You Can Make Things Happen NOW #AYASummit

How many times have you attended a conference or seen something in the news and think: “I wish there was something I could do”? Read on to learn how I did something…

Update

I’d like to introduce you to the 2nd chosen recipient for the Marquesha Babers Storytellers Fund: WALTER FINNIE. Walter is a 19-year-old poet who attends Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He needs help meeting the cost of his tuition for next semester.

Walter

Read his story and contribute to his tuition TODAY. Continue reading here to find out how the Marquesha Babers Storytellers Fund came about…

How It Started

I recently attended the AYA Summit in Washington, D.C., an event for the ONE Girls and Women initiative. The purpose of the conference was to inform attendees – influential women writers – about the issues facing girls and women in Africa.

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In one of the sessions, we heard from a teen poet from California – Marquesha Babers – who was inspired after seeing the movie Girl Rising to write a poem that she  boldly recited to us, her words strong and fearless. Afterward, in a conversation on stage with Girl Rising creator Holly Gordon, Marquesha spoke of being homeless – not in the past but of currently having no place to live.


(Marquesha performing at Women in the World event)

My brain kicked into gear.

I had to do something about what I had just heard. We were at a conference for an organization – ONE – that clearly states “We don’t want your money. We want your voice.” But here was a talented young woman on stage telling us she did not have a place to live. I couldn’t simply lend my voice to this situation. I felt compelled to do something more.

With the encouragement of Amy Mascott aka @Teachmama, I am sharing the steps that brought me from “I’ve got to do something” to actually doing something, I hope this post inspires you to act the next time you think “I want to help, but how do I do it?”

1. See the Need

For me, the first step was hearing the words “I’m homeless” coming out of a talented and powerful girl who moments ago stood in front of us to recite a spoken word piece that reverberated through the room and into our hearts. Sure, I was at a conference about situations and issues affecting women and girls in Africa, yet in front of us was a girl in need.

2. Trust Your Talents

The biggest fear that can keep me from taking action is thinking “Who am I to think I can make a difference? I’m just one person.” But I’m smart and resourceful and a whiz at anything to do with the Internet and web. So this time, instead of thinking “I don’t really know anything about this issue. I probably should just mind my own business,” I thought “I can do something online to help!”

Immediately I thought of setting up a crowdfunding campaign for Marquesha to help her afford a more permanent place to live. I know how to do that. I wrote a book about crowdsourcing and have run several small crowdfunding campaigns. I’ve got this.

3. Say It Out Loud

Many times we hear that you should speak your intentions out loud. There’s a great website called Intent.com that lets you announce your intentions online to others to put it out there in the universe. I told several women around me during a conference break about my idea to start a crowdfunding campaign for Marquesha including Amy Mascott of TeachMama and Lindsay Maines of Rock and Roll Mama. They validated my idea.

4. Reach Out to the Stakeholders

Find your cheerleaders. And don’t be discouraged if not everyone approves of or supports your idea. But also don’t do something in a vacuum, especially when it affects other people. I immediately sought out Holly Gordon who knew Marquesha to tell her about my idea. I think she is the person who mentioned the need to do something sustainable for Marquesha – not just money. This wasn’t about charity but about making something more lasting. A writers grant? Mentors?

Holly put me in touch with Amanda, her producer, who then got in touch with Diane Luby Lane from Get Lit literacy program for teens at risk where Marquesha was connected.

That’s when I came up with the idea of the Marquesha Babers Storytelling Scholarship – something that could potentially be an ongoing award to talented teens at risk in the Get Lit program. The first scholarship would be awarded to Marquesha. Get Lit would administer the crowdfunding campaign and the funds to help Marquesha with her most pressing need – a place to live.

Then I added a layer to this – a way for women at the #AYASummit could sign up to mentor Marquesha – to be there for her over the long-term and provide guidance, introductions, opportunities, you name it. This was even more sustainable than fundraising and just as valuable: Marquesha’s Mentors was born.

My husband doesn’t call me “Idea Girl” for nothing!

5. Identify Your Tools

I’m an apps fanatic. I looked at my goals to help me pick the right tools to make something happen:

  • Crowdfund for a good cause.
  • Sign up and have access to contact information.

When I thought of a crowdfunding campaign, I immediately thought of Fundrazr. I’d first written about Fundrazr in Mom, Incorporated and then used it to raise funds for a girlfriend to help fly her to Paris to be by her boyfriend (now fiance) who was hospitalized. I knew Fundrazr was easy to set up, had reasonable fees, and I’d spoken with some of the Fundrazr team on numerous occasions so I felt a comfort level using their platform.

The only hitch in the process was we needed a PayPal account attached to a bank account. I didn’t want to use mine because I wanted there to be an uninterrupted flow of funds to Get Lit to get to Marquesha. After a few calls and emails, we were able to incorporate a Get Lit-related email address to integrate into the Fundrazr campaign.

Here’s the Fundrazr campaign. It ends October 31 but can be repeated by Get Lit to help other teens.

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For Marquesha’s Mentors, I quickly thought of an Eventbrite because I thought that signing up to be a mentor was a momentous event. I also have used Eventbrite often so knew how it worked and knew how to message the attendees through the tool and how to extract the names and email adddresses to give to Get Lit so they could furnish them to Marquesha.

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Once I established the tools I’d use, I set both sites up using my iPhone and iPad. Using only mobile devices did prove a little challenging, however, both tools were mobile friendly – an essential feature when working remotely.

6. Set Things In Motion

Once the two sites were up and running, I emailed the information to Holly, Amanda and Diane. Along the way, I had introduced them all to the concepts of the Marquesha Babers Storytelling Scholarship and Marquesha’s Mentors. I created a bit.ly for the Fundrazr and a custom URL for the Eventbrite because Holly was going to announce everything and project the links on a screen for the women in the room.

Then Something Happened

Holly announced the initiatives to the room. We all cried as Marquesha realized what was happening. Actress Danai Gurira was on the stage, and she embraced Marquesha. What a role model Danai can be to Marquesha – POWERFUL.

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We did it.

Thank you, Amy Mascott, for your idea and encouragement to write this post!

5 Comments

  1. Jeannine

    Absolutely Brilliant! When women put their minds to doing something, it happens just that fast. And you, my friend are a brilliant entrepreneur, action taker, who just acted and did. I’m so in awe of you. xoxo

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