Dreaming up dreams

I’ve been doing a lot of dreaming and a lot of praying recently about this year, and I’ve started re-reading this little gem of a book – ‘A recipe for dreaming’ by Bryce Courtney. Find it here on Amazon.
It’s a 1 poem-a-page kind of book, which is great since I’m reading quite a bit at the moment.. So I thought I’d share this one with you.

“Go where you’ve never been before. Dream up a destination, a path to follow, a wildest unknown way, over rocks and scrag, across high hills where the winds bite cold with malice, through deep mysterious valleys where the wild things roar and echo and rumble and stamp and hiss great clouds of steam from their terrible huffing ways.

Dream the impossible dream and start walking towards it.

On the way you’ll be beaten up, chewed, spat out, mauled, ripped apart, given up for lost. Quite soon you’ll learn what it feels like to be beaten up, chewed, spat out, mauled, ripped apart, given up for lost.

This is called ‘experience’ and it’s very very valuable in life, because what you mostly learn from it is that you were more afraid of what might happen that what did happen. Most successful outcomes are achieved by calling a series of unconventional bluffs.

One bright sunny morning you’ll discover that the wild unknown way you took is carpeted with moss and strewn with tiny flowers. It has become a familiar path, a well-trodden direction which has put you miles ahead of anyone else and much, much closer to achieving your once impossible dream.”



Source here

It’s been a while since I last posted.

I came across an article today about a film about rheumatic heart disease, entitled, Open Heart.  

It is the story of eight Rwandan children who leave their families behind and embark on a life-or-death journey to receive high-risk open-heart surgery in Africa’s only free-of-charge, state-of-the-art cardiac hospital, the Salam Center run by Emergency, an Italian NGO. It reminded me of the power of story-telling – it is exceptional! See the compelling trailer of the film here.

I have never been more excited about the impact stories can have on health communication and education!

I also wanted to share an extract from a blog post I read a couple of months ago that’s all about the power of story-telling, which has become an important topic for me in better understanding effective health communication strategies and it’s become a whole chapter in my thesis.

See the full blog post, written by Sarah Byrnes, Senior Health Communications Associate at IQ Solutions’s here.

Storytelling Focuses the Issue

As someone with a strong academic and journalism background, I’m hardwired to stress data and statistics in my writing. Data are necessary, of course, to establish credibility for your proposition or argument. Credibility is important, but data alone won’t resonate with your audience. If the message doesn’t resonate, you won’t see any change in behavior.

“No one ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart.” – Andy Goodman, Storytelling as a Best Practice.

So, what does resonate?

A compelling story.

Presenting and explaining a public health issue within the framework of storytelling gives the audience the context they need to understand the issue and see the big picture—including the causes, consequences, and opportunities for change. Stories put a face on an issue, eliciting an emotional response from the audience. Whether it is empathy, anger, or happiness, emotions increase the salience of an issue, make it more memorable, and provoke action or behavior change.

“Stories Are Facts With Souls”

Suzanne Gaulocher, a presenter in the storytelling session at  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) 2012 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media, said, “Stories are facts with souls.” This gets to the essence of why stories are so important in our society and how powerful they can be in public health.

Stories enable us to engage with new knowledge and broader perspectives, because we encounter them in the familiar territory of human experience.

Source here

Preventing Heart Disease in Community. Watch this Video

This has got to be one of the best talks I have heard about Chronic Diseases and the ways in which to prevent heart disease and diabetes. It highlights the fact that Chronic illnesses are social illnesses and that they can only be combated in community, working together, through peer-support.

What an inspiring talk!

I highly encourage you to see it if you are interested and invested in public health education and the important role peer-education plays in prevention of Cardiovascular Health!

Prevention is not going to happen in the Doctor’s rooms – it’s all about changing our lifestyles and behaviors. Changing the choices we make – everyday. Taking it a day at a time.

I really liked the fact that Mark Hyman, a Jewish Doctor collaborated with a Christian pastor, Rick Warren to start The Daniel Plan in Rick’s church, Saddleback. Read more about this life-changing plan right here. They began this healthy living program in the church’s small groups and together they lost 250 000 pounds. Now that is impressive!

We need to fight heart disease in community. Thank you to my husband, David for sending me this video and also for being that amazing support to living a healthy life.

I keep thinking of that High School Musical song – ‘We’re all in this together’

We’re all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We’re all stars
And we see that
We’re all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true

Together, together, together everyone
Together, together, come on lets have some fun
Together, were there for each other every time
Together together come on lets do this right

Yes to heart health! Health Communication matters!! 🙂

High Impact & low-cost social media for Non-Profits

This is an area of Non-profits that really gets me excited. I often brainstorm and think of ways in which Social Media can be used more effectively. With hundreds of tweets a day and 1000’s of daily Facebook updates on my newsfeed, it is often draining to search for  news from the Non-Profits I really care about.  

This blog post below by Brad Aronson,  highlights the importance of the different types of platforms that one could easily forget about, like Email and Wikipedia! Who would have thought that email is really the most consistent platform which consumers use. Here below are his Top 22 ideas. A very innovative and descriptive list follows. 

1)    Appreciate corporate sponsors. This is probably the easiest tip and the biggest missed opportunity. An example is Comcast’s blog a few days after Comcast Cares Day, a community service day for Comcast employees. The blog mentioned what employees did and where they volunteered. Not a single nonprofit that benefited from Comcast volunteers had posted a “thank you.”

Corporate sponsors love to be recognized for their contributions to the community, and they deserve this recognition. They make a huge difference in our programs and to the people we serve. Go to your sponsors’ blogs and Facebook pages and post thank you messages. Have your team, volunteers and the people you serve (if appropriate) do the same. Senior level people at corporations read their own blogs. And, let’s face it, there are many options sponsors have when choosing partner nonprofits. Let’s give them one more reason to choose you. (Also thank corporate partners on your own blog and Facebook page – most nonprofits do this part pretty well.)

2)    Wikipedia. Check out Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia comprised entirely of consumer generated and edited articles. Now that Encyclopedia Britannica is out of business, Wikipedia is the encyclopedia. As the 8th highest trafficked site on the Internet, Wikipedia offers nonprofits a lot of visibility. If you don’t have a Wikipedia page for your nonprofit consider creating one. Here’s an example of a page for local Philadelphia nonprofit Project H.O.M.E.

If you’re part of a national organization coordinate with your national office, which may already have put this in place. A caveat is that since this is a consumer-edited encyclopedia, you’ll need to keep an eye on the page to ensure no one adds incorrect information.

3)    Reserve your name in all social media platforms. Just because you’re not yet using YouTube, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own your YouTube Channel. Same for Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.

4)    Empower your supporters to fundraise online. You don’t even need your own social media presence for this. You can go to a third party like First Giving or Blackbaud and enable your supporters to fundraise online. Your supporters setup their own personal giving page (like this one), and then your supporters use their own social media networks to ask friends to donate. This is one of the few tactics that has actually generated significant money for nonprofits and where you can measure the positive ROI.

For this to work, it’s important to give your supporters specific suggestions. Tell them to include a personal story on their web page and provide them with an example of what that looks like. This increased results by about 50%. Also, remind supporters to share through email and social media.

Many nonprofits use this for events. You can also use it for non-event related peer-to-peer campaigns. For Spark the Wave, we do peer to peer asks once a year, and they’re not tied to an event. It works just as well and there are no event related expenses. (When friends contribute to each other’s nonprofits, they will probably donate whether or not there’s an event.)

5)    Focus on email. The drive to build an audience on Facebook, Twitter and social networks has often become the most important and visible “digital” ask by nonprofits. Don’t forget about email.

I’ve seen again and again that email gets a much higher response than Facebook or Twitter. Sending email to 100 constituents will get more people to read and respond to my content than posting my content in a Facebook or Twitter update that reaches the same 100 people. Facebook’s algorithm may decide my post isn’t important and push it down in the news feed. Or, if I post on a day when someone isn’t checking Facebook or Twitter my update could be buried underneath other updates by the time that person checks.

People also grow tired of social networks. I’ve heard from more and more people that they’ve moved from Twitter to Facebook or vice versa. Most people continue to be engaged with their personal email addresses. And, you can still encourage social sharing when you email by including buttons and links for your readers to share the content on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Posting to social media is definitely effective and you should build your social media relationships. However, don’t let it take precedence over email collection, which I believe should be your priority.

One caveat is to make sure this works for your audience – I’m Board Chair of Spark the Wave, a nonprofit that serves high school kids. We’ve found that our high schoolers prefer text messaging and Facebook and rarely use email, so in that case email collection is much less valuable.

6)    Use social media internally. Social media is a great way to tap into internal expertise. This works especially well if you’re a nonprofit that’s part of a national network. Social media can be a way to share best practices, get advice, see who can help with various projects, and so on. You can use a closed group on LinkedIn a Facebook group or an internal social media platform like Yammer (which has a free version). The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has so many employees that they use a twitter account to keep everyone updated on what’s going on.

7)    Social media can provide volunteer support. I’ve noticed that users of the Big Brothers Big Sisters LinkedIn Group are often volunteers seeking advice related to their mentoring relationships. There’s a nice support system that has sprung up to address this. Volunteers provide each other with advice and our staff provides suggestions as well. Perhaps social media is a good way for you to support your volunteers, if they’d benefit from support.

8)    Avoid a ghost town. If there isn’t any engagement with your social media efforts, it generally keeps new visitors from engaging. How do you get engagement if that’s the case? You recruit a handful of very loyal supporters – staff and volunteers – and get them to commit to participating in your social media efforts. They have to be dedicated because it could require six months of them liking posts, making comments and participating in conversations before you see a response from others.

9)    Generate engagement on Facebook. A lot of nonprofits were concerned that their Facebook pages have little interaction. Here are some suggestions to spur engagement:

Highlight volunteers. Then they’ll share the content with their friends.

Ask questions. This gets high interaction rates.

A great suggestion from my friend, and fellow speaker George Ward: post things like, “If you love national mentoring month, click like”. These types of posts give people a reason to click “like” and have led to a lot of activity. (By the way, George is my go to guy when I have social media questions, and he’s been a huge help to Big Brothers Big Sisters. He freelances, so feel free to reach out to him, if you need a consultant.)

10) Listen. You may not be creating content for social networks, but you should at least be listening to what people are saying about you. That allows you to find advocates and respond to positive or negative comments. I’ve seen nonprofits find important supporters that they never knew about. I like to use Google Alerts. Every time Google indexes a new page with my search terms, I get an update. Social Mention is good for tracking mentions across social media. I also use HootSuite to manage my Twitter account and to track when organizations or people I’m following are mentioned. You can use this or many other Twitter tools.

11)  Pay attention. If you have time, look at the profiles of the folks connecting to you. You may not yet realize the excellent resources that you have right in front of you. Executives at a charter school once told me, “Oh my goodness, we just checked out one of our online fans, and he is a partner in a giant investment bank. He can be an amazing resource for us.”

12) Text to give. Anna Cramer from Alex’s Lemonade Stand had this great tip. Alex’s Lemonade Stand has found that offering a text to give option at events works well. Event participants often don’t have money with them or don’t want to take out their credit card, stand in line, etc. In those cases, they’ve generated a good return by promoting text to give. Of course, text to give campaigns tend to generate lower donation amounts, so don’t cannibalize something else you may be using, if it’s working at events (also, this advice is meant for activity based events, like a lemonade stand).

13) Extend your PR reach. If you have an event or news story, you can often get journalists and organizations to pay more attention when you contact them through Twitter or social media. At this point, it’s often less cluttered and given more attention than more traditional channels. Kay Keenan, President Growth Consulting Inc., added that you should also expand your PR list to include digital only publications.

14)  Tell stories. Nonprofits have a huge advantage in that we have great stories to tell. Emotional stories. Think about using video. Don’t expect the types of results of Invisible Children or Caine’s Arcade (a truly inspiring video that will make you tear up), but let these videos remind you that a great story makes a difference.

15) Linked In. Your development team and CEO can use LinkedIn to see which board members have connections at foundations you’re pitching for a grant. Board members get constant emails asking who we know at different organizations. Check and connect on LinkedIn first.

Also create a LinkedIn group for your nonprofit. This way, you’ll have a LinkedIn base that isn’t connected to an employee who might leave one day. Volunteers and supporters are proud of their nonprofits. They’ll join the group giving you another way to connect. Members of nonprofit LinkedIn groups generally don’t expect you to create content, so this doesn’t have to generate work for your team.

16) Create a social media advisory board. Include a lawyer and a social media practitioner. Even if you don’t use social media yet, you want to have your advisors in place in case you have to respond to something that happens in social media. With your board you should develop a policy and plan for managing social media. If there is a crisis, what is the chain of command?

If something goes wrong in social media, it will move quickly, and you won’t have time to figure out what to do. Also, you’ll have things pop up – for example, someone posts bad comments about your organization. When do you respond? What do you do? What if someone posts things you don’t like on your Facebook wall?

17) Post your policies. Another suggestion from George Ward. Post your policies on a tab on your Facebook page and include what types of posts are inappropriate. Then you can point to it when you have to remove posts.

18)  Know your digital influencers. Do you have celebrities or supporters with a big online following? If so, ask them to promote you. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) said that they get about 600 new followers every time supporter Ryan Seacrest mentions them in a tweet. This is an easy ask of your supporters.

19) Publicly thanking your supporters and mentioning your fundraising events reminds people that you’re a nonprofit that needs donations. These don’t even have to be requests for money – just updates. Try to keep your requests for money to 20% or fewer of your social media posts. Another idea provided by CHOP.

20) Don’t panic. You don’t have to do everything at once. Start with one opportunity or one social network and when it’s running well, decide if you should rollout to another. This isn’t a race.

21) Choose a social network and strategies and tactics that align with your goals. Too many nonprofits get caught up in the excitement of social media and don’t think about what will fit with their strategic goals. Where are your constituents online and what do they use? How will participating help you achieve your goals?

22) Have fun. Social media is an opportunity to connect with a community of people who appreciate what your nonprofit does. Enjoy it.


Top 100 NGO’s by The Global Journal

“Recognizing the significant role of NGOs as influential agents of change on a global scale, The Global Journal has sought to move beyond outdated clichés and narrow conceptions about what an NGO is and does. From humanitarian relief to the environment, public health to education, microfinance to intellectual property, NGOs are increasingly at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people around the world.”

PIH, Medecins Sans Frontieres and PATH (it’s home-base is right here in Seattle)  are in the top 10. Awesome! Here is the full top 10 list. See link for full 100.

#01 – Wikimedia Foundation

#02 – Partners in Health

#03 – Oxfam

#04 – BRAC

#05 -International Rescue Committee

#06 – PATH


#08 – Medecins Sans Frontieres

#09 – Danish Refugee Council

#10 – Ushahidi

“For Partners In Health, it is not enough just to offer free medical services. They have found through their tireless commitment to serving the poor that the proliferation of illness needs to be addressed at the root causes of poverty. A range of barriers can exist to prevent someone from seeking medical care – distance, social stigma or a lack of information to name a few. Paramount to their success is the engagement of community health workers. Partners In Health hires and trains local workers to assist patients through treatment, monitor their needs for food, water and housing, provide health education and deliver care and medicine to their homes. All patients being treated for HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis are paired with a worker at the outset of their diagnosis. The high quality treatment and daily visits of community health workers have significantly lengthened the lifespan of patients.”

“For over two decades, Partners In Health has transformed conventional thinking on health care among the world’s poorest populations. Their proven sincerity towards the “whatever it takes” philosophy and their holistic approach to health care has sparked national and international commitments to fighting infectious disease worldwide.”

Non Profits using Facebook Timelines

An example of Best Friends Animal Society’s Facebook Timeline Cover page. Source here

Considering the mandatory roll-out of Facebook Timelines to all pages on March 30th, I thought I’d share this cool resource.

I came across Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog a couple of months ago. It was created and is managed by Heather Mansfield, a pioneer in utilizing social media for the nonprofit sector. She has fifteen years of experience utilizing the Internet for fundraising, community building, and advocacy. To date, she’s presented more than 100 social media and mobile technology trainings throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia as well as over 500 webinars to audiences worldwide. More on her Bio here.

She wrote a post earlier this month detailing her choice of the 11 best and most inspiring Non-Profit Facebook Timelines she has come across, which includes, Amnesty International, International Rescue committee and many more organisations doing amazing work.

Another interesting post, demonstrates a step-by-step guide to custom design your Non-Profit’s Facebook Timeline profile. According to her blog post, it definitely entails a lot more than just uploading a profile picture.

Read her guidelines here. 

She is also the author of  Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits, which I would love to get my hands on! 

Enjoy using social media strategies to promote your non-profit effectively and to raise awareness about your mission!

Awareness into Action

Source here                                                                                               Source here

I loved reading Amnesty International‘s article entitled ‘Kony 2012: How Can We Turn Awareness Into Action’

This is the biggest question Health Communicators attempt to answer everyday.

We, in the field can learn so much from the Invisible Children group and their Kony 2012 Campaign.

I am convinced that they have effectively used social media and social marketing tools, namely Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, for good: to raise awareness, spark interest, heighten our emotions and advocate for this important cause – to find and arrest Joseph Kony, a war criminal and leader of the Lord’s  Resistance Army (LRA), thereby bringing justice to over 30- 000 children who have been his victims.

For more than two decades, Amnesty International has documented crimes committed by the LRA and their horrific impact on the lives of thousands of civilians in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Uganda. Thanks to Invisible Children, the world is now becoming more aware of the devastating atrocities these children are facing.

Megan Ernst writes in a student newspaper for the University of Georgia and interviews students and their responses to the film. Teman Worku’s response stood out for me. He’s a freshman and a broadcast journalism major whose family is from Africa.

He said that “the good work Invisible Children are doing in Uganda is important, whether or not Kony is still active there. Just like Haiti was forgotten after the earthquake, Uganda is in danger of being forgotten just because Kony has moved on. If he’s not in Uganda, there are probably still children and families affected by what happened,” Worku said. “Do you think Haiti is still suffering? I would assume there are still problems in Uganda and this campaign can help to shed light on what we can do.

To date, 84 661 758 people have seen the full 29-minute film. See the 1:19 trailer here if you have not seen it yet.

The video urges everyone to sign a pledge to bring him to justice in 2012 and to ‘cover the night’ by plastering his face across the nation on April 20th.

On that day, I look forward, with bated breath to see how the world and our governments will respond to people ‘covering the night’ as the video encourages. Despite the criticisms of the campaign, the success of using new media to raise awareness of this issue is indisputable.

Source here                                                                                                                Source here 

Valuable Social Media Toolkit

“A guide to using social media to improve reach of health messages, increase access to your content, further participation with audiences and advance transparency to improve health communication efforts.” – August 2010, updated in July 2011  

A few weeks ago I came across this valuable resource online by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and their Office of the Associate Director for Communication. It is filled with tools and resources for health organsations and non-profits to make use. The CDC showcases their Social Media campaign for their Vital Signs campaign, which is very useful.

I was especially interested to see an example of a Social Media Communications Strategy and Evaluation Worksheet, especially since there has been a shift to focus on the scientific evidence of health communication interventions and evaluations. Enjoy reading through this FREE resource, I know I will!

If you are in the Health Communications field, contact me. Let’s stay in conversation, share ideas and learn from one another.