No one fights cancer alone, but sometimes the battle can feel a bit lonely, especially when loved ones live thousands of miles away. SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer is a gang of sock monkeys that provide tangible support to those battling cancer, reminding them they aren’t fighting it alone. Jennifer started SMAC! when her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Jennifer and her mother lived over a thousand miles apart, so she decided to make a couple of sock monkeys to keep her mother company during treatments when she couldn’t be there with her physically. Jennifer’s StartSomeGood campaign set out to raise $35,000 to begin mass production of her sock monkeys and work on other business-related matters like developing a website and a business plan. As it turns out this cause was near and dear to the hearts of 400 amazing backers—the campaign well exceeded its total funding goal, raising $35,681 and becoming one of the most successful campaigns on StartSomeGood to date, in terms of dollars raised. Recently, our own Karen had a short Q&A with Jennifer to talk about the campaign’s great success and the next steps for SMAC!
Why did you turn to crowdfunding to support your project?
I turned to crowdfunding because everything about the SMAC! monkeys (from the inspiration behind their creation, to development of the prototype, to naming of the monkeys) was community driven through social media. I felt that bringing the SMAC! monkeys to life through a community effort was the most natural and appropriate way. Grassroots movements are so powerful and, in my opinion, so much more meaningful.
Why do you think you were so successful?
As a PR/social media strategist (turned activist), I created a comprehensive PR/Marketing/Social Media strategy, an ideal strategy, I should say. As a one-man band, I had to continually re-prioritize aspects of the strategy, as I couldn’t possibly tackle all that I wanted to. I needed to build an army. So, part of that strategy included building a private group of ambassadors on Facebook who could follow, and be an active part of the campaign from the very beginning, such as watching the making of the prototypes, trying to find a manufacturer - all the details it took to bring the SMAC! monkeys and the campaign to launch. Once the campaign kicked-off, this group had a very vested interest, an emotional connection, to these little monkeys and worked to help make them a reality. I also had several mini campaigns to help keep the momentum throughout the month-long campaign, such as blogger outreach, Twitter “bombs,” as well as ongoing media relations, emails, texts and posts on all social media platforms.
While this was primarily an online campaign, I also took it offline, where those who aren’t plugged into the social media world could participate by holding SMAC!-downs. A SMAC!-down is basically a girl’s night out with a social good twist. I livestreamed a SMAC!-down at my house to officially kick off the campaign. I set up laptops where people could pledge right then and there, while they ate, drank and mingled. I provided language and directions on how others across the country could host SMAC!-downs…and they did. Again, what a great way to raise funds and bring people together for a common cause…and not forget about those who aren’t comfortable pledging online and only write checks!!!
As any PR person knows, the more you can personalize any kind of campaign, the better the response, but a level of personalization occurred just before my campaign kick-off I did not anticipate and shifted my my world completely. My Mom, the inspiration behind the creation of SMAC!, had major down-turns in her cancer battle, and ended up in hospice care. I considered holding off on launching the campaign, but decided to continue, as her dream was to see little NoMo and Phoenix get into the arms of others with/impacted by cancer. While my Mom was sleeping, I would work on the campaign…and SO many others, friends and strangers alike, stepped up to the plate to help keep the campaign going in countless ways. I would give Mom frequent campaign updates. We would high-five each other until there came a day when all she could do was smile when I gave her the latest funds pledged. I was able to tell Mom on Thanksgiving Day that the campaign hit its tipping point. The only word I can come up with is “serendipity” to explain how my Mom’s legacy came to life literally as she was losing hers.
What’s been the most surprising thing about running a crowdfunding campaign?
Complete strangers coming forth and wanting to help in big ways and small. If it weren’t for many angels who appeared out of nowhere at the exact time they did, my campaign wouldn’t have even gotten off the ground.
What advice would you give to others who may have an idea to make a change but aren’t sure where to start?
Just start. I didn’t know the first thing about making a sock monkey prototype. I don’t sew. I didn’t know the first thing about manufacturing. There is so much more I still don’t know, but that’s part of the entrepreneurial journey. Just start making calls, connect online, ask questions—lots of them. You will find your way!
Now the campaign’s done, what’s the next step for SMAC?
Next step is to get the first thousand SMAC! monkeys out there that the campaign funds cover; solidify all business and legal aspects of SMAC!; work really hard to quickly implement the One SMAC! = Two business model, where each time a SMAC! monkey is purchased, another monkey is given to someone with cancer; and oooooh so much more!
To learn more about SMAC! and how you can help, visit www.smacancer.com.
Weh Yeoh is the co-founder of WhyDev, an organization creating a platform to connect international aid and development leaders so they can provide each other with support and peer coaching. Six months ago, WhyDev raised $4,745 on StartSomeGood to build an online platform that can match aid workers all over the world and provide them with guidelines on what peer coaching entails. This means WhyDev, through its Peer Coaching Pilot Program, will be able to connect 400 aid workers so they can virtually support one another! Recently, I had a chance to speak with Weh who provided some firsthand insight into the world of humanitarian aid, crowdfunding, and entrepreneurship. He also shared an exciting update on WhyDev that you don’t want to miss (HINT: especially if you are an aid worker seeking peer support).
For those of us who don’t have firsthand experience, take us through the typical experience of a humanitarian aid worker.
Working in the humanitarian sector is quite difficult. As a relatively inexperienced aid worker, you are often thrown into the deep end—to places that are isolated with little support. If you are in a role working with national staff of that country, you are often seen as the expert and your advice is often sought. But very rarely will anybody ask you what support you need yourself.
The reason for this is that most organizations do not have mechanisms in place that are adequate to support aid workers, usually because of lack of budget. There is little research out there on the effects of isolation on aid workers. What it does indicate, however, is that the end result is burnout, stress, and most importantly, people who are unable to do their job effectively and are incapable of helping others.
So then this is why you saw a need to start WhyDev’s Peer Coaching Pilot Program? Do you think your firsthand experiences as an aid worker are an advantage for you in terms of being able to set up a support network for aid workers all over the world?
Absolutely! I believe what we’re doing at WhyDev is helping to introduce a new way of looking at aid and development. There are other organizations and individuals who are starting this shift, such as career coach Shana Montesol Johnson from Development Crossroads (who is advising us pro bono in our program) and Alessandra Pigni from Mindfulness from NGOs. We are helping to shift the public image of humanitarian workers from saints with purely good intentions to professionals who have valuable skills to offer, but who also have needs of their own. The old mindset is that aid and development workers do not need much support or resources to do their work because they are essentially doing it out of their own goodwill.
Unfortunately, this mindset isn’t sustainable. You end up with programs that are well intentioned, but ineffective, and as a result there is a huge amount of wastage with little results. What we are saying, though our Peer Coaching Pilot Program, is that aid and development workers are human beings with needs of their own, and that they need support to be effective. We’re recognizing the individual contribution that each and every humanitarian worker has to make, and are seeking to value it.
For me personally, I have experience working in development in Vietnam, China, and Cambodia and experienced first-hand the isolation that I described. At times, I was ineffective in my role because I did not have someone to talk to or to bounce ideas off. However, I started to discover the value of peer coaching myself, and realized how useful it would be to others.
With my WhyDev partner, Brendan, we started to realize that if there were aid workers who were seeking some peer support like us all around the world, setting up an international network to match them up could be useful. And hence, the Peer Coaching idea was born.
When you realized you needed to raise money to get started, what made you decide to choose crowdfunding? Then, when you chose the crowdfunding route, what made StartSomeGood stand out to you?
Initially, we sought funding for our idea from traditional sources. The response we received from organizations was either that they had their own support network for their own staff and didn’t want to invest in networks outside their own organizations or that they required a proof of concept first before supporting our idea. We believe that we can make this idea self sustainable from a funding point of view, so that once a proof of concept has been developed, funding from outside sources will no longer be needed.
This is why we turned to crowdfunding and StartSomeGood. We knew that we didn’t have to raise a huge amount of money, but that there were others out there who believed in our concept and would help us. In fact, crowdfunding is an excellent way of discovering if others believe in your idea. If you get a lot of backers—you must be onto something.
From the start, I was really impressed with StartSomeGood because it was the only crowdfunding site that we had come across directly supporting social good projects. Then, once we were set up, the team was simply fantastic. I had a long running joke with Alex Budak about the fact that he never slept because he was so responsive with his emails (I’m pretty sure he made the same joke back to me on several occasions).
Take us through your campaign experience. Is there anything that worked particularly well? Any tips for other ventures starting crowdfunding campaigns?
We were very fortunate in that we already had a fairly large platform on which to garner support. WhyDev has a blog of its own, plus a decent Twitter and Facebook following. I think spending time on the rewards and trying to be creative worked particularly well. Our campaign relied a lot on the vanity of others—we promised to Tweet or post on Facebook about how good looking our supporters were if they donated. Always appeal to the need for public displays of love!
To other crowdfunding campaigns, the best thing you can do is listen closely to StartSomeGood’s advice before your campaign is launched and really spend a lot of time planning out how you are going to carry it out. The guys at StartSomeGood are the experts—they’ve really seen it all, so follow their advice. The more time and energy you spend before your campaign is launched will pay off hugely after it begins.
I hear you have some really exciting news for us…this is your time to plug it!
Our exciting news is, on the backing of the funds we raised through StartSomeGood, we’ve launched our Peer Coaching Pilot Program! This means that people working in aid and development can sign up to our program via our website.
The idea behind our Peer Coaching Program is very simple. WhyDev will help to match you with somebody in the world who is also working in aid and development, and share your contact details with each other. We will then provide you with guidance on how Peer Coaching should work, and enable you to share effectively with your Peer Coach to support each other. Our Pilot Program is completely free of charge, and there are only 400 spots available. As of right now, over 65% of these are already taken—so interested people should get in quick!
Congrats! You were able to take an idea, gather the needed resources, and see it through to launch. Not everyone gets this far when they pursue an idea. What’s your success secret?
Thanks Nicole. I think our success at WhyDev really comes down to the fantastic team that we have. Our team currently spans the USA, Canada, China, and Cambodia and we are able to get work done effectively because we work so well together and are great friends. If you’re going to pursue something that you really believe in, you might as well do it with people that you really admire and enjoy working with.
Brand New Good! StartSomeGood’s Newest Campaigns…
Bangladesh Peasant Solidarity Network is helping Bangladesh’s climate vulnerable people through two projects: Jaago Foundation and Bangladesh Krishok Federation. They support and give aide to the urban slum populations and rural peasants who are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. Through donations and the purchase of a photo book by Michael Chew, an environmentalist, photographer, and founder of Bangladesh Peasant Solidarity Network, up to five children will be given five years of education. In addition, a group of up to ten rural organizers will be trained for six months and the project will be able to support international volunteers.
Jennifer started Sock Monkeys Against Cancer (SMAC!) for her mother who lives 1,200 miles away from her and has lung cancer. Because of the distance, Jennifer wanted to make sure her mother would have a “buddy” she could hug and remind her that Jennifer is always with her, especially during her treatments. SMAC! is a gang of monkeys that provides tangible support to those with cancer, reminding them that no one fights it alone. Two prototypes are complete with many more designs planned to help battle all types of cancer. Following the model set forth by such companies as TOMS shoes and Warby Parker Eyewear, every monkey purchased will ensure a second monkey will go to someone else with cancer. In addition, a portion of the proceeds will go to cancer research and programs. SMAC! seeks funding to launch the program and mass produce the first two prototypes—NoMo, who fights all cancers and Pheonix who is dedicated to SMAC!-ing lung cancer. This campaign is one of the fastest growing campaigns ever on StartSomeGood, already raising over $9,000 in less than a week! Funds will cover production, packaging and shipping of approximately 500 monkeys.
La Poderosa Media Project promotes youth empowerment, cultural empathy, and collaborative learning through visual arts programs. This project is fundraising for its next international program, which will take place in Chile in January 2013. Targeted at developing empathy and collaborative learning with a four-week artistic intervention for 40 at-risk teens in Santiago, La Pederosa Media Project has become a platform for egalitarian exchange, transforming communities one film at a time. Funds raised through this campaign will be used to cover transportation costs for instructors and the production costs for up to three short films.
Shawn D. Ross
I am a Northwest Native living in Washington State. A graduate of Washington State University and University of Phoenix with degrees in Architecture and Education I write about social, cultural, and personal improvement on the StartSomeGood Blog and SDRinspire. I am also a filmmaker and owner of Giraffe and Penguin Productions, a single daddy of two beautiful children, avid reader, writer, and hat wearer (Not in that picture but believe me, I wear ‘em). I am currently at work on my first feature length documentary. Follow me @shawndross and visit my websites:sdrinspire.com and giraffeandpenguinproductions.tumblr.com.
Are you inspired by all this good? What good do you want to create? Visit our site to learn about how to start your own campaign.
Last week, the Pages for Change campaign reached its $3,000 tipping point goal. Pages for Change addresses the lack of resources for survivors of rape and abuse by donating books on these topics to public and college libraries. It is a project initiated by the Middle Way House, a non-profit domestic violence program and rape crisis center in Bloomington, Indiana. The organization has developed 20 key books on these topics and, of the 19 libraries in Middle Way House’s service area, only 2 have more than 4 books from that list. All donations raised through this campaign will be used to purchase and donate books to each of the 19 partner libraries with bookplates containing shelter information in each book. The tipping point goal will help to purchase an abbreviated book set for each library, but the $9,000 total fundraising goal will allow the purchase of a full set of books for each library. There are still 9 days to help Middle Way House reach its total funding goal for Pages for Change. The $9,000 is absolutely within reach—let’s get a full set of these books into each and every one of Middle Way House’s partner libraries!
Shawn D. Ross
I am a Northwest Native living in Washington State. A graduate of Washington State University and University of Phoenix with degrees in Architecture and Education I write about social, cultural, and personal improvement on the StartSomeGood Blog and SDRinspire. I am also a filmmaker and owner of Giraffe and Penguin Productions, a single daddy of two beautiful children, avid reader, writer, and hat wearer (Not in that picture but believe me, I wear ‘em). I am currently at work on my first feature length documentary. Follow me on twitter @shawndross and visit my websites:www.sdrinspire.com and giraffeandpenguinproductions.tumblr.com
What good do you want to create? Visit our site to learn about how to start your own campaign.
Life Booster’s mission is to help people become healthier, happier, and more productive as individuals and as employees. This venture utilizes modern technology to create an innovative health benefits package for people who have full time jobs. As part of its program Life Booster provides a mobile app that encourages people to set healthy goals for themselves in terms of hydration, exercise, and sleep and then allows them to share this information with friends. Life Booster is raising funds to help support its official launch by developing the mobile app and taking on beta customers.
The Network for Economic Education is putting together a free basketball camp for kids in low-income areas of Los Angeles to teach them basic personal finance lessons. This innovative camp not only promotes physical, but also financial health. This basketball camp to teach youth financial literacy needs $800 to cover the costs associated with renting a full-size basketball court and an extra $800 for miscellaneous costs such as t-shirts, lunches, hourly pay for coaches, and marketing materials.
Surviving and Making Money in a Down Economy—we probably could all use this advice. Percy Kwong, author of this book, was very successful with the first book’s go-around but many people contacted him asking for more information. Therefore, he plans on expanding the book and giving it away to as many people as he can who need or want it. In order to accomplish this, Percy needs at least $20,000 to rewrite and publish the book in addition to creating a website and an ebook version. Any funds raised beyond the tipping point will go towards printing costs.
Yanti Turang and her LearnToLive team are back on StartSomeGood with their second campaign! The first time around, they raised $6,925 to officially launch LearnToLive in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. You can read all about that experience in Yanti’s interview with the StartSomeGood Blog. Now her team is back for a second campaign to undertake their 2012 Indonesian Health Initiative in four villages of North Sulawesi. The $6,400 tipping point will help cover any programmatic costs for this initiative, including supply costs for 4 villages, transportation for the team, translators, and self-sustaining medical kits for each village.
Better Alternatives for Girls’ Survival (BAGS) wants to provide human trafficking victims in Kolkata, India with dignified employment opportunities. These women create handmade, fair trade textiles that will now be sold to Western consumers. This will provide them the opportunity to live independent lives away from the brothels in Kolkata. The campaign, Support Human Trafficking Survivors with BAGS, is raising funds so that BAGS can act as the Western Distributor for its partner non-profit organization, Destiny Reflection, that hires and supports these women. Funds raised beyond the tipping point will be donated to Destiny Reflection so that it can grow and therefore hire more women.
Social entrepreneurs, have all these new campaigns inspired you to start your own good? Do you have a social enterprise, a non-profit, or an amazing idea that needs some momentum to take off? Visit our site to find out how to start your own campaign today. Still have questions? We have answers—check out our FAQ section