Strength in Numbers: Forming and Using Online Orgs to Make Change


Anita Sarah Jackson
Dominique Browning
Elizabeth Blackney
Morra Aarons-Mele
Stacy Mott

Morra: Hi everyone I am Morra, your moderator today. I am so happy to be here and to see a full room. We are seeing in the space for social media for social good such a positive energy. This is our time as consumers to take our agenda and make a change.

I'm going to start out. We have 3 goals today. First I'd like to take a poll. How many are here because they have a cause they'd like to promote and use social media to help that cause? How many work for organizations? How many don't do this yet but want to learn the nitty gritty. Without further ado, I'm going to hand it over to Anita from MomsRising
I'd like to get started by asking out panelists, how did you get started? Tell us why this is your life’s work?

Anita: I was actually born this fabulous! (Laughter) I grew up with something of a social justice mindset. My family came here from India. I was the first of my family born in the US. My parents were Christians in southern India so they were definitely a minority. They were always helping people. So, when I was born I found it my passion and my calling to help others. I went to Berkley as an Undergrad and went to law school in Washington DC. 911 happened when I was in DC and it was a tough time to be there. I went to work for a non-profit and moved back to the bay area and began working for a health non-profit there. Then I saw a promo for a film about women's rights and motherhood rights and knew I had to see this movie called the Motherhood Manifesto. It was about access to health care, flexible workplaces. It was an organization that I felt articulates what it’s like to be an American and where we'd like it to be. So, I joined the organization where I became the Director of Social Media and Blogging. I'm the mother of two girls.

Dominique: My career is basically a magazine career. In my 30 years in the industry I was a man. I worked at Esquire and other men's publications. I learned a tremendous amount of how people view men and women. I went from Newsweek to House and Garden and it was quite a change. When I went to House and Garden I thought this is what women do, we make homes we care about these things and I decide to bring my passion to House and Garden. After it folded after 13 years, I thought I needed to reinvent my career and decided to go online. I started a blog called Slow Love Life. I started it because I had written a book but decided I still had a lot more to say. I fell in love with blogging. I was an editor, it was an amazing to have an idea, write it and not have a gatekeeper to what you have to say. I started connecting with women, men online. I am obsessed with global warming and our atmosphere and what path we are on. I was going down this path and the director of the Global Warming Assoc. contacted me and wanted me to write about our issues. I realized I am intelligent person and I couldn't understand half of what these scientists had to say to me. As I was learning more and more about this and going online, I noticed a lot on consumer choices about what you are going to buy and bring into your home. I started thinking about citizenship at a much higher level. That is why I decided to start Mom's Clean Air Force. We are organized to help fight clean air issues. We are non-partisan. We are always working with bloggers and on the ground across the country. We have been defending all kids of fascinating issues, for example when I was pregnant I was told not to eat Tuna. I never realized that the high Mercury levels came from air pollution levels. So that’s what we work on, demanding our right to poison free lives.

Stacy: I'm Stacy Mott. I never planned to get into politics. 4 years ago I had a newborn twins and a toddler. I started paying attention to the presidential election and began blogging about it and started getting a following. Afterwards, I put out a blog asking readers if anyone would like to continue talking politics. Within a week there were 60 emails in my inbox. Immediately we started Smartgirl Politics. I had zero campaign experience; we just wanted to talk politics. We got on Twitter and held the first ever Twitter ball. We had 4 chat rooms on Tweet chat. Right after that, we got involved early on in the Tea Party. Our organization focuses on the fiscal responsibility of government. We have 24 chapters and are 2,000 women strong. Our C3 and C4, which are social organizations. Our c3 focuses on training women on how to use twitter, how to blog, how to run for office. Our c4 is also a social organization. We focus on legislation. Both are social organizations and I will talk more later.

Elizabeth: My story is different I'm not with an org. The only organization I affiliate myself with is For Sudan. Since I was very tiny, the very first thing I read was The Jungle Book. For me, it was about the story in the book, how the elephant got its trunk, how it was really stubborn. It fascinated me; I was in love with the language. I was enchanted by Africa when I was young. I worked in military protocol. I wanted to go to Washington and I wanted to make a difference. Who are the people in charge, I didn't want to be one of the million staffers. I wanted to focus on who were the ones that were involved in the decisions. For me, as a value in our household social justice certainly was a value. I consult with various organizations. The most defining piece to my success is what I'm willing to do for a paycheck and what I'm willing to walk away from. I turned 40 and celebrated with a 40 day hunger strike. For me it was about creating a level honesty of myself. My personal work is very much about creating a whole person. We had an aesthetic for our personal life that I also wanted for my business. The real catalyst for me was a couple of years ago, I because friends with a man named Sir Richard Pearson. He was the first person since the 1948 conventions to prosecute rape as a crime in Sudan. I decided that I really wanted to be honest why I social change was important to me. Congo has the highest recording of rape in the world. I was taken when I was a teenage and was brutally gang raped. I was very fortunate that dad taught me a lot of things I could use and translate into my business that we as women don't always talk about. I do that to help other women realize we have so much power with our voice

Morra: I would like to open it up to the audience. Please feel free to ask questions?

Audience: You were talking about the difference between a 501 C3 and 501 C4. I'm here because there are people in my town who want to put in a plastic football field. I think its terrible idea for the environment perspective and how to find a grass roots effort.

Morra: That's great, Anita do you want to talk about your social media framework

Anita: That's a great question I hope what I show you can help you amplify your message through

Let me tell you about Moms Rising, we are very much about the grass roots and helping mom and letting the people in power know how consumers feel. Everyone who is a mom or has had a mom can you raise your mom?

Well you can see is that everyone can relate. There are 37 Million moms online. 99% of all moms will be online at the end of this decade.

Morra: When you look at data about women becoming activists it’s that personal issue that impacts your life that impacts you

Anita: Well then we look at why people don't become activists? First, people are just very busy and second there are so many messages out there. To get your message to resonate there are five key principles. First, stay nimble and responsive. Next, we constantly test; we take a look at the number of retweets and shares. We look at what resonates and what people want to share. Each week we take a look at what is working, we use data to stay on target. Next, maintain the dialogue. We try to be in constant dialogue, retweeting partner’s links. Building the relationships with partners is incredibly important. Having as many engagement avenues open as possible. You are going to have different messages resonate with people in different places. Lastly, remember don't forget the joy. Remember why this is important to you. You can find a synergistic corporation. One-click member advocacy is one of things most people think about. Next, Citizen Presence/Member Voice Proxy is another great way to get out the message. Last, the on the ground engagement, through parties and really how you get the conversation started at a grass roots level. Then again, the online tools -- tweet chats, blog carnivals. You are not out there alone.

Dominique: I'd just like to say, even though you are only one person you can still make a difference. One person's whose voice is amplified and driven by passion can make a difference.

Audience: My question has two parts. How do you go about starting a non-profit? It’s very overwhelming when you go online and look for info. Also, when do you get to that point to make the leap to turn it into a full-time job?

Stacy: As I said, we were tossed into the political field. We didn't have startup money, it really was grassroots. If you don't have funding, reach out to everyone you know. Find any attorney, reach out on twitter. I would definitely recommend reaching out to an attorney. I was a full-time mom. I didn't have a lot of time or money to start it. Take your time, figure out what your goal is, what your intentions are for the organization so you can go to someone and tell them what you want to do. We started the C4 first because the c4 encompasses everything. The only thing is that c4 contributions aren't tax deductible. C3 contributions are tax deductible. The approval process is pretty drawn out. Because its election season, the IRS has slowed down on the approval process.

Audience: Coming back to the woman who wanted to get started. Look at the president that started with You can reach out to find evidence to create a perception that there is a harm out there to get the dialog started.

Morra: One thing to mention, is not a non-profit. It is a for profit business. I'd like to talk about how to use the media to get your message out there?

Elizabeth: Because I've done a lot of campaigning, when you are lobbying and trying to move policy knowing your local media and knowing who they are, who they are friends with is important. Reporters are people too; know who they are in your community. When you are going through your local paper or news and you see a topic that is remotely similar to your cause, that is the person you want to talk to. Doing a bit of extra research, who the producers are, the staff section with contact info and use those to connect. Do your homework because it is a for profit space. There are some issues when you are profiting off of something you have to remember to keep yourself and your legacy in mind in the social justice space. It is so easy to get caught up and lose your message.

Dominique: The other thing is, you are the media now. Your voice is important. Reporters are looking through twitter, looking for people they can write about.

Morra: How do you use social media to make your own news?

Stacy: Twitter, hashtags. Twitter has a huge impact on issues when it’s a national issue. The hash tag is the key to having your story told

Audience: I started out online and now I'm going independent and going independent takes money. I have to make money. How do you support yourself in the social cause space?

Dominique: Think about other options, maybe there are think tanks that could use your expertise.

Morra: We pay our bloggers just in the same way you would pay someone talking about Clorox. I think we in the social goods space, we as women when we are doing good work. We don't think we should be paid for it. Let me tell you, gets paid for it

Stacy: I'll just say you have two things going against you. You aren't part of a machine and second you are a woman. You have to be tenacious. Back to Elizabeth’s point, you have to keep your soul. Not that I wouldn't want to get paid for the efforts but you have to be cautious about not to lose the focus on your brand

Audience: I'd like to start a research center for social workers. I wondered if you have experience or seen some of these new social media tools available?

Elizabeth: I know a lot of groups that use, they have a good reputation. I've known groups who have used KickStarter and had tremendous success. Shanley Knox, does this amazing work with women in Uganda who do this amazing bead-work. Find out what you can do and find a way to monetize it.

Anita: The way that Moms Rising fundraises is diversified. KickStarter is a great model. We also relay on our grassroots donations. Giving and setting small goals and reaching them is rewarding folks. Asking people to match donations is great.

Dominique: You can also go sideways with large organizations. You can be a Trojan horse in a way. Look around for big organizations that are looking for someone new, a spark to change the conversation.

Stacy: Online fundraising is still relatively new. People are still testing what works and what doesn't work. We found that offline really works. You can raise money via house party events. You are likely to engage other people who may not have engaged otherwise

Morra: you can capture email addresses. Email is still gold to build a database for contacts. Capture people's data.

Morra: I'm going to wrap it up so we can make it to see Katie Couric. Thank you everyone!