Epic Change Creates a Community of Donors
Nonprofits who make excellent use of Facebook and other social media seem to have a commonality at their core: they are extremely good at creating a community of donors.
The word “community” suggests many things, not the least of which is working and building something together. That seems to be the unique selling proposition of Epic Change, a small nonprofit started three years ago to support a community in Tanzania. Epic Change holds a celebration event every Thanksgiving to give thanks to its community of supporters. Born as “TweetsGiving” in 2008, the event is now called Epic Thanks.
Co-founder/CEO Stacey Monk and digital media consultant Debra Askanase spoke about Epic Thanks and the organization’s approach to community with Allison Fine of The Chronicle of Philanthropy in a December 13, 2011 podcast. Stacey Monk says the idea of Epic Thanks is simple – it’s a “celebration of gratitude.” This year, supporters were invited to upload photos of whatever they were thankful for. While the organization asks for donations, that is secondary to involvement in the community.
The Focus is on Friendship
Monk says the organization’s focus is on friendship, community, love and gratitude. Epic Change always invites supporters “to give something deeper than money,” says Monk. “The money flows from love.”
Debra Askanase adds that Epic Change emphasizes “supporter-centered action.” She says that the organization really listens and responds to what its supporters have to say, and it is this honest involvement with supporters that leads to “deeper engagement.”
Askanase says Epic Change starts by identifying the individuals who “love the organization” and then “gives the organization to the people.” She recognizes that some nonprofit executives would be uncomfortable with the idea of giving supporters this much control over their organization, but she believes the success of Epic Thanks in particular is due to empowering supporters.
Stacey Monk agrees. She says she really helped found Epic Change by “starting to make friends” and “building friendships with people who have like perspectives.” The organization relied on Facebook to establish an “inner core” of supporters. Anytime others expressed an interest, they were added to the Facebook group. “People feel a kinship in the Facebook group,” Monk says.
The group consists of supporters, Epic Change personnel, and people from the community in Tanzania that Epic Change helps. Monk regards herself as a member of the group, not the head of Epic Change. This makes the group feel like everyone has an equal say. “We’re all together in it,” says Monk.
Askanase says Epic Change truly created a community, enabled by Facebook. She says the Facebook group is a supportive environment where people can share ideas and feel “safe” with one another. She calls it a “friend-to-friend” community.
Giving Thanks and Getting Support
In a November 22, 2011 blog post, Stacey Monk remembers that she and her co-founder first thought “TweetsGiving” wouldn’t work. But then, she writes, “in 48 hours, we raised over $11,000 USD from hundreds of people across the globe we’d never met. Since then, the celebration has raised more than $60,000…” Later she writes, “This year, I’m grateful for those of you (you know who you are) who believe in the deepest parts of yourselves that love will always be enough… You are the creators of hope, you who dare to believe in possibilities before they are born. And today, I am beyond grateful for the light you shine into the future of us all.”
Stacey Monk’s authenticity is a prime example of what it takes to engender the love and support of donors who feel they are truly part of a community that is making a difference.