Editor’s note: this post is meant as a sincere THANK YOU to all of those people who donated, Tweeted, and helped to spread the word about an extremely ill stray dog who is now on the mend and known as Lilly. Without your help and support I am not sure she would have survived. Every single penny that you donated went directly to her care. This brief post is my attempt to give something back to the greater Twitter community at large. Hopefully it will inspire or help those of you who have been hesitant about using Twitter and social media to garner support for ‘your cause’.
Twitter as Awareness & Fundraising Tool
There have been many awareness and fundraising campaigns on Twitter. Organizations, individuals, and concerned citizens on a global scale have all tapped into the power of Twitter while seeking assistance.
Heck, I joined Twitter about a year ago looking to connect with like-minded humanitarians because Leo Babauta, Dan Clements, Andrew Flusche, and I were getting ready to launch Train for Humanity (a non-profit we created to help raise awareness and funds for orphans and refugees in Darfur).
Depending on who you follow it’s not uncommon on any given day to read in your Twitter stream about people raising funds for every kind of imaginable cause; from animal rescue and literacy, to famine and disease, and everything in between.
It truly is amazing that with Twitter we have the capacity to connect, build and earn trust, and help each other via a simple 140-character Internet application. Groundbreaking.
At this point in time Twitter is quite possibly the best tool for connecting people to causes. (Yes, FaceBook is amazing too.)
However, sometimes you have to wonder, who is on the other end of those pleas for assistance
Lilly’s Twitter Story
My wife works closely with the local rescue group, Animal Welfare of Culebra, here on our little 7×3 mile island in the Caribbean. So in early June when a stray dog all of a sudden collapsed from exhaustion across the street from us, we knew we had no choice but to help.
Unfortunately, there is no veterinarian on our island and thus the stray dog (now known as Lilly) had to be sent to Fajardo by ferry. When the prognosis came in via a phone call, it was not good. She was suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, mange, and worst of all, the very deadly heartworm parasite.
The outlook for Lilly was not good and she needed a lot of help.
Regardless, my wife and I were committed to paying for Lilly’s care out of pocket because Animal Welfare of Culebra receives NO outside grants or federal funding. The organization survives solely on monetary donations from concerned citizens. They are the epitome of a grassroots organization.
With nothing to lose, I decided to send out a simple Tweet:
“Very sweet dog collapsed across the street from our house http://bit.ly/OFM8H and needs your help.”
I have a relatively low ‘Follower’ count, but the message did get re-tweeted a bit and some fantastic folks donated to help offset the cost of Lilly’s care.
Then came more bad news!
On June 8th we were quite worried about Lilly because the veterinarian had called us and he did not know if the heartworm had infiltrated her deeper than previously thought, thus making her too weak for treatment.
Fortunately, later on in the day the diagnostics came back with good news for Lilly. Though quite sick, she could proceed with her course of medication.
While pondering various other ways to help get Lilly well, I am not sure how the thought came about, but I decided to send the following “@” message to Alyssa Milano:
About five minutes later, Alyssa sent out the Tweet below:
Not only did Alyssa make an extremely generous donation towards Lilly’s care, but also upon her request, her (100,000 plus) followers started a massive re-tweeting campaign.
As you can see from the traffic spike below, the site CulebraBlog, which typically gets 100 niche visitors a day, skyrocketed to almost 3,000 unique visitors who were interested in reading about Lilly, spreading the word, and potentially helping to support her care.
In the end, with thanks to the Twitter community, not only did we help to increase awareness for all stray and maltreated dogs (at least I hope!), but through the kindness of complete strangers within 24 hours we raised about $1000 for Lilly’s medical care. (All funds were donated directly to Animal Welfare of Culebra, which is a registered non-profit in Puerto Rico and subsequently applied to Lilly’s vet bill.)
The Good News!
The recovery of this dog, Lilly, who’s right here in front of me, specifically, her before and after, is just amazing. And it’s not just her physical changes but her whole demeanor and personality. She has gone from being completely lifeless and lethargic to an exuberant and energetic (frisky?) pup.
If you would like to connect with me on Twitter, or if there is anything that I can do for you, ping me @mark_hayward.