Tony Cervati, founder of Type1Rider and co-founder of The Blue Heel Society, shares his experiences and advice for getting involved in diabetes advocacy groups, whether as a founder or as a member of a pre-existing organization.
Be Creative and Register: Picking a Name
In part one I shared a little bit about my experience starting diabetes advocacy groups and provided some tips for getting started. With today’s tools, once the ideas have been laid out, an organization can move quite quickly. In a matter of minutes your campaign can have a presence.
Be creative in figuring out a name for your new organization. Something catchy, easy to remember and obviously relevant to your mission. Right out the box, the name you choose can make or break your success. Once the ball gets rolling, and you begin to get established, it is exponentially more difficult to make name changes. If a useable name doesn't come to mind quickly, don't worry! It might take a bit of fun thinking and analysis to figure it out. It might be a good time to enlist help by throwing an organizational naming party with your friends.
Once you choose a name, get a website domain name. Acquiring a domain is cheap, and it will give the organization its own identify. You may find out that the perfect name and web address you came up with is already in use. Again, just be creative! Purchasing the domain is not only taking the first step to begin your campaign, it feels like you’re officially making your first footprints in the advocacy space.
Ready, Set, Be Social. Very Social.
Once the name is selected, and the web address has been purchased, it is time to socialize! It only takes a few minutes to get established. Get busy creating a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a blog, website, and video and Flickr accounts! Once you get your social media tools established, begin to “friend,” “like” and “follow” similar-minded entities. The old saying is there is strength in numbers - and you will find that MOST other organizations on a similar mission will be happy to spread the word about a potential new ally.
Use social media to get your diabetes organization out in the open. Interact with the main players in your particular realm and volunteer (as a representative of the new organization) at events these others are hosting. This not only gets your face and voice out there to your target audience, but gives insight as to where these other groups are heading and what they are focusing on. It’ll help you learn what works well for them and what doesn't. Learn from those interactions and start to build those relationships early. Incorporate those lessons into your new society - and begin to progress quicker.
Through our personal ventures, we have found that it is very important to allow your “followers” to discuss their ideas and thoughts about your topic freely on your social network sites. What that means to me is, basically, contrary opinions are actually welcomed. These conversations will provide the opportunity to express your thoughts and mission to the people you are trying to reach most! Be respectful and expect the same from all participants. With Type1Rider and The Blue Heel Society we have had the most rewarding interactions during topics that spark great, safe, comfortable and respectful debate.
Staying the Course
It might take some time to get a get a grassroots movement off the ground. On very rare occasions, lightning may indeed strike and the organization takes off like wildfire. In most cases, however, it takes an unwavering dedication to your cause, staying true to the mission and goals that you truly believe in and perseverance for your diabetes organization to really take off.
Lots of perseverance.
Speak from the heart as you publish your thoughts to your pages. Let the emotion flow and be yourself, as this makes your feelings about the subject matter to that person on the other end of the world perhaps, real. It's much harder than it sounds to actually "let go" and do this, but it is the key ingredient to success as the organization continues to grow.
At this point your established association will have a life of its own. It will foster new ideas and growth, make strides towards goals you might not have even known you had, change the landscape of your life and, hopefully, the community it serves forever. The organization will wander to connect places and people that weren't even on the radar when starting up - and the positive impact will be felt by all.
Just keep that heartfelt content flowing.
Let your true voice be heard and your words be read.
Making a Difference with your Diabetes Advocacy Group
In the end, whether your organization reaches 1,000,000 people on a daily basis or makes one single lasting impression with one individual, your life will be much different than when the journey began. If it is a topic or cause that is at your core, one that tears at your soul (like mine with diabetes), this just cannot be helped.
I have always felt I learned and gained far more from the experiences and interactions I’ve had through my dealings with Type1Rider and The Blue Heel Society than I was ever able to give.
No matter the outcome of forming your own organization, you will know that you forged new ground, didn't accept the status quo and started a movement.
You stood up and made a difference.
A true difference.
That action alone sets you apart from the masses and shows just how fearless you are.