That moment when...
I joined Google+ on the second day of the field trial while I was blogging for the Ad Council. I was 22, in college, and a nobody online. Why did I join? Because I was sick of the expectations from other places online. Facebook was for friends, but my friends weren't always interested in the stuff I was. There was Twitter, but it's impossible to engage meaningfully there. Tumblr never appealed to me either. So I joined Google+ with the intent to share anything that was interesting to me and use it as a blog. A fresh start. For a while I got no engagement, had no followers - nothing, but I was cool with that. Then one day I joined a random hangout and everything changed. I didn't know what to expect but it was there that I met a bunch of really weird and interesting strangers. They followed me. I followed them.
Little did I know that this moment would be the genesis for becoming the CEO of my own nonprofit.
Engagement picked up and I was eager to engage my new slew of followers as well. I'm generally a pretty charming and outgoing person so it didn't take long before I was added to circles like "Awesome Hangouters" or "Hangout Regulars." My follower count ballooned into the 1,000's. I was in circles that, especially in the early days of G+, were shared a ton. They contained a bunch of the leading people on G+ nowadays (and some who have left the platform behind). It was like a little club. People helped each other. Got butthurt. Fought. Shared. It was really tight-knit and it was clear that a particular group of people were rising up in the ranks and getting more engagement than the celebrities or brands flocking to the newest thing in social media.
I was one of those people, and I would eventually go on to have almost a million followers and become the CEO of my own nonprofit.
I posted whatever the fuck I wanted to post to Google+, and whether those posts were about videogames or science or my ever-interesting dating life they were always in my voice. Turns out that people liked my voice. Actually, people liked what I was saying so much that Google took notice and added me to their Suggested User List. Let's demystify this: There isn't a secret contract you sign when you're added to the SUL. It was fairly unceremonious. I got a notice saying "You're being added to the SUL under Fun & Interesting." That was it. No asking. No begging. No cheating, stealing, lying, prodding, or anything. Just being myself and using Google+ to the most.
Being added was both a both a blessing and curse. Some people felt that I had changed, censoring myself into no longer being the honest person they started following. Others felt that I was being too much of my honest self and needed to tone it down since I was a Google+ advocate now. It was shitty and it was first real dose of being in the spotlight. With hundreds of thousands of eyes on you, you either learn to brush off people's expectations and only hold yourself to your own standards or you fail. I've watched it happen and it isn't pretty.
But luckily it didn't happen to me. So I trudged along until one day I sat down at my computer and realized that I have over 700,000 people following me. I was getting hundreds of +1's, comments, and shares a day. It had happened. I had gotten my own little slice of internet fame. Mission accomplished? Not exactly.
With great power...
Google had given me an audience and it was up to me to do something with it. Frankly, just blogging and interacting wasn't enough for me. I love my community and I love every single person following me (who doesn't send me creepy texts or call me a fag in comments), but I felt an overwhelming urge to, you know, DO something. I had a history of working at nonprofits having interned at the Ad Council and being a contracted community manager for the United Way and I wanted to put it to use. "So," I asked myself, "what pisses me off and how can I fix it?"
The answer came to me sooner than I thought in the form of a Kickstarter campaign. Or, rather, what didn't come to me from a Kickstarter campaign. I love funding projects and hearing about how my contribution helped a person with a cool idea. I don't love never hearing about it again after I donate which happens far too often. Whether it was Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or any other crowdfunding site, I realized that they care about taking their cut, not following through. "Okay," I thought, "That frustration is one part of the puzzle. What's the other part? Who do I help?"
Who I wanted to help was easy. I wanted to help nonprofit organizations help others. I wasn't interested in helping out a huge organization though. I wanted to help the little guy - the small organization who was too busy actually helping people to create a killer website with tearjerking stories and a million Facebook fans. If I could tell the stories of these organizations, collect donations from my followers, and make every donor feel like they made a difference I would use my following to the fullest.
It was all coming together. And then...
Over 18 months, my 2,397 posts that had 90,660 comments, 69,133 shares, and 249,251 +1's on them had given me confidence to create The LittleBigFund.
Hello LittleBigFund :)
After a few loans from my parents and a fair amount of credit card debt on top of that, I had become a CEO of my own nonprofit organization which played on my strengths from being a hea. The LittleBigFund is, at its core, a storyteller. We work with three nonprofit organizations a month, spreading their stories online, promoting their cause, and ultimately delivering assets to use in the future. As we're telling these stories, people donate small amounts of money to form a big fund. They then vote on which nonprofit they feel would use the fund the best. At the end of the month, the organization whose story resonated the most with the donors receives the entire fund. The donors feel like they made a huge impact with a small action and we continue to gather stories from the organization who received the fund thus giving donors tangible results.
As The LittleBigFund starts being an advocate for other nonprofits, I hope that more people begin to realize they can be awesome change-makers just by taking a moment to frame their arguments within their experiences.
Today, as I sit here writing this, I'm nervous. I'm still 22. I've never been a CEO before. It could all blow up in my face. And, on top of all that, we launch in three weeks. It's terrifying. I now have just shy of a million eyes on me, a board of eleven and team of three to impress, and thousands of dollars to pay back to my parents.
But it's okay. At the end of the day I know that everything I've done up to this point was for me to take a risk. From stupid blog posts, cat pics, and sunsets came an organization I'm extremely excited about. When we launch in June I know that I have my community's support, their blessing, and (hopefully) their wallets :P I think that we live in an era when the allure of social sharing has worn off and it's ultimately viewed as a distraction. To that I say, "Fuck that." We're all extremely blessed with unique experiences and the mediums to get them out there. I'm proof that all you have to do is do it.