Giganto Update – On Grassroots Caring via SXSW Cares SXSW4Japan


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In my last post, I talked about some of the work we were doing at SXSW 2011 to raise support for Japan Tsunami Relief. Here’s a rapid attempt at an update:

Here’s an interview from Day 2 with Esteban Contreras that describes how it started:

Our team continued to work like mad to field media inquiries and promote SXSW Cares / SXSW4Japan. The name stuck differently for different people — but it was the same movement.

Rob Wu (who wasn’t available during our first interview) did an admirable job parallel tracking with me on all this — but especially making sure his team kept our site up-to-date, adding features and functionality that extended the site socially, liaising with cause advocates to set up new fundraising pages under our site. He was also doing interviews, posts, shooting video and hustling all over with with me to interviews with the media and participation on two panels. He also coordinated on-site donation relief efforts with Japan Nite, Hurricane Party, The Etsy Party and other grassroots fundraisers who donated to the Red Cross in the name of SXSW Cares — bringing together the community in a greater way. Some of them raised substantial funds, and we appreciated their desire to express solidarity as a SXSW Community.
On her own time, Jessica Lin had helped us with – well, everything, but she was especially great at monitoring and managing the tweet streams and fielding incoming opportunities and requests. She did this while managing her work load with grace and style and she is one smart cookie. In parallel, Dr. Natalie Pethouoff took her own time to talk to companies on the trade show floor and procured several sizable donations from companies like RightNow (disclosure: client), GetSatisfaction and the Pepsi Refresh Project (among others). She paid out of her pocket for the cards we printed and circulated. She was also a driving force in our CNN coverage for SXSW Cares and SXSW4Japan. We were also joined by Denice Crowell, who worked sacrificially to create banners and help coordinate on-site activities on the music track as the Interactive session came to a close and everyone began to leave. Denice was a tremendous help, and even drove us around when needed.

Looking back, I’m not sure what I did, but the best way to describe it might be cat herding: Liaising between the Red Cross, SXSW leadership, City of Austin, brands, media, donors, organizing impromptu panel discussions, writing copy, tweeting (as I could), coordinating with volunteers and coordinating media releases, promotions and on-site outreach. I remember any of this, however, so I can’t be sure.

The SXSW Leadership team called me Sunday and asked if we could organize an impromptu teleconference and panel to be held in place of the full keynote scheduled with Bill Keller, Editor in Chief of the New York Times. I don’t have any video of that right now, but Deb, Rob and I rallied and we were very honored to do this.
Later we returned to the blogger lounge where we met up for a second time with Eric Noble who had been busy working to find donors as a tireless advocate for our cause. Laura Fitton joined him, and swung by to give us Samsung Galaxy Tab as a giveaway, courtesy of the 140 Conference. While we were working the lounge, we were asked to do an impromptu panel in the blogger lounge with Eric, Howard Greenstein and Drew Olanoff. It was a lot of fun.

As you’ll note from the footage, Samsung’s own, local SXSW team also kicked in a sizable donation to help our cause, as they watched us work feverishly together in the lounge. This was over and above the incredible pledge Samsung has made toward the devastated country of Japan. The Samsung team was awesome to us, along with their PR team from Weber Shandwick and we can’t thank them enough.

On the 15th, the leadership at SXSW donating badges to award for specific donation amounts. Just prior to making an announcement in the lounge, I met up with Joseph Jaffe, author of the best-seller, “Flip the Funnel.” As a prior advocate for fundraising for Haiti, Joseph generously volunteered (on the spot) to auction off keynote engagements with all proceeds going to SXSWCares. There’s one remaining keynote being auctioned. The first one went for $15,000. Thank you, Joseph.

Over the days that ensued, we were actively promoted in posts, tweets and panels by an incredible (and impossible to count) community of smart people, including Brian Solis, Guy Kawasaki, David Meerman Scott, Stephanie Agresta, Drew Olanoff, Ann Handley, Mack Collier, Valeria Maltoni, Kellye Crane, Ekaterina Walter, Shelly Kramer, Beth Harte, Geoff Livingston, Kami Watson-Huyse, David Armano, Aaron Strout, Meghan Scibona and so many others I can hardly count. (If I forgot you, please forgive me, I’m only now catching up on things — as well as sleep). In short, the collaboration and teamwork have been simply amazing.

On Wednesday the 16th, the Interactive types flowed out of SXSW and it was like someone flipped a culture switch. There was a totally different vibe at the convention center, at parties and meetings. We had been asked by the SXSW leadership to help extend our outreach to the music track. Unfortunately, Rob had to leave for the Non-Profit Technology Conference, so continuing with a lack of sleep and facing a dizzying array of opportunities and requests, we began working remotely together. So, it was truly a blessing to see people like Matt Curtis, Kevin Connor and Denice Crowell standing up to help drive band support, announcements, additional fundraising, on-site donation at concerts

Our team continued to promote our cause on the floor and with the media. With SXSW’s help, we also set up a Red Cross/SXSW Cares booth at the large venue concerts at Auditorium Shores. We also partnered with the Mayor’s office during the Mayor’s Reception to kick off SXSW Music and did promotion on the KGSR Live Broadcast from the Four Seasons. By last Saturday (March 19th) morning, we’d raised about $83k for the Red Cross Earthquake and Tsunami Relief.

On Friday afternoon, I got an email from Hugh asking me if we could connect with Hanson Music. Zack, Issac, Taylor (Members of the Band, Hanson!) and Rebecca were organizing a live, streaming 12 hour (!!!) music telethon that featured some of the most awesome bands and artists at SXSW. Rob arranged to host the stream on our site, they announced at the Four Seasons and printed flyers and started the stream around noon on Saturday. It ran until midnight.

In the middle of doing press, packing to leave and nearly missing my flight, I only caught the beginning. I got in around 10pm and caught the end. It was really impressive. Steady stream of great bands and artists – all coordinated out of a small studio in Austin. Catching the tail end, I was delighted to watch Ozomatli tear it up — and Ben Folds‘ customized “how to text the Red Cross” demo and entertaining musical antics.
Working with the Hansons has been terrific and the telethon proves both (proving both their resourcefulness and their talent) and we are delighted to have partnered with them in this endeavor. It was a big success, and went far toward our goal of uniting the music community around Japan and reaching our goal of $100k in online donations for Japan.

Note: Since the broadcast, we’ve been talking and we’re happy to announce that we’ll be re-streaming this broadcast (with a host of other little surprises) very soon. So, please stay tuned for more announcements!

So…. that’s what’s been happening here. It’s so bizarre, looking back. Rob and I figured we could raise an easy $10k for the Red Cross. We hit that goal in two days. We just kept raising the bar, and people kept giving. Today, we’re at $105k with an additional $35k in commitments. Incidentally, Our donation counter doesn’t include the money raised via text donation to Red Cross at 90999. Those donations are received directly by the Red Cross and are difficult to track. However, we did hear from the Red Cross that last weekend alone (16-17th) the Red Cross attributed more than $400,000 in text donations as a result of SXSW4Japan.

Thats. Just. Awesome.

When I got home after 10 days in Austin, I was welcomed by the smells of home, the hugs and kisses from my attention deprived three year old, beautiful step daughter, my super supportive husband and our ever faithful, ball-obsessed Labrador Retriever. As I hugged them all, it was a sobering reality to consider how many people in Japan and other devastated areas are now deprived of such a homecoming. We have so much we can easily take even the smallest comforts for granted. My prayer is that God will prick our hearts and help us all understand.

We encourage you to give — your time, your talents, your money. Do it wisely – as there are some parties skimming 15% or more off the top of donations right now! Please keep in mind that 100% of online donations go directly to the American Red Cross Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Relief fund for Japan. As far as SXSW Cares / SXSW 4 Japan — we’re still taking donations online and will be making more announcements soon.

Again, to the team who has worked alongside me over the past 10 days, sacrificing their own time and resources, to raise funds for Japan – THANK YOU:

Rob Wu – CEO, CauseVox and Co-Curator of sxsw4japan / sxswcares
Deb Ng – Conference Director, Blog World Expo; and Social Networking Diva
Jessica Lin – Director of Strategic Planning, McCann Erickson; Community Manager
Natalie Petouhoff – Director, Strategy, Weber Shandwick and Corporate Donations Diva
Denice Crowell – Writer, CCH TeamMate and On-Site Coordinator for Concerts
Hanson Music/ 3G Records – (Zac, Issac, Taylor & Rebecca) for a masterfully coordinated streaming 12-hour telethon, incredible talent and fortitude
SXSW – Hugh Forrest and Kevin Connor who offered unparalleled personal and professional support, advocacy, promotion, displaying zero ego in the process. It was an honor working with them.
City of Austin – Matt Curtis, Communications Director, Mover, Shaker and Masterful connector and super nice guy
Red Cross – Nina Lior, Marty McKellips, Debbie Immel and Stephanie – you were all terrific and ultra responsive. Thank you!

Thanks also to everyone who tweeted, re-tweeted, clicked, donated, volunteered, wrote blog posts and offered words of encouragement to our team in this endeavor. Personal thanks to my family, especially my Cousin Lance Ray and his beautiful wife, Amy. They are two of my favorite people in the world and let me come in and out of their home at all hours of the night and day as their dogs barked protectively and woke them up. If I’ve forgotten ANYONE please let me know.

Winded, overwhelmed, blessed and grateful.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Leigh Durst
Leigh (Duncan) Durst is the principal of Live Path. She is a 19 year veteran in business, operations and customer strategy, ecommerce, digital and social media. As an active consultant, writer, speaker and teacher, she is an advocate for creating remarkable customer experiences that harness digital media and improving business outcomes.


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