Wednesday, March 4

Changing The World: BloggersUnite.org


"How can we bring bloggers together to do good?" — Antony Berkman, BlogCatalog.com

In early 2007, it seemed like a simple enough question posed to his business partner Angelica Alaniz, designer Oscar Tijerina, and programmer Daniel Tijerina. So, within a week, the BlogCatalog team created a landing page, encouraging bloggers to support classroom supplies for students though the Omidyar Network-supported DonorsChoose.org.

"We asked BlogCatalog members to take a day off from writing about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and focus their posts on doing good to support education," says Berkman. "The initial challenge didn't attract much attention at first. A few people were interested, and I was almost ready to give up until this one guy in Las Vegas asked me for a news release to include on his business giving blog."

There was only on problem with the request. Berkman didn't have a news release. So that one guy from Las Vegas volunteered to write it, rewrite it for the blog, and distribute it to several key publications and blogs with the hope it might gain some traction.

The coverage quickly helped propel what would become the first social network-driven social awareness campaign on the Internet. DonorsChoose.org benefited from ten times the awareness online and more than 1,000 students directly benefited from the donations received.

"Coming together is a beginning." — Henry Ford

"It was really very overwhelming to see hundreds of bloggers come together and all write about how we could improve education and why people might support DonorsChoose.org," says Berkman. "We also learned a lot from the first initiative, especially that BlogCatalog had become an international social network for bloggers so we had to think globally."

One year later, after Bloggers Unite continued to grow with each increasingly successful campaign, Bloggers Unite for Human Rights became the new benchmark for success. The campaign generated 1.2 million posts that raised awareness, provided varied calls to action, increased attention on Amnesty International, and caught the attention of Veronica De La Cruz, Internet correspondent for CNN's flagship morning news program.

"Keeping together is progress." — Henry Ford

"While every campaign had been increasingly successful, the two and half minute segment on CNN was defining moment," said Berkman. "When you asked members who would have posts ready in the morning for consideration on CNN, it was nothing less than extraordinary watching bloggers move from doubt to disbelief to exuberance."

The successes were not without some sour notes. Because Bloggers Unite was designed to raise awareness for underserved causes, some critics thought Bloggers Unite didn't do enough. They felt Bloggers Unite didn't go far enough in creating sustainable engagement with specific causes, never considering that many participants stayed on with the benefiting nonprofit organization.

"Sometimes it's challenging in that our goal has always been to make it about the bloggers and the organizations we benefit," said Berkman. "So if that means talking more about the cause than ourselves or the results we achieve, so be it."

"Working together is success." — Henry Ford

What the critics didn't know was that BlogCatalog was already working on the evolution of Bloggers Unite, taking the initiative and transforming it into a social network that all online and offline charitable events could benefit from. Since the network allows any member to submit local, national, and international events, Berkman says he never has to say "no" to organizations again.

“The new network changed the dynamic of Bloggers Unite,” said Berkman. ”While we’ll still coordinate three major underserved social awareness campaigns through BlogCatalog every year, BloggersUnite members can now submit and support their causes as well.”

The new network solves another challenges too. BlogCatalog members had been previously split on how many campaigns might be too few or too many. The new network allows bloggers and other social networks to promote as many events as they want while BlogCatalog, combined with Bloggers Unite will still be home base for three initiatives every year.

Can we change the world in 90 days?

As 90 days is the ideal amount of time to launch a fully integrated social awareness campaign, it became a question that I used to ask frequently up until last year. After what started as writing a simple release became developing communication plans that provided enough guidance and freedom for Bloggers Unite, the answer has become all too apparent. Yes, we can.

For me, one of the unique aspects of the new Bloggers Unite network is the ability for bloggers and non-bloggers to raise awareness globally online while taking action locally. It's also one of the reasons Copywrite, Ink. asked BlogCatalog members and a few friends on Twitter to offer six to 12 local events to serve as our initial examples. Here are ten events recently added to the 37 different events currently available (in chronological order) to serve as inspiration for other nonprofit organizations.

Ten Local Events Highlighted At BloggersUnite.org

March 14. San Antonio, Texas | Be A Shavee
The world's largest volunteer-driven fundraising event for childhood cancer research invites thousands of volunteers to shave their heads in solidarity of children with cancer, while requesting donations of support from friends and family.

April 6. Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico | Marcha Por Los Bebes
The Puerto Rico March of Dimes chapter will march for babies, an event that raises money to support programs in the community that will help moms have healthy full-term pregnancies.

April 11. Frederick, Maryland | Run For Congo Women
Run For Congo Women, hosted by Women For Women International, will provide direct assistance through sponsorships that will help women and children pay for food, medicine, and other lifesaving needs.

April 19. Las Vegas, Nevada | 2009 AIDS Walk Las Vegas
Aid for AIDS of Nevada will lead the AIDS Walk, which consists of individual walkers and walk teams to raise funds for critical services and elevate public awareness. The AIDS walk is supported by many organizations and celebrities, including Penn & Teller.

April 29. Portland, Oregon | The Pet Effect Fundraising Luncheon
The Delta Society will host a free fundraising luncheon (no minimum or maximum donation) to raise funds for therapy animal programs and their handlers, which makes a difference by providing a human-animal bond.

May 2. Twin Cities, Minnesota | Twin Cities Walk for Parkinson's Disease
The Parkinson Association of Minnesota (PAM) will walk to improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson's disease, through fundraising, community building, advocacy, and increasing public awareness.

May 2. Atlanta, Georgia | The Arthritis Walk Atlanta
The Atlanta chapter of the Arthritis Foundation will participate in the annual nationwide event to help improve the lives of the 46 million men, women and children doctor-diagnosed with arthritis.

May 3. Boston, Massachusetts | 2009 Walk For Hunger
More than 40,000 supporters will take part in Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger, where walkers of all ages participate in an event dedicated to feeding hungry people. Project Bread served 43.4 million meals last year.

June 19-21. Vancouver, Canada | The Ride To Conquer Cancer
Cyclists will bike for two days from Vancouver to Seattle. Funds will benefit BC Cancer Foundation to support breakthrough research and enhancements to care at BC Cancer Agency, throughout British Columbia.

June 24. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK | The Moon Walk Edinburgh
More than 12,000 women and men will walk the streets of Edinburgh in their decorated bras to raise money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer.

We'll be adding art, badges, and topic guides as each local event date nears as well as participating in several international event days throughout the year.

What can you do? Join BloggersUnite.org and then choose as many or as few campaigns as you want to help. Once you're a member, you can also add and manage local events in your community, national events close to your heart, or designated international event days that touch lives all over the world. The network makes it easy to upload materials to help and a link to the specific event page. And naturally, we're always happy to answer questions.

All that remains to be asked is whether you really want to change the world? I know I have, and still do.

5 comments:

Hadley on 3/4/09, 1:30 PM said...

Kudos to BlogCatalog and BloggersUnite for making a difference!

It's refreshing to see people utilize the internet and social media in a completely positive way.

bayu on 3/4/09, 6:04 PM said...

am egree about that

timethief on 3/4/09, 10:00 PM said...

This is one of the most wonderful ways that bloggers an unite and make a difference. Kudos to Tony and too Daniel and Oscar who have crafted a wonderful new site. Kudos to you too for being so helpful with locating and scheduling these worthy events.

lewis8 on 3/5/09, 5:33 AM said...

Rich,

Very impressive effort. Thank you for sharing.

Rich on 3/5/09, 6:24 AM said...

Thank you.

I know the BlogCatalog team will be pleased receive the feedback. For my part, listing the local events on the new site was easy after BlogCatalog members and Twitter friends pointed me in the right direction with nonprofit organizations that they are passionate about.

Also, a special thanks to Jason T. who signed up here to shave his head here.

You know, I find it amazing that for all the talk of influence online — based on comment counts, etc. — not a single measure can account for real life action. Something to think about ...

All my best,
Rich

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