If you have been actively or passively involved with any variety of online social networking sites over the past few weeks you most likely have seen a cavalcade of frozen peas. Yes, that is right, FROZEN PEAS.
Blogger and media relations consultant Susan Reynolds was diagnosed with breast cancer (and used bags of frozen peas on her boobs to dull the pain from all the tests), and her online friends took up the cause to support her and raise money to fight this disease that has touched the lives of so many of us (side note, my mother died from breast cancer when I was a teenager). The Frozen Pea Fund is an amazing example of passion and how passion can circle the world.
Fellow Austinite and social networking maven Connie Reece became very passionate about her on-line friend Susan's battle with cancer and not only organized much of the PEA phenomenon, but updated people via Twitter throughout Susan's day of surgery and recovery.
This is a great example of how honest feelings of love and support, coupled with passion can have an impact. Below is an interview with Connie Reece about PEAs and Passion:
1. What is the Frozen Pea Project and how did you get involved?
The Frozen Pea Fund, a campaign to raise money for breast cancer research and programs, is one of those things that just happened, and it has grown organically. When I say it "just happened," I'm referring to the speed and spontaneity with which it was birthed. The frozen peas theme came from Susan Reynolds, a blogger and relationship media consultant, who used a pack of frozen peas instead of an ice pack following multiple stabs during a biopsy that diagnosed an invasive form of breast cancer.
The fund-raising project started with an off-the-cuff remark by Cathleen Rittereiser on Twitter, which turned into a Facebook discussion thread among a handful of online friends. I called on a contact at American Cancer Society here in Austin, David Neff, for help in creating the link to Making Strides. Then I registered the domain name, enlisted Michelle Wolverton's help in creating the blog and asked Ryan Karpeles to design a logo -- and all this was done in less than a week. I call this "community-driven fundraising," and in addition to the FPF blog, we now have a wiki where people who want to help determine the future of the Fund can participate. ( http://frozenpeafund.pbwiki/com)
2. Do you know Susan Reynolds personally or just through her blog and twitter?
I got to know Susan on Twitter and became a fan of her blog, Case-Studies from the Artsy Asylum (http://susanreynolds.blogs.com/), and then wound up buying an island adjacent to hers in Second Life, where Susan has created a virtual co-working space. While I haven't met her in person, we have spoken on the phone a number of times and were about to collaborate on a work project when cancer intervened. I'm happy to report that Susan is recovering from surgery and we're hoping to get that work project back on track.
3. How many people got involved in this and how far was the reach of this movement?
I wish I knew the answer to that question! People in South Africa and the UK were helping to create peavatars (avatars that feature peas) for people to use on Frozen Pea Friday. We heard from a number of people in Australia who were participating. One online friend in the Philippines reported that she was able to make a donation from outside the U.S.
Marcel Lebrun of Radian6 volunteered to help with social media monitoring. So far they've helped us identify over 200 blogs or podcasts that have covered the story. I created a page titled Who's Talking About Peas ( http://frozenpeafund.com/?page_id=30) that will link to all of the sites as I'm able to update it.
A couple of Twitter friends reached out to Duncan Riley, who wrote a great post on TechCrunch for our launch. That post was picked up by the BBC and ran on the front page of their Technology section that day. Even earlier, noted tech blogger Robert Scoble had written about Susan and peavatars in relation to Davos and the world economic forum, as did Web pioneer Dave Winer.
4. How much money has been raised so far.
Due to the holidays we haven't been able to get a current update, but I can tell you that during the first 15 hours after its launch the Frozen Pea Fund generated 118 contributions from people on 3 continents totaling $3,500. The money goes directly to Making Strides, the breast cancer campaign of the American Cancer Society. I can hardly wait until Monday to get a new report.
5. What have you learned about the power and speed of viral campaigns through this experience?
The main lesson -- which I knew going into this but really had to put into practice -- is that you cannot create a viral campaign. You do the best job you can to make it easy for people to spread your campaign virally, but it's out of your control. Just put it out there, stand back, and let it happen. The speed and reach are amazing. And all of this was done with no advertising, no press release -- not even a budget or a business plan. Now, a week after the fact, we're slowing down to ask questions like, should we incorporate? trademark? How do we go forward?
6. Can this type of on-line passion effect the off-line world?
Absolutely. What I'm seeing in social media these days is a blending of on- and off-line communication. People who connect online are scheduling face-to-face meet-ups -- or tweet-ups as we call them on Twitter. And people who meet at conferences or coffee shops are forming communities online. Just this morning a Twitter/Facebook connection suggested that we create Frozen Pea Fund T-shirts and recruit people to wear them while walking for breast cancer - a nice mashup of an online idea crossing over to the physical world.
7. Where do you see passion in the world?
I see more people following their passions into the work world, or looking for ways to incorporate their passions into their careers. Technology enables this, giving us more freedom to work from home or third places, and giving us the tools to be productive while working remotely. Technology also makes it easier to find people online who share your passion and create a community around it.
8. Your final thoughts on the passion of PEAS
My hope is that the Frozen Pea Fund becomes a model for community-driven fund-raising and an example of how to creatively unite a diverse, disparate group of people around a common goal.
Back in the early 1980s I was working in direct mail marketing and fund-raising. I remember the first appeal letter I wrote that raised over a million dollars; it was the first time that particular organization had used a personalized greeting and envelope. That was state-of-the-art technology at the time. That's one of the things that get me so excited about social networking and conversational media. We now have these powerful tools and technologies, with extremely low entry costs, that make it affordable for nonprofits as well as small businesses to communicate in a new way.
But -- and this is a big but -- it's always the people, not the technology, who will determine the success of a social media campaign or a fund-raising effort like the Frozen Pea Fund. That's where the passion comes in -- people have passion. Give the people with passion a voice, and watch something magical happen.
Have A Great Day
To make a donation to The Frozen Pea Fund, CLICK HERE. Give! I did.
****The Celebrate Passion Project on "The Some Assembly Required Blog" will run all month in December 2007. Every post this month will touch on honoring people who have a special spark for life or helping others (and me!) to discover ways to re-ignite our internal passions for our world.
I challenge other bloggers who read this to dedicate one day in December on their blog to "The Celebrate Passion Project", and in their own way praise those they encounter who have a special way of expressing the excitement in their soul. And then encourage your readers to do the same!