As he created HopeMob.org, the Internet-based non-profit “where generous strangers unite,” techno-humanitarian, Shaun King asked himself: “If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today, how would he do things differently — for the same effect?” A 32-year-old graduate of Atlanta’s Morehouse College, Shaun King is a former pastor himself. He had America’s most revered reverend at the center of his thinking as he considered both the stands HopeMob should take and the tools to use to align with Dr. King’s teachings and actions.
“Dr. King helped the oppressed, focusing on people nobody else was helping at the time. He gave his last speech to sanitation workers. A lot has changed since the 1960s. And if he were alive today, he wouldn’t approach things today exactly the same way as he did then — so neither do we. We internalized his principles and imagined what he would do with them in our own millennial context,” says Shaun. “Forty years of technological advancement has made the world a much smaller place. That’s why HopeMob is about 50 percent domestic and 50 percent international in scope. It’s a natural evolution of the work that great 20th century humanitarians like Dr. King, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi began.” Through their @HOPE account on Twitter with over 350,000 followers (and counting), HopeMob.org tells one story at a time and rallies generous strangers to help people that can’t find help anywhere else.
From funding handicap-accessible facilities for terminally ill, 6-year-old Haley’s home to helping a mother who was a victim of human trafficking in Thailand become an entrepreneur, HopeMob is dedicated to making sure that the stories of the voiceless get heard, and get help from HopeMob donors.
How to lead on the Internet: Lessons from the first ‘Facebook Pastor’
One of the first clergy to use Facebook to reach people, Shaun became known as the “Facebook Pastor” after helping coach a suicidal young man who contacted him via the social network back in 2008. A few weeks later, Facebook asked him to become the first pastor to write an official blog for Facebook on how churches could effectively utilize social media.
“By 2008, I was already using social media extensively to communicate the work I was doing. There were only a few hundred thousand people on Twitter at the time,” Shaun explains. His reputation as an online humanitarian began to grow that same year, when he needed to raise $35,000 for the holidays to benefit Frank L. Stanton Elementary School in Atlanta.
“We built a simple microsite to raise the money. Though it sounds natural today, five years ago no one was doing that. It got picked up by the Today Show, and hundreds of publications around the country. We were able to replicate that formula in 2009 to raise a million dollars to aid victims of the 2009 floods in Greater Atlanta. Then in 2010, we launched A Home in Haiti,” an organization Shaun founded with support from actress Eva Longoria to provide shelter for earthquake survivors. That next year Shaun won the Mashable Award for the Most Creative Social Good Campaign with his celebrity charity Twitter auction called TwitChange.
By this time, people knew Shaun for building lean, efficient charities that spent every penny they could to directly impact those in need. He began to hear regularly from two types of people: People of means who had grown to trust him to point their available time and resources in the right direction, and people with desperate stories who were falling through the cracks.
Thus in April of 2012, Shaun launched HopeMob with a Google-hosted party at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Chartered with the purpose of sharing the stories of the voiceless with people they would otherwise never encounter: “generous strangers” who genuinely wanted to help the less fortunate.
Who does Shaun King look to lead social media by example?
“I’ve taken huge inspiration from Scott Harrison of Charity: Water, and Paull Young, the organization’s Director of Digital Engagement,” says Shaun. “They think like the best brands, and their social media is world-class. HopeMob has adopted that same posture. We operate much more like a tech startup than a typical charity and try to appeal to people in ways that make sense in 2012.”
Since launching just a few months ago, HopeMob has already successfully told and supported nearly 25 stories from all over the world. If you would like to submit a story of a person or cause in need or would like to JOIN THE MOB and help bring people hope, do so today @ HopeMob.org!