The Lost Boys and Blue Keys

For many years at two agencies we had the honor of representing The Heinz Awards.

They are annual awards given out by Teresa Heinz-Kerry, whose first husband Senator John Heinz was killed in the 90’s as he was serving in the senate.  In most years those awards were given in five categories including Arts and Humanities, one of the late senator’s passions.

In its 13th year, the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities was given to Dave Eggers, the critically acclaimed novelist and publisher who has parlayed his career into one of creativity and philanthropy.

A current UN photo showing the plight of refugees

Perhaps Eggers signature piece of work is his novel “What is the What.”  In this mix of fact and fiction, Eggers chronicles the story of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” the tens of thousands of Sudanese children who were forced to flee the country during its civil war in the 1980’s.  The story is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who as a six-year-old was separated from his family, encountered terrible conditions in Ethiopian refugee camps, somehow makes it to Kenya, was later resettled to the United States, went to college and met Eggers who then told the Lost Boys story through Deng’s experiences.

Deng is obviously one of the success stories, one that beat the odds.  There are millions of “the lost” displaced by countless wars.  They roam with little food, little shelter and little hope.  Some end up in camps, some don’t.  They are the unwanted by-product of unwanted violence.

My friend and fellow comrade in PR and blogging Shonali Burke asked me to join her in  getting the word out about a way to help these refugees by promoting  The Blue Key Campaign, a project of the USA for UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency.

The goal of the Blue Key Campaign is a pretty simple one, between now and World Refugee Day on June 30, it aims to sign up 6,000 Americans to make a $5 pledge and receive a Blue Key or Pendant in support of the effort.

Those funds will be used to help the 43 million refugees worldwide who are still “lost” and aid the 6000 UNHCR staffers who help them find food, water, shelter and hopefully new lives.

So please join the cause, make a donation and get your own Blue Key.  If you blog, please feel free to post and if you’re on Twitter spread the word by  regularly sharing Blue Key related information using the #bluekey hashtag, following @UNRefugeeAgency, “liking” USA for UNHCR on Facebook.

I encourage you to read Eggers’ book and the support material for the campaign.  Thanks.

Thanks and give, a birthday wish.

First of all, thanks so much for all the 50th birthday wishes.  I’m pretty overwhelmed.

For those who don’t know, yesterday was my 50th birthday and to celebrate I asked folks to send me their birthday wishes on Facebook and Twitter and for each wish Kyra and I would donate a dollar to be split between the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund and another charity.  To select the second cause, I asked folks to include their favorite cause in the wish and we’d pick one.

This results were very cool.  Due to the viral nature of social media I received wishes and tweets from folks as far away as Toronto (yo, Bednarski) and Los Angeles.  I also learned that with all the ways people can respond (links, comments, Facebook gift apps, etc.) it’s a little hard to count all the wishes.

After counting a couple of times, I’d say I received about 200 birthday wishes from friends, relatives and friends of those friends and relatives.  Because we want to make each gift substantial, we’ve decided to give 200 each to the Believe Fund and the second charity.

The second part of this is pretty hard since in all more than 40 charities were included with the wishes.  After consulting with my wife, whose direction was “seems like we should focus on the kids,” we’re pleased to announce the second gift of $200 will go to Cookies for Kids Cancer.  Kyra and a number of local public relations folks are very involved in this cause.

A third learning is how much fun this was.  It was a great way to reconnect with friends and meet new ones.  I urge you to try something like this yourself.

Finally, here is a full listing of all the charities sent in by the well wishers.  If I forgot one, please send it to me and I will add it.

I encourage you to donate to all of them.  Thanks so much.

Mario Lemieux Foundation


Save the Elephants

American Cancer Society

Build an Animal Shelter in Honor of Patrick


World Pediatric Project

Children’s Hospital of King’s Daughters

Richmond SPCA

Special Olympics

Wounded Warrior Project

Central Virginia FoodBank

AMP Metro Richmond

St. Jude’s

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Children’s Home Society and Family Service

The Human Fund (LOL)

March of Dimes

United Way

Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund for Japan

Operation Smile

Family Lifeline

Impact 100

Children’s Hospital Foundation

Susan G. Komen

Altzheimer’s Association

Juvenile Diabetes

Elisa and Nathan Bond Family Trust

Virginia Institute of Autism

Four Diamonds Fund of the Hershey Medical Center

Nature Conservancy

Tonsil Cancer Foundation

Sheltering Arms


Salvation Army

Los Angeles Regional FoodBank

Comfort Zone Camp

Women for Women

The Point Foundation

Ronald McDonald House Charity

The Year of Me is about us. How can you can participate.

So the big birthday in “The Year of Me” is coming up this Sunday.

I’ve taken my share of crap over “The Year of Me” thing but if you remember (this link will serve as a reminder back to my original post), The Year of Me is meant to be more than a year about me.

One of the key points of that I stated then is I wanted to be more philanthropic with my money and my time.  On the time side, I’m spending more of that volunteering with Zack’s baseball league this year and I’ve met a number of great people doing that.

On the money side, well here’s my idea and it’s tied into my 50th birthday on Sunday.

One of the cool things about Facebook is that you are reminded about your Friend’s birthdays so that you can post a message on their wall that day.  You feel good, they feel good.  I see the point, but there’s nothing actionable from that, it’s cool and all but at the end of that exercise there’s a long list of “Happy Birthday” greetings on a wall.

So this year, I encourage everyone to wish me “Happy Birthday” on my wall. In addition to the greeting please also include your favorite charity.

For every charity mentioned Kyra and I will donate one dollar (sorry honey for not discussing this with you first :)).  Out of that dollar 52 cents will go the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund.  Eric is the Rutgers football player paralyzed while playing football last year and included in the “Year of Me” post.

The other 48 cents of each dollar will go to one of the charities mentioned along with the birthday greetings on my wall.  If you’re a Twitter person and want to tweet me a “Happy Birthday” and a charity, please do so and those tweets will be counted in the mix as well.

I have a great wife, family, business, partner, co-workers and life.  The “Year of Me” is much more about me, it’s about all of us and what we do with our lives.

If you think I’m being a bit selfish and all I want is tons of people to send me birthday greetings on Sunday, you’re absolutely right.

That way you can help me spread some “Year of Me” cheer to others who are less fortunate.

Please share, post, retweet, etc. this post so we can spread that cheer together.

A great cause: Our first official Facebook landing page

WARNING:  This post is highly promotional both for HDS and our client.  But once you read it you’ll understand why I posted and why you should at least take a look.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Hodges Digital Strategies’ first “official” Facebook custom landing page, executed for ChildFund International’s “100 Days of Yes” campaign.

While we have already completed a number of similar clients with our new partner Sonali Shetty, this is the first one launched under the new HDS banner and we can’t be more excited and proud.

ChildFund International is a tremendous Richmond-based organization through which you can sponsor a child in some of the poorest regions in the world, providing food and materials to help make life easier for them and their families.

The “100 Days of Yes” campaign is a drive to focus sponsorship activities and get as many new sponsors as we can over the 1oo day period.

The new landing page is designed not only to highlight the campaign, but provides a way for existing sponsors to share pictures of their sponsored children and post some thoughts about that experience.  Folks can page through the photo album to see the pictures and the posts, and of course they can become a fan of ChildFund’s Facebook page to receive future updates, etc.

We’re proud to be working with ChildFund on this campaign with PR provided by THP and social media by HDS and it’s a great example of the combined services these two companies offer under the Hodges umbrella.   We invite you to become a sponsor of a child and a fan of the page and to return back often to look at the picture gallery.

We’re also proud to offer other cost-effective services for non-profits and small businesses who are looking to expand their reach on Facebook.  Here’s a link to learn more.

We’ll be back later to report back on the success of the campaign.  Thanks for indulging this promotional post.

Social media and nonprofits…before

Tonight and tomorrow in Richmond there are two gatherings focusing on social media and nonprofit organizations. 

Social Media Club Richmond is hosting an event tonight featuring Gradon Tripp, the founder of Social Media for Social Change, and organization that channels the use of social media for good causes.  Gradon is now working for Firstgiving, a organization that helps causes raise money online.

Gradon will also keynote a conference tomorrow, “Strategic Leadership and Social Media for Social Good,” hosted by the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond and spearheaded by a bunch of folks (including Ryan Smartt of ConnectRichmond/ConnectNetwork.  The conference is for leaders of regional nonprofit organizations who want to learn more about social media.

There will be other presenters (full disclosure-including me) and panelists including Cynthia Price of ChildFund.  I’m very interested in seeing her case study of that organization’s rebranding and successful Twitter “friendraising” campaign.

While both events are sold out, you can follow the discussion of tomorrow’s discussion on Twitter by following the #SM4SG hashtag.  There will also be a live webcast for those who wish to view online.  I’m sure folks will tweet from #smcrva as well.  There’s also a Facebook group where stuff will be posted as well.

I’ll likely get my thoughts together for a follow post sometime over the weekend.  Enjoy.

Shankman in Richmond: A FightSMA fundraiser

There are few social marketers do a better job of "bridging" the old and new worlds of PR than Peter Shankman.

His "Help a Reporter Out" or HARO now boasts more than 40,000 subscribers and provides a link between journalists looking for experts and PR people who have them.  Peter's, known as "skydiver" on Twitter, travels across the country as a SM evangelist are chronicled in the "news feeds" he sends to the subscribers three times daily.  In those news feeds he touts story opportunities and plays "Yente the Matchmaker" for reporters and PR folks.

Peter has agreed to come to our hometown of Richmond, VA and speak for an event put on by our firm, The Hodges Partnership.  The $25 we will charge per person will go to FightSMA, a great charity that is the leading fundraiser and provider of research dollars to help find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a terrible neuromuscular disease.

So if you are planning to be in the Richmond area on the morning of January 27, please contact Julia Webster of our staff (804-788-1414) or go to The Hodges Partnership group on Facebook and sign up for Shankman in Richmond.  You can pay at the door, meet one of the leaders of the movement, and help out a great cause.

%d bloggers like this: