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    July 27, 2008

    The power of online crowds, offline

    Last week, driving home, listening to NPR, I heard a fascinating tale about a lady in Texas who decided to get over her divorce by throwing herself into gardening-at her rental property. When her landlords gave her 30 days to get out, the lady posted a desperate plea on a gardening forum: what would happen to her hundreds of day lilies?

    Now I am not making up what happened next: dozens of Texas gardeners got in their trucks and drove over to this lady's house (and we all know Texas is not a small state, so who knows how long some of these people had to drive) and over the course of 2 weekends helped her move every flower, shrub, and tree to her father's yard.

    These people did not get paid, and there was nothing in it for them, other than their love of gardening. The power of strangers meeting to get together to accomplish something outside the web was not lost during this year's presidential primaries-I think the "establishment" was blown away by Huckabee meetups and their spread through the web and the geographic U.S.

    I know that most organizations consider their volunteers as "warm prospects" but converting these volunteers to donors has often proven difficult. I wonder if the reason these people are difficult to convert is precisely because people who are highly engaged in an organization can find direct response fundraising impersonal-they want to give more, they want to take action, they want to be hands-on. They want to get in their truck and drive over and help move flowers, not just pay someone else to do it.

    I haven't quite yet formulated what this all has to do with Gen Yers, other than this is certainly a "hands-on", take control of your future generation. Although I have not met too many Gen Y avid gardeners.

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