Mashable Outtake: 12for12K’s Susan Murphy

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My column last week on Mashable tied together overarching themes from mega charity events like Twestival, 12for12k, Tweetsgiving and CrisisCamps. To get the information, I interviewed the four organizers cited in the article. Each interview was fantastic and informative in its own right. So with my editor’s blessing I am publishing the unedited interview source material over the next couple of weeks for general consumption, starting with Susan Murphy‘s 12for12K interview.

GL: What makes 12for12K unique as compared to other large-scale social media events?

Susan:I think what sets 12for12k apart is that we started small. It wasn’t about getting the large numbers for us right away. In other words, we weren’t trying to raise a million dollars in a month. Our goal was pretty reasonable. Find 1200 people to donate $10 per month for 12 months.

Since we were already pretty heavily involved in social media, reaching 1200 passionate people didn’t seem too daunting a task for us. We knew we had the capacity within the core team to reach people, and we focused on inspiring people to not only donate, but to help us spread the word. Our idea was to focus on building a community first, and the money would follow.

GL: How does 12for12K attract the long tail (large amounts of people) so successfully?

Susan:We focused first on building a community that cared about the cause. These people became our ambassadors – they were as passionate as we were about helping, and they spread the word. We got the charities directly involved too, and made sure their stories were out there for people to hear. Once we had a passionate community, spreading the word was much easier. When we needed to get a message out, or inspire people to contribute, our community went into action.

GL: In spite of its size, people seem to feel a relationship with you and local 12for12K organizers. How did you achieve that?

Susan: It’s not enough to just find a bunch of people willing to spread the word – that kind of publicity has a shelf life. We needed people to commit to 12for12k long term. We achieved this by empowering our community, not just “using” them for their blog posts and retweets. We wanted our community to feel ownership in 12for12k.

So we encouraged their ideas and feedback, and eventually 12for12k took on a life of its own….people were organizing their own fundraisers, and offering to help with web site design, logos and graphics, content, video production, social media outreach and other tasks. It is a true community effort, and our supporters have been absolutely critical to the success of 12for12k. It was this strong community that raised over $100,000 last year. We are so grateful to everyone that has supported the cause.

GL: What can a cause learn from your effort?

This has been a learning experience for us from the beginning. One of our biggest lessons happened mid-last year when we started to lose momentum. This is a natural thing with any long term initiative, and it’s something that causes need to be aware of.

It took some time to pinpoint the exact issue, but we realized that we’d lost some of the connection with our supporters – we weren’t reaching out to them as often, and weren’t listening as intently. We refocused our efforts on being there for our supporters, and regained our momentum by making sure we were involving our community at every step.

GL: What’s your favorite social media tool that you used for 12for12K?

Susan: Well, my mantra is, it’s not about the tools… but if you insist. ;) It’s important to leverage the platforms where your community resides – in our case it was important to have our home base as the web site www.12for12k.org, where we could share news and promote the charities and events, as well as promoting our strong community and highlighting their tremendous efforts.

Involving our community in conversations on our Twitter and Facebook pages was also extremely important. I would say that our leveraging of Twitter has been extremely successful. Last year we worked with Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) and held a Tweet-a-thon for our March charity, Share our Strength, and brought in over $12,000 in 12 hours, which was remarkable.

We’ve had other amazing 12for12k’ers that have also done their own online fundraising events, like concerts and live webcasts, with great success. But I think a balanced social media strategy is the best approach. Find your community. Listen to them. Encourage and empower them to share the message. The tools come second.

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