Facebook than you think she does -- she's just very efficient.

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