Welcome! I'm the Founder and President of Care2. In this blog I share my thoughts and updates on Care2, and welcome your feedback. Feel free to add me as a friend,subscribe to the RSS feed or follow me on Twitter so you can get the latest updates. Thank you for being part of Care2!
"The only people for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to love, mad to talk, mad to be saved; the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars." - Jack Kerouac
Yesterday, I wrote a post for our Trailblazers for Good channel on some of the issues I face when weighing business decisions about Care2's advertisers. I recently turned down a $100,000 advertising campaign for the site because I felt it didn't fit with the Care2 mission.
Next week, I'll be speaking at Embrace Disruption, a part of the annual Social Capital Markets (SOCAP10) conference, which will bring together funders, entrepreneurs and the people making media.
The early keynote by Zach Exley of the Wikimedia Foundation and a developer of a local wiki will discuss harnessing mass collaboration in a sustainable enterprise. Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, will be providing the second keynote and showing how Mozilla has been able to use mass participation to build products, spark innovation and maintain an open web.
The first panel discussion will include several documentary filmmakers and will explore the new rules and the new markets for documentary filmmakers. Millennials are the next generation of documentary filmmakers and are true digital natives. They are also opening up new avenues for distribution that had never been explored in the past. A documentary can get as many views online via YouTube as it can in the theaters - and sometimes more.
The second panel for the afternoon will be moderated by Robert Rosenthal, Executive Director, Center for Investigative Journalism, and will be exploring the future of news. Is the sky falling or is it an era of a new, better ecosystem? How can veteran journalists adapt to the new ways of doing things and still remain competitive?
I'm excited to be on the final panel in the afternoon moderated by Vince Stehle, consultant for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Other panelists will be Diana Barrett from the Fledgling Fund, Larry Kubal of Labrador Ventures, and Erik Langner from Public Radio Capital. We will be discussing how different companies are turning financial capital into social good.
One of the items we'll be discussing is the new media reality of mass collaboration and how media today is no longer one to many but instead a group effort. Care2 has seen this with our Care2 News Network (C2NN) where we provide the platform but it’s our members who find and share the news and insights with each other. C2NN users play the role of both publisher and consumer of digital content.
We'll also be exploring the challenges of finding media venture investors that will support a company's mission that includes trying to "do good" and not just "make money". There's often a tension between mission and maximizing financial returns -- investors have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize return on investment, while social entrepreneurs are also seeking to make the world a better place. During Care2's first few years in business, as we struggled to get to scale, we would often use the phrase "no margin, no mission". If we couldn't make money then we weren't going to succeed in our mission of building a sustainable platform that allows millions of people to make a difference for causes they care about.
I look forward to seeing you all at the Embrace Disruption 2010 conference. There are still tickets available. If you're visiting San Francisco for SOCAP10 please come find me at the conference. You can also follow some of the sessions on twitter following the hashtag #socap10 or via the SOCAP10 live video stream.
As schools work to build support for the 8 week challenge (September 20 - November 12), we decided to go back and talk with our spring contest winners and find out what they were doing with the money we donated and how they mobilized their communities to be successful in last year’s challenge.
P.S. 37 in Staten Island, New York worked hard to win the top prize of $20,000. As a school that serves students with developmental disabilities and other special needs, the money is an extra boost to help them purchase equipment that will make learning easier.
O.B. Gates Elementary School in Chesterfield, Virginia won third place and is using the money to buy additional instructional supplies for the classrooms. Kasey Shane is Principal of the school and says "The best part of the contest was the unity we saw in our community for the school. I was hooked on reading the positive comments about our school everyday!"
Each week, a random school will win a $500 reward. Grange Hall Elementary School in Virginia was a winner of $500 during our spring contest. They are using the money to purchase a Promenthean Interactive Whiteboard, which can be used throughout the school. Kathy Sefrin, Principal of Grange Hall, says that the PTA really lead the way in getting the school involved with the challenge. Kathy says it was "a joy" to see the community get involved with the school in the way they did.
Sacajawea Elementary School was another winner of the $500 weekly prize. They are trying to supply each classroom with a camera and a projector to improve student engagement and promote learning. The $500 was able to supply one classroom with one of these sets of tools. Kris Janati, Principal at Sacajawea, said "This contest allowed various members of our community an opportunity to talk about the great things we do together for our kids. In this way, it reiterated and promoted the pride we feel about our school and our community."
Talking with the principals of the schools that have been successful with the America's School Spirit Challenge, one thing comes through -- they would not have been successful without the support and organization of members of the community. Whether it was the PTA or a group of active parents, their involvement was key to helping their school to be successful in the challenge.
What else worked? The parent's of last year's winners, P.S. 37 in Staten Island, New York, brought computers with them everywhere they went and had members of the community sign up and vote. One parent from SOAR Charter Academy, which placed 2nd in the last contest really got her children involved in helping and turned it into a learning experience. "Not only did they learn to communicate with the public, they practiced typing on the computer, responding to emails, and they got to brag about their school."
These contests have also led to other great rewards -- parents feel more connected to other parents and the activities at the school, a soapbox for the school to talk to the press about something good, and one school received a "matching gift" allowing them to do even more good things with the money they won.
Cher Clarke came to Care2.com for the same reasons many of our new members arrive at the site -- to sign a petition. For the first couple of months, she would come back to the site regularly to sign petitions to help animals and the environment.
As time went on, Cher realized that she could do more to make a difference. She wanted to teach others about the "plights of the planet" and to encourage them to take action. As she was working on helping the planet, she enjoyed meeting others interested in the same causes and becoming part of the community. She's now connected with almost 1,000 other members on Care2.
While on the site, Cher spends most of her time posting news in the Care2 News Network and commenting and sharing other people's news stories. She signs petitions and works on keeping in touch with other members of the community. She also spends time encouraging others to get involved. Cher says, "I tell others to join to help heal the planet and make a difference. It really is a great site! I have met a lot of wonderful people on here!"
"My passion is tigers and through this site I can tell others and maybe - just maybe - something can be done for them before it's too late! I have seen numerous victories on here because of Care2 petitions and from spreading awareness."
Cher has been contacted by others on the site looking for help to raise awareness for their issues and she's also been contacted by members of the press looking to talk to people interested in environmental issues and helping protect animals around the world.
Members like Cher are what make Care2 a great community and making the world a more just and sustainable society. Care2 would not be the same without members like Cher working hard to make a difference.
Thank you Cher for all the work you do on behalf of the animals you care about.
With the help of over 35,000 Care2 members, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the PROU were able to win a historic victory last week in Catalonia, Spain when the Catalonia Parliament voted to ban all forms of bullfighting effective January 1, 2012.
The petition from Care2 was shared with the Parliament along with petitions from over 100 countries around the world. This is the second year that WSPA, Care2 and other animal rights advocates have presented petitions to the Catalonia Parliament. And, the first time the vote to ban bullfighting has been successful.
After the vote, Dirk Jan Verdonk, Programmes Manager at WSPA, spoke to the press about the vote. "Catalonia is leading the way for bullfighting countries around the world to embrace a modern culture without cruelty. The vote today is a political acknowledgement that the people of Catalonia are ready for change and by voting as they did, Catalonia’s politicians have demonstrated their respect for the people's desire to see bullfighting laid to rest."
We continue to collect signatures on the bullfighting petition in an effort to get the bullfighting ban extended throughout Spain. Please sign and forward to your friends.
There is more to be done to protect animals, and you can help make that happen. Please visit our animal welfare Cause page to stay on top of the issues and find other petitions that need your signature. Currently active petitions include:
P.S. 37, a public school that serves children with special needs in Staten Island, New York, was recently announced as the winner of Care2's America's Favorite School Contest and $20,000. The school plans to use the money to help purchase specialized speech and physical therapy equipment.
Clinton O’Brien, Vice President of Business Development at Care2, was on hand to take a tour of the winning school and present the teachers, parents, and administrators with a check.
Susan Pugliese, a parent of two students at the school who helped organize community involvement, used Facebook and phone calls to get out the vote among friends and family and encouraged local businesses to get involved. Other parents carried around laptops wherever they went and would get friends and neighbors to vote on the spot. Principal Will Fiorelli told local TV station, NY1, that the contest win is "a real boost to morale, and it’s really a unifying factor for all of us."
Over 400,000 people participated in the America's Favorite School contest, and P.S. 37 received 12,000+ votes. In addition to voting, members of the Care2 community shared the contest with their friends and left comments about their favorite schools. A few of the comments left by parents of the students at the winning school show the commitment and dedication of the school's staff:
Angela Zaloom (parent) - "The teachers are so dedicated to the students. The teachers want to be there and love the students so much."
Joanna Tuorto (parent) - "My son goes to PS37 and has made tremendous progress thanks to the extremely dedicated staff."
Thank you to all of the community members who voted for their favorite schools and helped spread the word about the contest. Cash prizes were also awarded to four other schools in California, Virginia and New York. Thanks also to Care2 advertisers who make it possible for us to make these donations.
If you have any feedback about the America's Favorite School Contest, I'd like to hear from you. And, to keep up to date on issues related to education, check out our Education Cause Channel and/or subscribe to our Causes Newsletter.
We've partnered with Participant Productions and TakePart to work toward eliminating all nuclear weapons. You can read more in my blog post here.
Also, I strongly encourage you to see their new movie, Countdown to Zero, a powerful yet hopeful film on the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need (and real possibility) of eliminating 100% of nuclear weapons in the world.
If you've ever wondered whether signing an online petition makes a difference, please check out my post today in our Trailblazers for Good Cause Channel.
I wrote it in response to an ill-conceived post on Snopes.com that questioned the value of online activism. If anyone tells you signing petitions doesn't make a difference, please consider forwarding a link to my post to help set them straight.
Have no doubt, online activism is a powerful force, changing the world.
Given recent traffic surges, you may experience slow page loads, delays in updates and periodic white pages on the site today. Our engineers are working full steam to resolve these problems. We apologize for these very frustrating issues.
For those of you who have been Care2 members for years, you've seen this movie before. The cause is that as we grow, certain systems on our site experience traffic jams. We'll then fix that bottleneck and traffic will flow smoothly for a period... until it reaches a new higher traffic level, and a different bottleneck will appear, causing another traffic jam.
So while we've made huge improvements to our system over the years, there's always a future bottleneck lurking somewhere down the road. Unfortunately, this is a painful reality for most fast growing sites with limited engineering resources. We do what we can to predict and remove bottlenecks we see down the road, but given the complexity of our system and the small size of our engineering team, we're not always able to stop the problems before they happen.
The good news is these slow downs are caused by more people using Care2 than ever. We should have a solution to this current bottleneck in the next day or two... and are working on a major system upgrade over the next few months that should create even more headroom for future growth.
Bottom line, keeping the site speedy is our top priority, and things should return to normal relatively soon. We are painfully aware of how frustrating these issues are to all of you and, again, apologize for the inconvenience.
[update 1:45pm PT]
Just as I was posting the above, our engineering team decided it was best to take the live site offline so that the databases could catch up... which meant that for the past several hours no updates were being pushed to the site (including my post above).
So, not only were things looking odd, but we couldn't even let you all know what was going on... not good. Fun day.
Just about everything should now be catching up, though you will likely experience a few areas of latency perhaps some other oddness around the site for the remainder of the day. No data has been lost, so any updates you made during our earlier problems will be saved.
Site performance will be our prime focus until we believe the situation is entirely back to the high quality level you expect and deserve.
Again, my apologies for all of this. We will make this right.
The last few weeks the Care2 office has been going crazy with Girl Scout cookies. The record so far is one employee who bought 20 boxes of cookies from his neighbor. He then passed them out to all the Care2 employees, resulting in a major cookie binge, all in the name of “building girls of courage, confidence, and character” through the Girl Scout program. I am proud to say I helped empower young girls though my cookie eating.
But cookies are just one way we can mobilize our communities to raise awareness and donations for a charity. As we’re each looking for opportunities to increase our impact on the causes we care about most, we should consider both traditional and emerging ways to organize our on and offline friends and neighbors. Here are just a few ideas for organizing your community to help a cause:
1) Throw a bake sale. Okay this idea isn’t exactly original, but I love that it is something that everyone can easily get involved with, especially kids. And as I just explained, I am a sucker for cookies. You can kick this concept up a notch with a theme, such as making it an “international food fair” where everyone brings a dish that represents his or her nationality, or perhaps turn it into a pancake breakfast. Locate your sale where there is heavy foot traffic, and get the word out in advance with lots of phone calls to friends and neighbors, as well as well-positioned posters.
2) Organize a rummage sale. Another tried and true fund raising event, selling your slightly used items alongside your neighbors in the name of charity is a green way to extend the life of your stuff. Call it a “going green block sale”. Donate the proceeds to your favorite charity.
3) Start a Petition. If you've been a member of Care2 for any length of time, you know how much we love the power of petitions. Petitions are an effective way to generate awareness for a cause and initiate change. Try creating your own petition online at Care2’s thePetitionSite, and then promote it to your friends and family, both on and offline.
4) Make your cause visible in places your community gathers. Work with your local library to set up a special display highlighting reading materials related to your cause. Don’t forget to include a donation jar. Or, give a presentation to community organizations (i.e. senior centers, faith-based organizations, rotary clubs, parent/teacher organizations, neighborhood associations) and leave them with flyers on how to get involved. Are you more of the virtual type? Then get in front of folks online, by posting status updates about your cause on your social networking pages.
5) Reward local businesses for supporting your cause. Perhaps you are interested in local businesses becoming more environmentally friendly, beautifying main street, or creating work experience opportunities for underprivileged youth. One way to harness the power of your community is to collectively reward the businesses that support a cause by patronizing them. Check out an innovative site called CarrotMob, for tips on getting started.
Even some consumer brands are getting into the act. For example, ConAgra (who is a Care2 sponsor) recently teamed up with Feeding America to help stop child hunger. On their website childhungerendshere.com they have a handful of ideas for getting your community involved in raising donations to end hunger. Their how-to-guide on planning a neighborhood rally has some practical planning tips and creative ideas for throwing a fundraising event.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on organizing a community to help a cause. Please submit ideas (your own and/or others you've seen) or stories of successful fundraising and awareness building events in the comments section below. We'll be doing follow-up posts digging into some of these ideas to help spread the word. Thank you!
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