How do 20,000 people doing one thing, on one day raise upwards of $1 million? They "Like" it.
Last month, I watched 15,000 people all around the world, in 225 different locations and 18 time zones, gather together on one day, for one purpose. We had villagers in Tanzania, hipsters in New York and suburbanites in Osaka mobilized for the same efforts at the same time.
The event was the Yoga Aid World Challenge, a global relay enabling yoga enthusiasts around the world to translate their passion for service into meaningful support for charity. Thousands signed up to use the Yoga Aid platform to raise funds for their favorite organizations. But signing up is not where success comes from, and it certainly doesn't guarantee unity, community or the over $640,000 in registered donations to date this season.
So how did we do it? How did so many people from across the globe, and the cultures, come together physically and spiritually -- and seamlessly? The answer is the 21st century's great equalizer: social media. In fact, more people found Yoga Aid this year through Facebook than through any search engine or media mention. That's a new shift and an indication of where we find our most powerful connections.
Before Yoga Aid, in what now feels like another life, I was a managing director at Netscape. My career was built on the certainty that we were going to one day share and experience the majority of our lives -- our relationships, milestones, careers, lessons and even love -- online. And it happened. While it will never be the same as physical closeness, it IS possible to feel the warmth of another's presence through the warmth of a computer screen. We can stay closer, further.
For the first time this year, Facebook referrals to YogaAid.com outnumbered traffic coming in from any other website, including Google. That means our community is finding us, and staying with us, through social media.
The act of fundraising is dependent on such human connections. We donate when we FEEL for the cause, or the person behind it. But when you are the lone Yoga Aid fundraiser in your city, or even your country, how can you keep your spirit and momentum positive and innovative? Our task as Yoga Aid was to keep people connected, enlivened by the same energy, from a distance. A diaspora, where people share an identity and connection to people they may never personally meet, on the other side of the world.
The key to the Yoga Aid diaspora is our yoga practice. Yoga teaches us that we are all connected. More than that, we are all one. What you experience, I also feel.
Social media adds another layer: I am not physically there, but I am fully present in my support of you. I "Like" you. I "Share" you. I celebrate you. This is how community is made, both on and offline. Fundraising comes when we inspire community -- when people feel welcomed, touched and connected. Donors give because they are part of something -- members of a movement. When we manifest community, we manifest donations. And when we create solidarity among fundraisers, we keep the inner flame burning stronger, longer.
So our task as Yoga Aid is to be the fire keepers. Spark creativity, renew inspiration and let fundraisers know that abundant support was all around them. This was our social media strategy.
From hosting a yoga mat wash to having co-workers pay for the privilege of a dress-down day in the office. Donating your gas money and taking the bus, or how to approach a local business for support. We kept fundraisers united, enlivened and successful, from Adelaide to Zanzibar -- literally. Nothing but social media could have done that.