How do you take an event for 400 people, produced entirely by an all-volunteer, under-age-30 team, in the most expensive city in the U.S., and get an entire nation excited about it, so that you can raise at least $20,000 to sponsor 42 girls in a developing world country, where less than 20 percent of young women even graduate high school? First, take a deep breath. Then, it all starts with the power of the Internet. Allow me to take you to the whirlwind inside Internet Week New York known as GIRLS WHO ROCK -- the benefit concert for She's the First, to be held on Friday, June 10 at Gramercy Theatre.
The constant activity of the GIRLS WHO ROCK twitter feed (@girlswhorockNY) is like a micro-documentary on benefit concert production and promotion. From a big picture point of view, however, everything we do has a three-pronged approach. On the day of the concert, we aim to bring the strongest voices in technology, entertainment, and design together under one roof, to fundraise for girls' education. And, all our work before and after this night has a global, local, and social media impact. Outlining a "trifecta" always helps me stay focused on a singular mission: Educating girls. (To answer the FAQ, Why not the boys? Because of the 130 million youth out of school in the world, 70 percent are girls.)
GLOBAL: This is the heart of it all, the link between GIRLS WHO ROCK, the event, and She's the First, the non-profit organization dedicated to sending girls to school and helping them be first in their family to graduate. It's only fitting that the grand finale of this year's concert will be Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge, singing their legendary hit, "We are family! I've got all my sisters with me." We do all this, using our talents and passions, for our global sisters who are fighting for their chance in the classroom, so that they too can create something that leaves the world better than they found it.
LOCAL: Although GIRLS WHO ROCK fundraises for girls in developing world countries, we build peer-to-peer mentoring relationships among our volunteers, most of whom are in New York City, but a few who work with us remotely. This year, we piloted a "Gives Back" program where we've taken in a group of high school students, who meet with us weekly at a free creative co-working space, the Wix Lounge, to talk about everything from how we book artists to how we build partnerships. They'll volunteer the night of the concert and then create a portfolio based on what they learned, to inspire their own leadership activities at school and in their communities.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Thankfully, the concert is broadcast via Ustream, so anyone can watch no matter where they live, as long as they have an Internet connection. The next step is, how do we get these people actively involved in our fundraising? We developed a campaign known as "Class of 2011," where on the online donation platform CauseVox, individuals could give as little as $11 to honor a grad they know in the Class of 2011, and pay it forward for a girl in Uganda to reach that same graduation milestone.
To build a sense of community around the call to action, we created PicBadges, for supporters to apply on their Facebook and Twitter profiles. We also provided downloadable graphics, and encouraged bloggers and YouTubers in particular to get involved, covering the cause if not creating their own fundraising page, too. The idea is that once we have these supportive bloggers on our "Class Roster," we can continue to distribute information to them year-round about the girls who have been sponsored -- to take our storytelling wider.
GIRLS WHO ROCK is powered by a lot of caffeine, since we all have day jobs or academic studies, but our lifeline is most definitely the Internet. My GIRLS WHO ROCK co-founder, Cynthia Hellen, and I first met via Twitter when she started following the @shesthefirst handle. We recruited Kathy Sledge through April Dawn Elliot (@mental_makeup), who started following @girlswhorockNY on Twitter and then introduced our PR Officer (@jill_diedrich) to a talent agent (@AboveGlamour), who then connected us with Kathy. We hold meetings on Skype several times a week. But most importantly of all, the Internet will be how we keep our donors and attendees informed of the 42 lives we are helping to transform in Uganda.
In the week leading up to the concert, I hope the online ticket sales skyrocket and I hope the online donations pour in. As I write this, we're not there yet -- we need your help! -- but I have trust... in our team, in our city, in our Twitterverse, and our blogosphere. I've got all my sisters with me.
When the doors at Gramercy Theatre open to GIRLS WHO ROCK at 8 p.m. on June 10th, these girls in Uganda will be sleeping. Let's work together, and give them their dream -- an education.