Raymond Luk and Robin Ahn understand the power of social networks. You will too, once you see how they managed to organize Haiti Tweetup Montréal in 48 hours, raising more than $5,000 for the relief effort. This amount was matched by the Government of Canada, bringing the donation total to just over $10,000. All proceeds went to Doctors Without Borders.
The sold-out event, held Jan. 19 at Casa Del Popolo, attracted 120 at the door and 10 online donations, with 35 businesses donating prizes for the silent auction. Tickets were free, but participants were encouraged to give a minimum $10. Photos of the event are available on Flckr.
“We reached for small businesses, and they were the ones to step up, and step up fast,” Ahn says. “We were actually in the embarrassing position of having to turn some offers down.”
The Jan. 19 event raised $10,000, which includes the $5,000
match by the Government of Canada. All proceeds went to
Doctors Without Borders.
Networking is central to their work at Flow Ventures with early stage technology companies. “We call ourselves an ‘accelerator,’” Luk explains. “We provide the necessary nutrients and vitamins, all that a startup needs to grow – from mentoring to access to resources to product validation. We are part of a larger ecosystem in Canada, and it is this connection with the tech community that helped get the support for Haiti Tweetup Montréal.”
Luk, Flow Ventures Founder and Managing Director, is a well-connected entrepreneur and also founder of ArtAnyhwere.com. Ahn, the firm’s Operations Manager / Community Manager, is an active community organizer and co-organizer of Startup Drinks Montreal.
Haiti Tweetup Montréal, held Jan. 19 at Casa del Popolo,
attracted a crowd of 120. Local bloggers were highly influential
in getting the word out quickly in the community, organizers say.
(Photo: Julian Haber)
For the event organizers, it’s all about that first step
In following news of the earthquake in Haiti, Luk and Ahn noticed no one in their networks seemed to be taking the next step: making a donation.
“Sometimes people need a bit of a push. People believe, have causes that they support and are involved in, and we thought ‘We can be the ones to take the first little step,’” Luk says. “So Robin and I can’t take credit for the entire thing, but we can for the first little step.”
“We are not a national funding organization, we just belong to a tight knit community,” he continues. “The key is to reach out to people who don’t consider themselves donors, younger people who don’t have as much money, but can donate time, services, support – and get the word out to others.”
We could have spent one week phoning around, but for the same effort using Social Media, we got 10 times the results. It comes from tapping into the network of networks.
– Raymond Luk, Haiti Tweetup Montréal event organizer
Role of social networking in helping to promote and manage the event
Given the timeline, Social Media offered a fast way to get people to organize around a cause.
Coverage in traditional local media helped, but Ahn says bloggers like fagstein, the hour, things that go bling and marc-andre cyr were the most influential about getting the word out.
“Using Social Media to promote the event was really easy, really fast. The Twitter hashtag targeted results to #haititweetup and friends told friends about the Facebook page,” Luk explains. “It’s a really tight knit community—and Robin’s right, people tend to read each other.”
“We could have spent one week phoning around, but for the same effort using Social Media, we got 10 times the results,” he says. “It comes from tapping into the network of networks.”
Maintaining a commitment to Haiti
Having just wrapped things up, the two are taking a well-deserved deep breath … but not for long. They have started work on a nationwide initiative to promote aid to Haiti. And a group in New York has asked to use the Haiti Tweetup Montréal logo for an event in February.
Luk and Ahn worry that after an initial rush of attention, Haiti will be forgotten. “The rebuilding effort will be huge and likely take years,” Luk stresses. “Costs for rebuilding will require more money. Our concern is when the media stops taking an interest.”
Ahn is encouraged that more people have joined the Faceook page since Tuesday’s Tweetup, “So it’s not over; it’s about making a difference in other ways.”
For Luk, “The key is, that when the media stop talking about Haiti and people forget, to keep these kinds of efforts going, to keep Haiti in everyone’s mind.”
Those who want to be involved in future fundraising projects that will focus on the long-term rebuilding effort in Haiti can contact Luk and follow progress on the blog.
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Alison Cummings is a Web Strategy consultant and Social Media blogger based in Montreal. You can find her on Twitter @alisoncummings and Facebook.