Weekly Exchange #11 – Ransoms

“We do not make concessions to terrorists,” [State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie] Harf told reporters. “We do not pay ransoms.”


But should the United States pay ransoms? Should the United States have stumped up the $132 million ISIS reportedly demanded in exchange for journalist James Foley? Should America try and negotiate the release of the other Americans currently held around the world? After all, other countries, notably those in Europe, do pay for the release of their citizens. This is the debate currently underway as James Foley's beheading continues to reverberate through the media, and fellow American journalist Steven Sotloff awaits his fate. And this is the theme of this week's exchange.


First off, an incredible investigation into ransoms by the New York Times, published just on a month ago. It begins in 2003, with three suitcases containing 5 million euros heading into the Sahara Desert. It then moves on to other episodes, revealing an intricate sequence of kidnappings and payoffs (often disguised as “aid”) that the US State Department claims is bankrolling terror:


“The stream of income generated is so significant that internal documents show that as long as five years ago, Al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan was overseeing negotiations for hostages grabbed as far afield as Africa. Moreover, the accounts of survivors held thousands of miles apart show that the three main affiliates of the terrorist group — Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in northern Africa; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen; and the Shabab, in Somalia — are coordinating their efforts and abiding by a common kidnapping protocol.


To minimize the risk to their fighters, the terror affiliates have outsourced the seizing of hostages to criminal groups who work on commission. Negotiators take a reported 10 percent of the ransom, creating an incentive on both sides of the Mediterranean to increase the overall payout, according to former hostages and senior counterterrorism officials.”


As the New York Times' investigation notes, repeatedly, it is the continental European countries that seem most inclined to stump up to get their citizens back. But what is the rationale for countries like Britain and the United States not to? The Economist explains:


“America's policy has developed over time. In the early 1800s the founding fathers stopped paying African rulers for protection from pirates, leading to the Barbary wars. In 1980, after Iranian revolutionaries took 52 Americans hostage, President Jimmy Carter made the policy explicit: “Our position is clear. The United States will not yield to blackmail.” In 2002 George W. Bush reiterated America's stance, saying, “We, of course, don’t pay ransom for any hostages…

…According to David Cohen, a Treasury official who deals with terrorist finances, “Ransom payments lead to future kidnappings, and future kidnappings lead to additional ransom payments. And it all builds the capacity of terrorist organisations to conduct attacks.”


In a column in Politico magazine, Tom Ricks provides one of the most compelling points of view – that of a journalist who has reported from Iraq. His take? He supports the US Government's non-negotiation policy:


“One day in 2007, I was being shown my bedroom at the Washington Post’s bureau and house in Baghdad, where I was spending some time covering the U.S. military side of the war. I noticed an old AK-47 rifle leaning against the wall near the door of my room. The Post’s local security chief, a tough-minded Iraqi, explained that it was for me to use “if they come into the house.” When I heard “them” come upstairs, he advised, I should fire most of the weapon’s magazine through the door, which might hold them off for a few minutes. But, he added, “save one for yourself.”


Moving from the perspective of someone who could be kidnapped to someone who would have to negotiate a ransom, Steve Coll takes us into the training of a Washington Post “operations cell” – a team setup to respond incase one of their journalists is abducted:


“Ransom negotiations are different from other business bargaining, because you don’t sit with your counterpart face to face. It’s harder to read body language and signals. Ransom talks are a call-and-response process, with time lags and some uncertainty about how the other side is hearing your messages. These gaps create risk. The question facing a corporation in our position, he said, would be: What’s your opening bid? This was where our consultant wanted clarity. “There are consultants out there—you can work with them if you want—that will tell you, ‘Open with twenty per cent of the market price.’ That’s a way to go. But I don’t do that. I open at about eighty per cent.

“Twenty per cent,” he continued, “twenty per cent—that’s where you get your mutilations.” Fingers, ears. We indicated our firm agreement with his thinking, should it ever come to that.”


And finally, James Traub gets straight to the heart of the matter and dissects whether paying a ransom would have saved James Foley:


“This raises an agonizing question: Should states pay ransom to kidnappers? If you are a friend or loved one of the victim, the answer is obviously yes. But even a more remote observer could cite the moral argument that the obligation to treat people as ends rather than means — what Kant calls the “categorical imperative” — forbids one to place the life of the abductee in a balance with abstract goods, like “sending a message” that kidnapping doesn't pay. In any case, the consequences of capitulation are remote and hypothetical; the life is terribly real.”


For my own part, I honestly don't know where I stand on this issue. There is no disputing that the kidnapping industrial complex appears to go after Europeans because their countries will pay. But it would be too simple to merely take this statistic as justification for the policies of the United States and Britain. Similarly with the fact that Al Qaeda and others have integrated Kidnapping fundamentally into their operating model. After all, these terror groups are anything if not enterprising. Does anyone believe they wouldn't find another source of revenue? At the same time, America's policy has hardly given it's citizens a free pass. Just look at the amount of American's currently languishing around the world, with little hope that their country will come to their rescue. And who can rightly state there would be more if the US were to negotiate. No, there is no simple answer to this dilemma. No matter what the opinion pages claim. Just endless grey.


The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange Newsletter.


Weekly Exchange #10 – Internal Displacement

Refugees and Asylum Seekers have been making the front pages for decades. Particularly in recent years, refugees crossing the Mediterranean into Southern Europe, the Indian Ocean and Arafura Sea into Australia, and the Rio Grande into the United States (etc.), have sold newspapers and topped political discussion. Even this morning, papers around the world carried the story of an Asylum Seeker vessel capsizing off the coast of Tripoli, taking more than two hundred people with it. What all these media events have in common is that the refugees are trying to seek refuge in developed nations. As a result, their trials and travails receive a lot of attention. Not least because it is easy to paint those dwelling in the recipient countries as the real victims. In this climate, it's unfortunately easy to forget the millions who have fled their homes but remain captive within their own countries.


A new conflict that is drawing much attention is the crisis in the Ukraine. Not least since a plane carrying many people of other nationalities was shot down while flying overhead. But as aid convoys and plane crashes dominate the headlines, another crisis is going all but unnoticed.The blog at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has the story of the two large blocs of internally displaced people (IDPs) currently seeing refuge within the Ukraine:

“In total, there are over 139,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country, and our analysis has found that there are two distinct groups emerging – with 125,000 having fled from eastern Ukraine, and 14,000 from Crimea, mainly to the eastern regions that border Donetsk and Kiev.”


IDMC focuses mainly on the differing futures of these two groups. But another interesting point is the onus of IDPs, and where it falls. While the IDPs in the Ukraine may be faring better than many IDPs – the government of the Ukraine is funding some of the cost of accommodation as well as providing other resources, much of the burden still falls elsewhere:

“Largely it has been the local NGOs, volunteer, and international organisations that have stepped up to assist IDPs in terms of helping them to find employment, finance and housing, as well as providing immediate humanitarian assistance. Local citizens also opened up their own apartments and houses for the displaced.”


Another ongoing conflict churning out IDPs is the one between Israel and Hamas. There are hundreds of thousands – with some estimates going well north of half a million – of IDPs seeking refuge within this tiny enclave. Some who have lost all their possessions to air raids, others who have fled before Israeli warnings. 972Mag and ActiveStills teamed up to bring some heart wrenching pictures and stories of the innocents caught in between:

“Nahed Daoud, age 41, has been staying in an UNRWA school for four days since his family evacuated after Israeli warnings that their neighbours would be bombed, July 16, 2014. Since fleeing, according to Nahed, the Israeli air force bombed their neighbour’s house, badly damaging his house.”

“Palestinians collect their belongings in Shujaiyeh, a neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City, during a ceasefire, July 27, 2014. During the ceasefire on July 26, many Palestinians went back to Shujaiyeh to inspect the damages together with medics who attempted to rescue the injured or collect bodies. Dozens of bodies were collected but many remain as Palestinians do not have all the necessary equipment to dig. Israeli attacks turned the neighbourhood into a scene of utter devastation, with entire buildings flattened and thousands forced to flee.”


But it isn't just the crop of current conflicts who need our attention. Azerbaijan is host to roughly 600,000 Internally Displaced People. Some who have been “displaced” for more than twenty years. In a photoessay entitled “Unresolved Dreams”, Photographer Ed Kashi reveals the lives of those living in limbo, waiting to rebuild:

“Mr. Kashi said his subjects desired to return home once the conflict was resolved, especially the elderly. “They cried of returning to their towns and villages to be free to die in the land they cherish and miss so much. While the kids only know this current situation and seem to be adapting as best as possible in an abject situation, I did not speak to a single one among them wishing to stay if given the choice. They all see these settlements as a temporary situation before they can finally end their refugee life and rebuild their lives in their own lands.”


Much of the media are not equipped to tell the tales of those waiting to rebuild or go home. It is more lucrative to show the fireworks over Gaza or speculate about aid convoys, than show those still waiting for the conflict to end in Azerbaijan. But through photo essays like Ed Kashi's or the research of those at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, we can see that the wounds of war extend much further and survive much longer than is commonly portrayed. And maybe it explains why so many are prepared to risk the perilous waters to start again in other countries.


The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange Newsletter.


Weekly Exchange #9 – Torturing coverage

Ello everybody. I'm back in Australia and the Weekly Exchange is ready for business. We were derailed a couple of months ago as big changes on my radio show demanded more of my time and attention, but let's try again shall we?

This newsletter has already gone through several iterations in it's short life. But here's one more; from now on I shall pick one theme, one idea, or one story (etc.); and serve up related articles on this one subject. Up until now I have merely compiled a list of articles that intrigued me, with a bias towards stories and ideas that have not been covered by the mainstream press. The bias will continue to lean towards the underserved, but instead of a corral of unrelated articles, there will be several articles representing just the one subject. Let's see if this sticks.

This week's theme is the media's coverage of torture. It is inspired by an all too late shift in the way the American media portrays torture, and how this represents lost opportunities. More specifically, and only following a US Senate investigation into Torture (which concluded that it took place) and President Obama admitting that the US “tortured some folks”, The New York Times finally decided to grow a pair and begin calling a spade a spade. In an article, newly installed Executive Editor of the Times, Dean Baquet stated:


“…from now on, The Times will use the word “torture” to describe incidents in which we know for sure that interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information.”


After more than a decade of Orwellian euphemisms such as “enhanced interrogation”, the “paper of record” has decided to quit sacrificing truth and values in a sycophantic bid to remain in the government's good graces. But fault has now been admitted, and the few stories and allusions that were published prove the media knew what was happening. They are culpable for the faux “fair and balanced” debate that was constructed, and the lack of action that allowed the practice to continue, the American public to forget, and no one be held accountable. Bacquet justifies the Times' behaviour by splitting hairs. Claiming that torture has both legal as well as “plain-English” definitions, and the Times was right in avoiding this grey area:


“When the first revelations emerged a decade ago, the situation was murky. The details about what the Central Intelligence Agency did in its interrogation rooms were vague. The word “torture” had a specialised legal meaning as well as a plain-English one. While the methods set off a national debate, the Justice Department insisted that the techniques did not rise to the legal definition of “torture.” The Times described what we knew of the program but avoided a label that was still in dispute, instead using terms like harsh or brutal interrogation methods.”


As Eric Wimple noted, thank God the Times has finally decided to begin deploying “the English language to describe things”. But of course, the Times wasn't alone in this behaviour. In fact, most of the American media went along with the pleasant fiction (including Wemple's Washington Post). In light of recent developments, the Columbia Journalism Review has republished an article taking a look at how American journalists have covered torture since 9/11:


“Without Gall, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, and many other reporters, we might well never have learned of the abuse and torture that occurred in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. But just as sweeping attacks against “the media” are too reductive, so too are plaudits. And when the record on torture coverage is examined in detail, an ambiguous picture emerges: In the post-9/11 days, some reporters offered detailed accusations and reports of abuse and torture, only to be met with skepticism by their own editors. Stories were buried, played down, or ignored — a reluctance that is much diminished but still bubbles up with regard to the culpability of policymakers.”


However, and notably excluding The Times, the tide has been turning for a while. Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair columnist and at the time an advocate of the Iraq War, famously supported “enhanced interrogation” and water boarding in particular. But after Hitchens accepted a challenged to be waterboarded himself, his tune changed. “Believe Me, It's Torture” was the headline of his subsequent account:


“…I have since woken up trying to push the bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”


But surely it shouldn't require a decade, or a journalist actually getting tortured before media outlets come to the conclusion that torture is torture? As the Columbia Journalism Review article showed, the American media had plenty of opportunity to highlight torture and other abuses. If only they stopped deferring to power and instead held it to account. This brings us to a brilliant article from last year by Ron Unz, where he highlights several other areas in which the American media have pursued other agendas, and society has paid the price:


“The realisation that the world is often quite different from what is presented in our leading newspapers and magazines is not an easy conclusion for most educated Americans to accept, or at least that was true in my own case. For decades, I have closely read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two other major newspapers every morning, supplemented by a wide variety of weekly or monthly opinion magazines. Their biases in certain areas had always been apparent to me. But I felt confident that by comparing and contrasting the claims of these different publications and applying some common sense, I could obtain a reasonably accurate version of reality. I was mistaken.”


The American media missed a great opportunity to fulfill their role as watchdogs of democracy when it came to torture. And it has cost America greatly in terms of moral standing and even the safety and viability of their rights, democracy and institutions. Perhaps what's worse, and as Professor Jay Rosen has highlighted, even a powerful institution such as the Times only reversed course after the government it's meant to hold to account. The Times only moved once the government changed the arithmetic on the “production of innocence”:


“Baquet's note doesn’t mention Obama’s concession on August 1. “We crossed a line and that needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that.” The president is being more direct than ever: yes, we tortured people. The Senate Intelligence committee report, with lots of details about torture, will be coming out soon. Fights about its release could be making news for weeks. Linguistically, the Times was headed for a crash if everyone in the political system could talk of torture (and be quoted on it) but Times reporters couldn’t say that themselves. The game was up. When the reporters lobbied for release, what choice did Baquet have?”


That's all for this week's Exchange. If you have anything to say about media coverage of torture you can comment on the website or drop me a line at mail@joshnicholas.com


The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange.






The media must learn to say no

Thursday night saw one of the greatest pieces of political theatre Australia has seen in a long while – mining billionaire, sometime climate skeptic, freshly minted MP, and cross-bench leader Clive Palmer taking the stage with former US Vice President Al Gore. He announced what we all knew he would announce – his support for the end of Australia’s carbon tax. But this was sweetened for environmentalists with support for some (relatively) minor policies and institutions (Renewable Energy Target, Clean Energy Finance Corporation), and a gimmicky backing of a new emissions trading scheme (it’s floating price will be conditional on similar policies being adopted by our major trading partners).

Twitter and the mainstream press erupted. The story became that Clive Palmer had changed his mind and that Australia is back on track for sensible climate policy. And this angle appeared wall to wall. But now that the dust has settled, the media has realised they have been played. Which makes for entertaining reading.

On Wednesday, he had the atten­tion of the Canberra press gallery for the entire day. When word leaked out that he had hired the Great Hall for a press conference to announce his position on the carbon tax, the entire gallery was captured. No one had ever used the Great Hall for something so ordinary as a press conference.

Ministers and major-party leaders usually garner a crappy meeting room, which always seems adequate for their purposes. These hardened veterans of the fourth estate all knew they were being played — and they all knew they had absolutely no way of avoiding exactly that.

This is just a bit of a brilliant article in The Australian by former Labor Minister Graham Richardson. Richo goes on to talk about Palmer’s history as a press officer, and expound on his penchant for grabbing the media’s attention with brilliant stunts, such as his dinosaur theme park and Titanic replica.

Whatever you may think of Palmer, he is very big news. His every utterance, no matter how banal, offensive or disingenuous, gets front-page or prominent coverage.

The need for every outfit to cover Palmer’s every flourish and be the first to share his “change of heart” is a drastic flaw in an industry so vital for our governance. Everyone led with this, scared they would lose audience to their rivals, even if they didn’t have time to sufficiently process what had happened. The result? Casual media watchers will be left with the impression that those who want action on climate change have scored a victory. The media must learn to say no.


What can we take away from Typhoon Haiyan?

For my last few interviews on Typhoon Haiyan, I decided to look at what we can learn from the superstorm and it’s aftermath. From previous interviews, I know that the Philippines were well warned and the evacuations were mostly effective. Everyone I talked to also pointed out the scientific consensus that future storms will be worse (if not more frequent), and that there is a serious need to alleviate underlying poverty in disaster prone areas. The impact will not be as great if the pre-existing conditions are not as dire, the reasoning goes.

To see what the Philippines government and countries like Australia can do to move the dial on poverty in such places, I spoke withProfessor Stephen Howes, Director at the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University:



(Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr)

As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


More coverage of Typhoon Haiyan

As is should be obvious from my last couple of posts, I have been making a series of segments for The Wire on last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. So far I have posted an interview with Justin Morgan of Oxfam and Todd Smith of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. This time an interview with the Philippines’ Red Cross Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang. We covered more of the damage wrought by the super storm as well as what the Red Cross is up to:




(Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr)

As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.

What is a Typhoon anyway?

The media coverage of Typhoon Haiyan was so hectic that I have decided to create a series clearing up some of the finer details. In this interview with Todd Smith, Northern Territory Regional Manager of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, I looked into what exactly a typhoon is, how we spot and predict them, and what made Typhoon Haiyan so different;




(Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr)

As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


What’s going on in the Philippines?

It’s been many months since Typhoon Haiyan disappeared off of the front pages, yet the work to set the Philippines right continues. The disaster left more than eight thousand dead, affected up to eleven million people, and at it’s peak it covered the Philippines from coast to coast. In it’s wake is crippled infrastructure, the wreckage of industry after industry, and a clean up bill in the billions. As part of a series I am producing for The Wire, I spoke to Justin Morgan, the Philippines Country Director for Oxfam, about what exactly happened and the work still left to do.



(Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr)

As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


Guest Post: Lessons in Crowdfunding

Hey everyone!

As some of you may know – we spent most of February and March running a crowdfunding campaign for the Earthship Community Center in Kapita, Malawi. Crowdfunding is something we’ve been doing for a while but on a much smaller scale – this was our largest effort yet! Raising AUD 17,840 in a month is no small feat for a small organisation. We thought we’d take this opportunity to share a few insights from our campaign that may help you with your projects AND thank our awesome supporters.

So here we go….

Step 1 – Be clear on the Who, What and Why

It’s important to be clear about who you are impacting , the specifics of what is going to be done with the money raised (the more tangible the better) and why this is important to you/ your team. We are emotional beings and as per the ever popular Simon Sinek TED Talk, the “Why” is incredibly important. Make sure that passion and motivation is shared across your campaign. Once you have an idea about the “Who, What and Why”, get it down on a one pager. Share it with your team and get some feedback on how it can be refined. This was a useful process for us and formed the core of our campaign copy.

The “What” extends  to your fundraising goal – as per this rather famous Forbes article – you need to be smart about it. In addition to what your project requires in terms of finance,  consider the size of your organisation and its network when deciding on a goal. $5,000 is often a comfortable goal, $10,000 a challenge and anything beyond requires some serious confidence in our view! Better to stage small wins than to go big and fall flat we say.

Overall, whether it is your text copy or your fundraising – we urge you to reflect on whether LESS can be MORE?


Step 2 – Choose the right platform

We’ve used a range of crowd-funding platforms – both directly and through partner organisations – and overall we’ve had positive experiences. Chuffed is a relatively new player on the crowd-funding campaign but we are very impressed by their offering and the caliber of their team. Their offering was the most versatile for us in that their model allows us to keep ALL the funds we raise, there are no admin fees and their donation system is login free (less hassles for your supporters). Further to this, Prashan and his team were amazing right throughout the process – from the initial conceptualization of the project  to spurring us on through the campaign and being keen to debrief and take feedback on board.  While the choice of platform is contingent on the type of project and your objective(s), We at Empower HQ and Empower Malawi give Chuffed a big thumbs up!  - Don’t take our word for it – see how they stack up against other platforms and decide - https://www.chuffed.org/compare/


crowdfunding profile










Step 3 – Mobilise your Tribe

2-3 weeks before you decide to launch your campaign, engage your core supporters and ask them if they’d be willing to be drivers of your campaign. We used the rather militaristic title  “Kapita Soldiers” and managed to create a Facebook Group of over 20+ supporters to help drive our efforts on social media. This was largely achieved through a call out to our main network via  email and Facebook.  In our case, this consisted of core Empower volunteers and people who took part in the initial Earthship build in Malawi a few months prior. The crux here is to think about the people who care deeply about your project and the impact its creating/will create. You want to tap into people who are passionate about the same issue – who share your “Why”.

Just a note on mobilising your Tribe, be sure to tap into them when you are developing copy or even a video for your campaign. They can be an invaluable source of feedback – we made atleast 5 revisions to our campaign copy prior to launch thanks to our soldiers.You’d be amazed by what a small team of “soldiers” can do for your campaign…and the best part is that they feel involved and feel a deeper sense of ownership. Remember to keep requests of your tribe short and simple. 


Setup 4 -Have a Strong Video

Let’s face it, text and pictures only do so much these days. A video goes a long way towards contextualizing your project and making it more “real”.  In our view, time spent on a great video is time well spent.  Webcam videos have their place but we recommend cranking out the HD gear (what doesn’t have HD capability these days?!) and crafting a video that is more than just talking heads. The “Who, What, Why” should come through and hopefully some action shots and music for good measure. Here’s what we did , typically we’d recommend something that clocks in around 2-3mins (short and snappy)

Step 5: Plan, Plan, Plan

Sounds blatantly obvious but its easy to get caught up in the excitement of a crowdfunding effort and lose sight of the fact that the success of your campaign is largely determined by the extent of/or the lack of planning. This was certainly the case for us as well. We invested a lot of time into thinking about things like how Empower and Earthship should schedule social media posts and newsletter posts across the 4 week campaign. This was mostly a case of using our ammunition strategically – no shooting from the hip and blasting all our collective networks at once. It was carefully staged – alternating between platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Twitter, Email) and different segments of our network.  We would definite recommend doing a simple spreadhseet and looking at the weekly flow of posts. This would allow you to strategize the launch, the mid point and the adrenaline fueled final push! If you have a partner organisation, consider how you can mobilise their networks, if you have media contacts try and schedule write ups for different stages of the campaign.  We managed to get this plug for our campaign early on  (Thanks Tas!)- Shoe String Media.

Another thing we planned trough were the perks/rewards (again get feedback from your Tribe) and the development of social media message templates for your supporters. Overall we found strong, confident langauge worked best! Also stressing that people were getting rewards for their contributions – as opposed to it being a standard donation – there’s a value exchange.

The easier you make it for your Tribe to spread the word the better.On that note, one tool we feel we ought to have used from the start is Thunderclap! It’s a great tool that allows you to harmonize the social media networks of your supporters into one single blast. For example if you get a 100 people to sign up to a free thunderclap, you are essentially creating a wave of 100 posts at the same time (e.g. 12noon Tuesday). This really helps break through the clutter of newsfeeds , though we used it in Week 2 – we think its better suited to a launch or final push strategy.










Step 6 – Start Strong, Host a Launch Event 

A great opportunity to involve your Tribe, get some publicity and generate some buzz for your campaign. Having a physical event was a big plus for us and we’d definitely recommend it. We organised a simple venue, crowd-sourced food from the Tribe  and hosted a simple launch event. The event itself was free and largely casual. There was a 10min presentation on Empower as an organisation to contextualize the campaign and a showing of the clip above. The main call to action was for people to SHARE the campaign on Facebook. We had over 30 people attend the event and this helped generate some great momentum from the get go. We found that the event helped generate deeper, sustained support for the project e.g. donated auction items, company matching grants etc (all in addition to the actual crowd funding campaign).

This all culminated in us starting VERY strong. We ensured that our donation count was never at $0 at the start of the campaign and that we have well over 50+ people sharing the campaign within the first 12 hours of the campaign.


Step 7 – Follow the Plan and Acknowledge

We stuck to the spreadsheet schedule we developed for the campaign. Our Social Media Manager Thaylise did an awesome job of scheduling a whole set of posts on Hootsuite across all our platforms to ensure we didn’t miss a beat. Overall we found that Facebook and Newsletters were the most effective medium in terms of conversion to donations and shares.

We had shifts on social media to acknowledge all our contributors every 48 hours – usually through shout outs and tagging photos on Facebook.


Step 8 – Push!

Make no mistake – you’ve got to push to the end.We called our core group “soldiers” for a reason!  It’s not over until the clock runs out and if you are well ahead of your goal…set a new one! We were floored by how dramatically the donations came in over the last 3 days of the campaign. This was largely due to good planning in terms of the scheduled posts and us being really clear about the deficit. Our campaign went down to the wire (last 24 hours), there were adimittedly times in Week 3-4 where we felt like we could settle $15,000 but we made a conscious decision to charge forward and not get complacent.

Here are some examples of how we pushed on:


 Step 9 – Celebrate!

It’s so important to celebrate all the wins, big or small and acknowledge the people who believed in your campaign. Believe me when I say I met many good friends who confessed that they didn’t think we’d reach our goal!  To me, this really reinforced the value of ones core team and soldiers. These are people – regardless of the outcome – who believe in your  “Why” and have given their time and effort to make things happen. Make they know that they are valued.

This may be a funkier depiction of how I celebrated us reaching our goal….

Hope this has been helpful! Feel free to drop  a comment below  if you’d like more information  or have questions. Go forth and make awesome things happen gorgeous people!


Over and Out,


This post originally appeared on the Empower blog

Recent Twitterings: