Save a Life This Spring

We often think the holidays are the most dangerous time for those suffering from depression, but in actuality it is spring.

Maybe it’s the hopes of change the New Year brings. When a long winter offers little relief and the weather turns, a staggering amount of people choose to take their own lives.

The IMAlive Online Crisis Network needs your help to meet the annual surge of suicides. I’ve decvided to help, and have made IMAlive Tenacity5 Media‘s pro bono client for 2014.

You, see I understand how scary suicide is. I’ve had several friends commit suicide over the years, and had someone very close to me confess ideation of suicide in 2012. In that case, I was able to convince my friend to get help. X was diagnosed with clinical depression, received medication, and has been doing progressively better. Let me be clear, if X had committed suicide the effects would have been just devastating in my life. I wish I could tell you more, but I’ve been asked not to reveal this person’s identity.

More people die of suicide these days than in car accidents, 38,364 victims in 2010 according to the CDC. And anyone of any age is a possible victim, not just the young and elderly. Middle-aged people represent the largest growth demographic for suicide.

The statistics are staggering. The impact on real people’s lives is far worse. I talk periodically with Reese Butler, founder of IMALive and parent 501c3, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center. Reese’s Kristin died by suicide in 1998 leaving him and his child with a fragmented life. If you ever have a chance, listen to Reese tell his story. It’s powerful and devastating at the same time. Needless to say, the impact on Reese was just horrible, and he has committed his life’s work to try and prevent others from suffering the way that he and hundreds of thousands already do.

People in crisis generally don’t have the energy or ability to take on a long search for help. Please lend a hand to those around you who may be suffering in silence find the help they need within seconds.

You can give your year-end tax deductible donation to the IMAlive Online Crisis Network here. IMAlive uses your tax deductible dollars to make sure that crisis counselors are available 24-7 online and by telephone so that whenever someone needs to talk, they receive an answer.

Thank you for helping to save a life like Kristin’s this Spring.

The above photo features Kristin Brooks in a 1931 Ford Model T.

Give People a Chance in Their Darkest Hour

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. In hopes of helping to raise money and prevent unnecessary deaths, I am reposting my original thoughts from two years ago when Trey Pennnington died.

When a suicide happens it is a horrific moment in time. Fellow bloggers Olivier Blanchard and Margie Clayman joined me today to fundraise for IMALive’s 24-7 suicide prevention chat service in memory of Trey Pennington, who passed away almost two years ago to this day.

Our personal goal is to raise $10,000 so we can provide 24-7 online crisis chat services from IMAlive (my wife Caitlin’s client) to those in their darkest hour. As of publishing, more than $30,000 has been raised via several fundraisers, so it’s not too much of a stretch.

There are prizes, too:

$25 Deck of Suicide Prevention Playing Cards
$50 KBHC Gift Pack (Deck of cards, UV Sunglasses, Stress Ball, Frisbee Flyer, Blue October Tee Shirt)
$100 Frank Warren Signed Galley Page, free eBook of Geoff Livingston’s novel Exodus
$250 Complete Blanchard/Livingston book set
$500 Autographed Journey T-Shirt
$1000 Complete autographed Frank Warren book set

Please give what you can. And you can find that Trey Pennington post below the donation widget.

Precious Life and Losing Yourself

Soleil and Dino Walker

Life is so precious. Having a child who smiles and laughs at the simplest of new things awakens such a deep profound joy in your heart. It makes you realize how important life and love is. A fire burns inside of you to protect those you care about, and to make sure they live as joyfully as possible.

Earlier today, we lost a good man, Trey Pennington. The level of shock and mourning online is unprecedented in this community, and there is good reason for that. Trey was one of the most encouraging, kind people on the interwebs. He was a good soul who benefited many people’s lives, mine included.

Trey

Trey wrote on my wall yesterday, sharing a small success with one of my clients in encouraging fashion, as was his way. It seemed very much in character. It has already been said, but like Olivier, I am just heartbroken.

As with many people I associate with online, I did not meet Trey in real life, but we talked a bit over the years. He shared his frustrations with writing a book, and we both had a common dislike for some of the behaviors popularity-seeking top bloggers exhibited. But Trey would always gently encourage me to stay focused, and keep using my online skills for good.

And like Trey, I also went through a separation, and it just devastated me, causing a deep depression. We were fortunate, and worked it out. Two years later last October, Miss Soleil joined our family. Caitlin was 39 and I was 38.

To a great extent, my troubles were caused by an overvaluing of my import online. Looking back I can see how lucky I was to have recovered what had carelessly been thrown away. Now I am blessed enough to be a father, my most important job in life.

The circumstances of Trey’s death don’t matter to me. What is important is the encouragement and the reminders, which I will choose to keep and remember. Further, I will pass them on. Trey’s legacy will live.

It’s so easy to lose yourself in this rat race online. Twitter followers, Google+ suggested recommended list, on and on. And the way some people lord their following and sense of self-import cannot help but feel like an attack on your worth in a faux attention economy.

Maybe you have been fortunate enough to become well known and liked. That can be a Faustian trap, luring your mind and heart to chase false idols.

But know this, friends, it’s bullshit. It really is. An egregious sense of import takes hold, and we become distracted from what really matters, those loved ones who are near to us that rely on our daily contributions. There are also those who are more distant, but look to us to lead, or to share our experience, strength and hope.

No one will remember you for your blog rank or your follower count. They will remember you for the impact you made in real lives. This is what matters. Sometimes we have to make that impact even if it is not known or recognized. Compassion and giving is not about fame. It is about making the world a better place.

At times we cannot help, but become lost. Grace can save us. In the worst scenarios, even that is not enough. Darkness can take us. But those we have impacted will remember the kind acts.

Sometimes when I hold Soleil and play with her or drop her off at day care, it brings tears to my eyes. She is here in spite of my poor judgment three years ago. I know how lucky I am, and I am so grateful.

Hold your loved ones this Labor Day weekend. Feel and know in the deepest part of your soul that esteem is a derivative of doing esteemable things, not from winning the attention rat race. Understand how precious life is, and spread compassion. It may just make a difference where you least expect it.

Fight Suicide with IMAlive 24-7

One of my clients, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center is hosting the first annual IMAlive 24-7 Giving Challenge to fundraise on National Suicide Prevention Day (September 10). People across America are trying to raise $50,000 to fund the IMALive.org crisis chat service. Any donation received during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 8-14) will count towards the IMAlive 24-7 giving event.

Suicide can be a moment of terror. In their desperation many potential victims can be talked off the proverbial ledge by an IMAlive volunteer.

IMAlive volunteers like one young lady Molly have saved thousands of lives by simply helping them through the moment. The above video tells you about Molly’s experience, and how saving people’s lives changed her.

Currently, the IMAlive chat service and hotline is available to people most hours of the day, but to become truly effective we need to become available every hour of every day. If successful, our IMAlive 24-7 Giving Challenge will make the chat service available every hour of every day through August, 2014!

You can donate, or fundraise. Several bloggers have already signed up to participate, including Frank Warren and the PostSecret Community; a team led by Bob LeDrew and Ann Marie ven den Hurk in memory of Jacob Weiskopf (Team Jacob); and Team Trey, and a group consisting of Olivier Blanchard, Margie Clayman and me who are fundraising in memory of our friend Trey Pennington. Join the effort by contacting Gloria Bell (gloriakbell @ gmail . com) or me (geoffliving @ geofflivingston . com).

Teams that participate can win an 11 inch MacBook Air by raising the most dollars (Frank Warren and I are disqualified from winning due to helping KBHC with this effort). In addition, one MacBook Air will be won by a randomly selected donor after the giving day. Finally, it is expected that their will be several matches offered by the Kristin Brooks Hope Center during the giving day.

In addition, donors will win awards for individual contributions of certain levels. Included are:

  • $25 Deck of Suicide Prevention Playing Cards
  • $50 KBHC Gift Pack (Deck of cards, UV Sunglasses, Stress Ball, Frisbee Flyer, Blue October Tee Shirt)
  • $100 Frank Warren Signed Galley Page, free eBook of Geoff Livingston’s novel Exodus
  • $500 Autographed Journey T-Shirt
  • $1000 Complete autographed Frank Warren book set

Individual teams may provide their own awards to donors.

Please join us, have fun, and save some lives. What do you think of suicide prevention or this fundraiser?

Photograph: IMALive’s Elena and Reese Butler accepting a GIve to the Max Day check with me and Frank Warren

1,886,434 Ways the Long Tail Beat Klout

Last Wednesday’s Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington netted $2,034,434, including 17,838 donations totaling $1,886,434. The online giving contest benefited 1200 nonprofits. As the general manager of the event, this kind of impact makes me profoundly grateful, and many thanks have already been sent to the donors, nonprofits and partners involved. Give to the Max Day also provided yet another example of how big social media names don’t necessarily translate into great social performance.

On the contrary, the majority of winners in Give to the Max Day Grand Awards were not the big nonprofit brands with sizable influencers locally. It was the little guys, the Little Lights Urban Ministries (Klout Score: 10) and For Love of Children, Inc. (Klout Score: 37) that won most donors and most donations, respectively.

If people were betting on popular nonprofit brands and influencers with big Klout scores to win the day, they would have lost a lot of money. While some participated and performed well, they didn’t take the grand prizes. In the end it was the long tail of small voices that drove the event’s leaderboards, and overall donation flow.

That’s not to say that big brands and influencers can’t succeed. As revealed in the PayPal Research paper, Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople in Social Fundraisers, the secret formula for success in social media is not the most “influence” or size of account, rather it is engaged community, authenticity and a willingness to work. Any online brand can demonstrate that kind of investment and energy.

Frank Warren Book Signing

Two award winners were big influencers, and showed that kind of passion. The first was PostSecret‘s Frank Warren (Klout Score: 69), who won the Care2 Individual Fundraiser Award with his IMAlive fundraiser, which in turn triggered a third place finish for Most Donors for the Kristin Brooks Hope Center. Frank was very engaged in the weeks leading up to the event, asking questions about how to do well. Further, he is authentically passionate about this cause with a long history of fundraising and personal reasons to be engaged.

The second influential example is the fine performance of the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Though you couldn’t necessarily tell by a Klout Score of 49, the Corcoran is one of Washington’s premier institutions in the Arts Community. The Corcoran went all out with its ArtReach campaign, using a matching grant, emails and social media to invigorate its core. The result? A total of 438 donors and $55,189 in donations, good enough for third place in most dollars raised, and fourth place for most donors.

In the end, it’s not Klout or some other social media ranking that creates a success. It’s the passion and drive of the voices behind the effort.

Congratulations to all of the nonprofits who experimented, and learned more about online fundraising this past Wednesday (and the months leading up to it). Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was a fun contest, and it’s an enjoyable exercise to break down what made a winning campaign. But the real winners in this day were you, the almost 18,000 citizens who supported you, and the region as a whole.