An Interview With Danny Brown of the 12for12k Challenge

Danny Brown is the founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a not-for-profit fundraising effort aiming to raise $12,000 for 12 different charities by the end of 2009. I had the chance to ask Danny a few questions about 12for12k, PodCamp Toronto and his approach to social media.

Can you tell me a little about yourself? Name, rank, number… 

My name’s Danny Brown, and I’m the owner of Press Release PR, a boutique agency bringing together traditional PR and social media. I’m also the founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a unique fund-raising initiative using social media for good. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland and now living in the *sunny* climes of Toronto, Canada.   

You recently launched the 12for12k Challenge. Tell me about it.

The 12for12k Challenge is a social media-led non-profit initiative for 2009. The idea is simple – 12 months, 12 different charities, 1200 people, $12,000 per charity. All it takes is to donate $10 to the chosen charity – not a lot, but an amount that can mean the difference between life and death to millions worldwide, at home and abroad. 

What causes are you supporting through the challenge?

The first charity chosen is War Child Canada, which helps kids in war-torn communities. If you have young children of your own, picture them with a rifle in their hand; picture them clearing minefields with their bare hands; then picture them without limbs because of this. No child should be made a soldier – which is why we support War Child. While I can’t mention others yet due to due diligence reports, I can say that we’ll be supporting animal charities, inner-city slum restoration, cancer research and more – all with both a local and international reach.

How have you gotten the word out about the challenge?

We deliberately set out to use social media for our fund-raising, purely from it having a wider reach and myself and the partners on 12for12k are all active users in the social media scene. We’re using Twitter, Facebook, blogs and video sharing sites to get the message out. We have some of the social media “giants” blogging and making videos. We’re also looking at corporate sponsors and some offline initiatives to help spread the word as far as possible.  

What results have you seen so far?

I’ll be honest, a little mixed so far. We’ve had great interest from the media – CityNews Toronto, local newspapers and web news shows have all got behind us. Donations have been slow off the mark, with us still to break the $1,000 barrier as I write (update: that barrier has now been broken). With just over 2 weeks until the end of January, we’re behind. However, we’ve finally received a PayPal option from War Child which is helping, we’re getting some fresh impetus from some of the social media leaders, we have a ChipIn widget now… People are back to work and paychecks are coming in now, so we’re optimistic the post-holiday lull is over. 

It feels like you personally have exploded onto the social media scene in the last few months. How long have you been into the social media scene?

Thank you. I guess it depends on what we class as social media…  I’ve always been a proponent of online tools and mediums, from old IM chatrooms to forums and more. So, as far as that goes, probably just under 10 years. If we’re talking about today’s definitions (Twitter, Friendfeed, delicious, etc) then I guess closer to 2-3 years. Though it’s only really 2007 that I started blogging seriously from a business standpoint (personal blogging was always “take it or leave it”).

Which tools have you found the most useful since you got into this scene?

I know it probably seems everyone is saying it, but definitely Twitter has to be at the top. The amount of smart and influential connections I’ve made (like with your good self) never fails to amaze me. Anyone not on Twitter yet is seriously missing out. Google Alerts and for monitoring client news. BackType for seeing what’s being said in the blogosphere. Technorati (to a degree), LinkedIn and Flickr (surprisingly effective for presentations) along with SlideShare.

How many PodCamps have you been to?

Am I allowed to say I’m a PodCamp virgin, or will I be castigated?   This one in Toronto will be my first – timescales and locations have worked against me in the past. But I’m really looking forward to breaking my duck and connecting with people that I learn from on a daily basis.

Who’s sessions are you most looking forward to at PodCamp Toronto 2009?

  • Video MicroBlogging from Adele McAlear (looking to introduce video blogging to my own one this year)
  • The Social Media Funnel with Keith Burtis – curious to see Best Buy’s take on social media 
  • State of the Union Discussion with Collin Douma
  • Social Media Monitoring and Analysis by some guy called Dave Fleet… 
  • Government 2.0 with Mike Kujawski

These are some of the ones I don’t want to miss, although there looks to be some great speakers/subjects over the two days.

What are you hoping to get out of PodCamp Toronto this year?

Probably a better understanding of how different industries are using social media. I obviously approach it from a PR/client slant, but I’m interested how it’s being applied by less obvious industries. Also, using existing tools and applications more effectively. Last, but by no means least, making great new connections and friends to add to the superb collection I’m already grateful for having.