I recently presented on Nonprofits, Healthcare, and Social Media. In the presentation, I started off with a summary of why this is important. I always make a point about how younger people are more likely to be using social networks to communication (versus email). But one of the examples I found was I am Too Young For This - a network of younger cancer survivors. It's interesting that using social media - they took up the cause and started their own organization. I tracked down Matthew Zachary - the founder. As it turns out, he is connected to one of my contacts in LinkedIn (still think LinkedIn is stupid?). Here's the interview.
1. Tell me your personal story?
2. Why did you start this project?
I founded The I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation and launched the initial website towards Christmas of 2007.
3. Are you connected with an organization or are you organized as nonprofit?
The I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization registered in the State of New York.
4. What do you think had made your use of social media successful?
The old school model of "if you build it, they will come" is now flawed and inapplicable to the emerging consumer trends we see on a generational level when it comes to social networking, peer support, user-generated media, and access to targeted digital content. In addition, we're dealing with such an isolated niche/affinity group, using social media to exploit the lack of community and their unique needs of isolation was a no-brainer. Young adults affected by cancer are no different than young adults without cancer aside from a few attitudinal disparities, which constitutes the affinity group. They have already created their own wikinomics; their own social media universe with profiles, blogs and avatars. Not reinventing the wheel is what has made our use of social media so successful.
5. What challenges did you encounter?
There are over 70,000 young adults diagnosed with cancer every year. It is estimated that there are over 1 million cancer survivors under 40 living in the US today. The challenge is finding them, whether it is in the hospital on the day they are diagnosed or garnering the interest if long-term survivors who may want to put the experience behind them but who we might entice to give back to a community they didn't know existed; a community we have identified, organized and mobilized.
6. What advice would you offer other nonprofits?
Don't start one. That is, of course, if you haven't already. I don't have the exact statistics with me but the overwhelming majority of nonprofits fail because they are started for emotional and not practical reasons. Taking a cue from Google whose mantra is "Don't Be Evil.", I have adopted the philosophy of "Don't Be Duplicative.". Never, ever reinvent the wheel. Odds are there is already in existence a nonprofit that is doing what you would like to do. Find them. Partner with them. Share the wealth. The IRS has made it too easy to start a nonprofit and the for-profit corporate governance mandates of Sarbanes/Oxley are slowly creeping their way into the accountability and transparency of the non-profit sector. If you don't know what you're doing, don't do it. If you don't have a clear, concise need to fill, niche to serve or goal to achieve, get out of the game. With an ever-shrinking pool of public philanthropy coupled with an ever-growing number of watchdog groups and Pharmaceutical sector regulations, always remember, you are under the microscope 24/7.
Are you, by any chance, a dog lover?
I am. But I don't presently own a dog.
Update: Matthew blogged about the interview!