We’ve had a busy few days here at Open.
Last Tuesday evening we got the call from the British Red Cross, telling us about the One Love Manchester benefit concert for those affected by the terrorist attacks in Manchester and asking for our help with the fundraising. Of course we said yes.
Before I knew it, it was Sunday morning and I was heading to Manchester to be Open’s representative in the stadium. The atmosphere was incredible, very emotional but unbelievably positive. Ariana Grande and her team got the tone of the event spot on. And we worked with the British Red Cross to position the fundraising as an opportunity to give, rather than a direct call to action. By the end of the night we’d helped to raise more than £2 million from over 400,000 people who sent a text.
Thanks to the amazing teams at the British Red Cross and Open, we did in days what usually takes weeks. And we’re incredibly proud to have been part of it.
“Добро пожаловать в 20 век”
That’s Welcome to the 20th century in Russian. Because this week feels like we’re looking 100 years back in time.
Reports of concentration camps have surfaced. And the stories aren’t unclosed cases from Nazi-Germany, or investigations into 1940s European governments. They are stories of today. Of camps that exist as I write this.
Hundreds of gay, and possibly bisexual men have been captured, thrown into camps, tortured and some even killed in the Chechen Republic of Russia (Chechnya). The Chechen government not only deny this, but refuse to acknowledge that gay men exist in their country.
So, in the words of the chant that resonated outside the Russian Embassy last night…
“When our community is under attack, what do we do? Stand Up. Fight Back.”
As Fiona and I stood among the crowds, surrounded by pink flowers, rainbows, homemade signs and powerful chants, there was an overwhelming feeling of solidarity. Not only with those standing next to us, but with those who are thousands of miles away, who don’t share our rights. And our freedoms to love who we love and be who we are.
If our goal is to create change, is it always best to ask for money upfront? Probably not. People are sociable. They want to stand (in person or online) alongside others who share their beliefs. Together people are stronger.
Demonstrating and protesting is hands on. It’s in the moment. It is a moment. You might even call it experiential marketing.
For the likes of Amnesty and Stonewall, it’s inherent to their being. But I feel that other charities have a huge opportunity to engage their supporters to stand with them on the issues they care about. It may not create immediate donations, but it could well create long-term relationships, trust, and perhaps most importantly, change.
To show your support, add your name to Amnesty’s petition here…
So the last couple of weeks have been a bit of an Open America whirlwind.
It began with a meeting at the end of February with a group of big shot TV producers who had the big idea to ask their A-list celebrity friends (the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Tom Hanks), to take part in a telethon to raise money for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
It was going to be the first major telethon to be broadcast on Facebook using Facebook Live and it was going to be the first telethon that used brand new Facebook Donate functionality, that’s currently only available in the USA.
Plus they wanted to do it quickly. The live date was fixed for four weeks later on March 31st.
While the producers and writers are brilliant at comedy and putting on a live show, they recognised that they needed some help with the fundraising. That’s where Open America came in. A team of Open staff, (Fiona, Ali, James Dawe and me) travelled to New York and set up base in the studio where the telethon was going to be hosted.
I asked a friend who works in TV for advice before we left. She said “show no fear” and “anything is possible”. How right she was. In the ten days between landing and the show starting the team achieved an incredible amount.
But that’s just a list. What we actually did was..
But the main thing I learned is that if you put the right team together, and give them the accountability and responsibility required to deliver, they will deliver a high volume of high quality work that gets results. And it will be a lot of fun.
We’re convinced that we’ll be doing more campaigns that fuse community building and fundraising over the coming months. So if you want to know more about what we did, what we learnt and how we can apply our learnings in the UK, let me know.
Paul de Gregorio