Confessions of a Premie
Confessions of a Premie
I’m an old school activist.
I support many causes, volunteer in soup kitchens, record for Jello Biafra’s rabidly free-speech record label, sit on the board of the Coalition for the Homeless in NYC and encourage people of all political persuasions to vote. My great-grandfather was Harry Hopkins, principal architect of the New Deal and the man who in 1933 famously chastised the US Congress for claiming that the US economy would sort itself out in the long run by retorting “People don’t eat in the long run, they eat every day.” For that verbal grenade alone, the guy is one of my heroes.
Like most other premies (my term for the pre-millennial generations, or those born prior to 1980), exercising this responsibility has traditionally taken the form of writing checks to worthy causes, volunteering time, maybe writing the occasional letter or signing a petition, and voting for politicians who support the legislative framework and budgetary priorities that most effectively address the systemic inequities that lead to poverty, suffering, the erosion of rights and damage to our environment.
This has been the system for a long time: the government fulfilling its Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare of the American people through regulatory, programmatic and fiscal channels; nonprofits acting on local, state and occasionally national levels to shore up support, services and advocacy where the government will not or cannot address the needs; the private sector providing funding.
The past decade has seen major shifts in the traditional approaches. The emergence of the social enterprise movement which utilizes the efficiencies and incentives of a for-profit organization in order to further a philanthropic mission, has created an entirely new model of how to effect change (and this blog has been pointing to some of the terrifically interesting and innovative social enterprises out there). The explosion of social media and an array of internet platforms for people to discuss and support favorite causes has radically changed the way people talk about and raise money for causes and had a notable impact on the 2008 US presidential campaigns.
For a guy who’s used to handing out sandwiches to homeless people on the streets of NYC, this can all be a little overwhelming.
So here’s my dirty little secret.
This is the first time I’ve ever blogged.
Yes, I am a founding partner in a social enterprise, a new internet-based platform for raising money for nonprofits and engaging supporters of worthy causes that will include active use of social media and all of the innovations of the movement. But my initial attraction to the idea derived simply from seeing how it could raise money and support for the more traditional actors: the nonprofits.
Now, however, the value of the new approaches has hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Traditional methods of engaging supporters to help nonprofits now seem so limited. In the past, nonprofits would stage fundraising events one or two times a year, send out paper mail or emails to donors a few times a year to ask for funds, and would desperately try to get mention in the mass media in order to raise awareness.
Today, nonprofits can use online fundraising platforms to engage supporters on a daily basis. They can allow those supporters to come up with their own creative ways of raising funds, on the supporters’ own schedules. They can actively engage in blogging and tweeting to increase their profile and build excitement around their mission. People who share interests in causes freely exchange ideas, articles, links, regardless of where they live or what their resources are. If the US presidential campaigns in 2008 were not a sufficient harbinger of the power of the new technologies, the Arab Spring in 2011 indisputably was. It’s all open territory now, with huge potential to bring change.
So yes, it’s time for this premie, for all premies, to embrace the new.
Because people don’t tweet in the long run. They tweet every day.