Social Media + 1 week = $21,000

1 week. $21,000.

That’s how long it has taken to raise that much money. In one week, a fundraising effort catalyzed, mobilized, and evangelized by social media has already generated over $21,000 in cash donations. All with no cost.

If you have doubted the power of social media and social networking, I humbly ask you to stop doubting. If you have wondered “what good does it do?”, stop wondering. If you’ve asserted that “it’s just a fad”, stop asserting. This story will hopefully change your entire perspective.

Last Wednesday, one of my students approached me before class with the story that a recent DePaul University alumnus, Jessica Cowin, needed a kidney transplant. Jessica’s sister, Amy, had volunteered to donate one of her own kidneys but the surgery bill would amount to $100,000. Of that amount, Jessica’s insurance would only cover $30,000, leaving an incredible sum of money to be paid by a young woman and her family.

So Amy did what any loving family member would do, and should do – she reached out to her network and asked for help. She sent a Facebook message to fellow DePaul students and alumni sharing Jessica’s story. She appealed to them to help out in any way they could. My student was one of those who received that message.

Later in the day, Amy set up a donation page to “Help Jess” at www.giveforward.org/helpjess (BTW, GiveForward.org is a Chicago-based social venture).

She then created a Facebook page and invited, I imagine, all her friends to visit that page, learn more about Jessica’s situation, and make a donation. Within a few hours, I had already received a couple more messages from DePaul students pleading for people to Help Jess.

So on Thursday, I visited the Help Jess page and made a donation. I was surprised to see that over $8,000 in donations were already made…in less than 24 hours. The amounts ranged from $10 to $5,000. It was amazing.

Then I started seeing messages on Twitter. Then I got more emails, Facebook messages, and Twitter replies and direct messages. I was watching the power of social media in real time and for a real benefit.

* * *

I made a donation because I know Jessica fairly well.

She was president of our Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization chapter, for which I am the faculty advisor. She launched a business with her sister, Amy, and worked with the Coleman Center to get it off the ground (to this day, I’m proud that we were also their first customer). She convinced her parents that their business could use some help, and so they, too, became a client of the Coleman Center.

Jessica would regularly stop into our office, with a smile on her face, chatting and networking with our staff, clients, and fellow students. You could find her studying in the lounge area outside our office on a daily basis. We all got to know her very well.

Yet never once did Jessica mention her health issues, which included a heart transplant (yes, you read that right) at the age of 16.

In the middle of all that interaction, consulting help, conversation, and mere physical presence, Jessica never took it upon herself to draw that kind of attention. Her humility and modesty is an example for all of us, young and old.

* * *

But today, she needs the attention, and the power of social media has given it to her. Family, friends, and complete strangers have come together to save a life. But we haven’t come together in a physical way. We didn’t attend a fundraiser or have someone approach us at our homes or offices. These “fads” called social networking and social media brought us all together.

They brought us together to make a difference in a span of time that is mind-boggling. And I’m asking you to continue this amazing effort, and to Help Jess.

Please visit www.giveforward.org/helpjess and help in any way you possibly can. Almost $50,000 is still needed to Help Jess.

A donation of any size will help us move towards the certainty that a young person’s life can be saved. And after making that donation, tell your friends, family, and complete strangers to do the same. Use your voice, use your email, use your iPhone, use your Facebook, and use your Twitter.

Together, we can not only Help Jess, but we can Save Jess.

www.giveforward.org/helpjess

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