DoSomething
Podcast #43 — Aired November 6, 2014

You’re never too young to make a difference. This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’re talking about DoSomething.org, an organization that helps young people tackle campaigns that impact a multitude of causes, from poverty, to bullying, to the environment. Our guest is Aria Finger, COO of DoSomething.org. Finger will discuss how 3 million young people are helping to make the world a better place and how you can get involved. Tune in every week to hear new guests share how they are making the world a better place and to learn how you can become a BetterWorldian!

 

 

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Aria Finger
COO, DoSomething

As Chief Operating Officer, Aria Finger oversees the business development, finance and campaigns departments at DoSomething.org, the national not-for-profit that empowers millions of young people to take action around causes they are passionate about. With her cause-related marketing experience, Finger has managed initiatives with Johnson & Johnson, Aéropostale, Sprint, American Express and other top brands. She has spoken at numerous conferences including a panel on youth unemployment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During her tenure at DoSomething.org, Aria launched their Teens for Jeans campaign which now clothes half of all homeless children in America each year. Finger is also the Founder and President of TMI, a subsidiary agency of DoSomething.org that advises brands and organizations on young people, technology & social change.Aria earned a BA in economics and political science from Washington University in St. Louis, and completed the Executive Program for

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Our guest this week is DoSomething Chief Operating Officer Aria Finger. As COO, Aria oversees the business development, finance and campaigns departments at DoSomething.org, the national not-for-profit that empowers millions of young people to take action around causes they are passionate about. With her cause-related marketing experience, Finger has managed initiatives with Johnson & Johnson, Sprint, American Express, and other top brands. She has spoken at numerous conferences, including a panel on youth unemployment at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. During her tenure at DoSomthing.org, Aria launched their Teens for Jeans campaign which now clothes half of all homeless children in America each year. Finger is also the Founder and President of TMI, a subsidiary agency of DoSomething.org that advises brands and organizations on young people, technology, and social changes. Aria earned a BA in economics and political science from Washington University in St. Louis, and completed the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Aria has been highlighted in the New York Times, Fast Company, and was named the 2012 Crain's New York Business list of 40 under 40 and featured on the cover. Hi, Aria. It's so great to have you today on BetterWorldians Radio. Thanks for coming on board.

Aria Finger
It's a pleasure to be here.

Raymond Hansell
So, to begin with, why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about DoSomething.org? What does the organization actually do?

Aria Finger
DoSomething.org is actually the largest organization for young people and social change in the U.S. and actually now the world since we expanded internationally a few months ago. And it is our whole goal to get young people who are passionate about causes, or who might be passionate about causes and just don't know it yet, to help them find that cause and join a campaign to take action and make the world a better place. Every cause from homelessness to poverty to health to self-esteem, we want young people to do it all.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm. It sounds very ambitious. And it sounds, as our listeners will hear, that you guys have made tremendous progress in the past couple decades. Now I understand that DoSomething.org was created in the early '90s, over 20 years ago, by Andrew Shue, who is an actor known very well for his work on Melrose Place. What inspired him to start this organization in the first place.

Aria Finger
So Andrew was a lifelong volunteer. He grew up as a Boy Scout. He actually started an organization that helped pair young people with senior citizens in high school for them to visit senior citizens who might be lonely or isolated and mow their lawns, and chop their wood, and help them go to the grocery store, so he had this sort of giving back in his DNA. And he had also been a lifelong athlete and he wanted to make volunteerism as cool and fun as after school sports. And so he thought, you know, how can I do this. How can I create this cultural shift? And so back in 1993, as you said, he was on Melrose Place, he was fantastically famous, he was one of People's Sexiest Men Alive, and he asked Aaron Spelling, the producer of the show, you know, can I have 30 seconds at the end of the show to talk about this new NGO that I'm launching. And Aaron Spelling thankfully said yes, and Andrew Shue, along with his cast members from Melrose Place and 90210 and along with his sister Elisabeth, they launched DoSomething.org back in 1993, you know, 21 years ago.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm. Now you guys were established well before the explosion of the internet and social media, so how has your organization evolved in those years?

Aria Finger
So DoSomething used to have a model of local offices, and sort of back then there wasn't any alternative because you needed bricks and mortar because, of course, the internet was nascent, there was no social media, there was no Facebook, no YouTube, no nothing. And so, since then, our lives have become actually a little bit easier. We've been able to put everything online. So when Nancy Lublin, our current CEO, when she joined in 2003, she actually shut down the local offices. And 2003 was the year after Friendster and the year before Facebook and she knew that there was an explosion coming. Obviously, the internet already existed, but sort of this explosion of social networking was just taking off. So now we are able to be a national, you know, international organization with just one office in the U.S. and then our affiliate offices across the globe. So I think it's allowed us to be quicker, to respond better to young people, to customize our messaging to them, and ultimately it has allowed us to be more effective sort of using these digital tools to get young people to do good stuff in the real world on the ground.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm. M-hmm. So how have the issues that you've focused on changed over the last 20 years? Where are you now today that you weren't 20 years ago?

Aria Finger
So we are always true to the young people that we serve. We serve young people aged 13 to 25, predominantly sort of high school students and college students, and we don't attack tater tot issues. So I'll just tell you, a tater tot issue tater tot day is a high school student's favorite day in the school cafeteria. It's awesome. Who doesn't love tater tots? And now tater tots aren't necessarily good for you, but we're not going to be the organization that takes away your tater tots. We're going to be the organization that empowers young people to have their friends fight so that everyone can get tater tots or so that their friends in other schools get the nutritious lunch that they are demanding, but we're never going to sort of shove an idea down a young person's throat. So we've always covered the issues that young people care about. About five years ago we weren't even covering financial literacy, for instance, because young people thought that wasn't important to them. Now with the explosion of student debt and the financial crisis, young people are saying, no, this is really important. Similarly, bullying has been a cause that in the last two to three years has become really important to young people and so we're doing more bullying campaigns than every before. But we're letting young people lead. We just amplify their passions and give them really easy and fun ways to take action, but we listen to them.

Raymond Hansell
Well I'm sure our listeners out there that are big fans of tater tots have just breathed a sigh of relief knowing that.

Aria Finger
Exactly.

Raymond Hansell
Tater tots are protected. So, in the meantime, now I've heard you say that this work that you do here is pretty ordain for you. You came, I think, from what we understand, from a family of activists. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Aria Finger
Sure. And so my dad had sort of been in education his whole life. My mom is a piano teacher, also education is very important to her. You know, my dad protested the war from a young age. I was grown with sort of this activist bent, this fairness is so important, you know, equality, all of these fantastic ideals. And so I think that it's no surprise that I am where I am because growing up I was sort of inundated with all of these causes that are important, and that's one of the things I love about DoSomething. Of course, I'm more passionate about some issues than others, but here I get to focus on all of them. Tomorrow I can talk about education reform with teenagers and the following day I can talk about sustainability on campus with college students, and so I think it's just a real privilege to be able to make a difference on such a vast array of issues.

Raymond Hansell
Is that primarily what drew you to the organization is the variety, the diversity of issues that we're talking about here?

Aria Finger
Well, truly, when I came here I was 22 and I needed a job. No, in all honesty, I had applied for a lot of non-profit jobs in New York City. I'm from here, my family was here, and so I wanted to stay close. I think the exciting thing about DoSomething was both the focus on a vast array of issues but also the fact that they, we, we really put our money where our mouth is in the sense that our whole being is about empowering young people and believing in young people and it's the same thing within the organization. We allow 22-year-olds to go to important meetings with CMOs. We say that, oh, sure, you've been here a year and you're 23, like, you can go make that amazing speech. We don't let sort of age keep you back whether you're a DoSomething member, or a DoSomething intern, or a DoSomething employee. And I think that was really fantastic that my boss really believed in me from a young age. What if I had gone to some other big organization or big corporation? I probably wouldn't have been given the same exposure.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm. And do you think that's what draws teens and young people to DoSomething.org as well?

Aria Finger
Yeah! We believe in them. I mean, I can't tell you how many times we'll get a note from a teenager that says, hey, you know, I want to give this speech about cancer at the school assembly because my aunt has breast cancer and I learned about it but my principal doesn't trust me. Can you write a note that says I'm doing it on behalf of DoSomething? It'll go a long way or it'll mean a lot. So I think, you know, especially if high school students are constantly being bombarded with people telling them, you know, have your parents sign this permission slip, or you're not old enough to do this, or you're a future leader, you're an emerging leader, it's like all of these terrible things. And we're the organization that says, oh, you're 16 and you're passionate, you're not a future leader, you're not an emerging leader, you're a leader right now. With everything that you have at your disposal, you can make real change and don't wait.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm. Is that how you begin to get the teens involved in the first place, what you just described?

Aria Finger
You know what? Again, we make it really easy to get involved. We say that sort of our rules for our campaigns are that all of our campaigns have to be big, loud, and easy. And big means they have to be able to be done by hundreds of thousands of people. So whether you're a 15-year-old in Paducah, Kentucky or a 20-year-old in New York City, you can do this campaign because it's built for scale. Loud is that we do things differently. This isn't sort of your grandma's canned food drive. If you do a campaign with DoSomething, you'll know that it's uniquely DoSomething because we make it fun and we make it exciting and we make it accessible. And then the third is easy. We don't want it to be hard. We want it to be really easy for you to get involved in social change. Of course, you'll go on to do many more campaigns and tackle many harder obstacles, but to get involved in the first place should be easy because we want to hook you for life. So if we create these campaigns that are big, loud, and easy, we know that we will attract young people, some of them who have been volunteering for their whole life and many of whom have been quietly passionate or wondering about things but have never been given a real opportunity to take action on them.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm. Once again I shout out to the people there at Paducah, Kentucky because here's another opportunity that you may have thought you were left out of but you're not. You're involved. So I know there's a wide range of programs at DoSomething.org. Is that intentional for that variety? How many programs are there exactly?

Aria Finger
So right now we have 200 campaigns. Last year we actually only ran 25 but we scaled we essentially 10 X'ed our number of programs because our brand promise is any cause, any time, anywhere. And so we want to make sure that if you're a young person and you care about homelessness, you come to our website in May, there is something for you to do. Or you care about a niche cause that maybe not a lot of other people care about, but if that's your cause, we should give you something to do. So that's why we have this diversity of causes, because we want to make sure that we're a big tent. No one should feel like social change is exclusive. We are very inclusive in everything that we do.

Raymond Hansell
Well DoSomething is doing a lot. I'm not sure whether that title should be called Do Everything and Do It Well because it's an amazing story. We're going to hear more about this amazing story with Aria after the break. But we're going to take a short break right now and we'll be talking when I come back with MarySue and Aria. In the meantime, I would like to offer this challenge to all of our listeners. If you know someone whose acts, no matter how small, are making a big difference in the lives of other people, we'd love to hear about them. Please send us an email at Radio at BetterWorldians dot com. We'll be right back.

Raymond Hansell
You're listening to BetterWorldians Radio. We're speaking with Aria Finger, the COO of DoSomething.org, an organization that helps young people tackle campaigns that impact a multitude of causes from poverty to bullying to the environment. And now let me welcome back Aria and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi, Aria. How are you doing?

Aria Finger
I'm great. Thanks. How are you?

MarySue Hansell
Wonderful. You know, let's talk more about some of those great campaigns that you're running. And one that I was interested in was the Science Sleuth. Let's Do Something About Science Sleuth. Can you tell our listeners a bit about that?

Aria Finger
Absolutely. So we were actually in a meeting with 3M about a year ago, and they're the folks who make Post-It Notes, that's what they're best known for, but they actually do a million incredible things. We visited their innovation labs and we learned how to pull apart metal, and how credit cards are made, and about adhesive paper, and it was all this really awesome stuff that young people don't get to learn about when they think about science. They often think of science, you know, STEM science, technology, engineering, and math it sometimes gets sort of a dry treatment for high school and college students. So we wanted to show young people that this stuff was really cool. And we had heard from a lot of teens that were into technology, and that were learning to code, and who were biologists and budding chemists that this stuff was really cool, and so we wanted to make sure that they could spread it with their friends. So we actually created this SMS game, this text message game, where you are actually solving a mystery with your friends of who stole the school mascot, and the way you are solving it was that you were learning about science. So it's a really fun campaign, and actually, again, much like DoSomething, it has to be fun for you to do it. It shows you all of the cool stuff that can happen when you apply science to everyday life. And sort of the icing on the cake is that, at the end of the game, once you sort of figure out, you use your clues, you use your detective hat to figure all this stuff out, you are actually allowed to give a $10.00 donation and this is paid for by 3M a $10.00 donation through Donors Choose to a science program in an underserved school across the country. So it's this really exciting thing where you're learning about science and at the end you're essentially able to become a philanthropist and give a $10.00 donation for supplies for science classrooms nationwide, which was really fun.

MarySue Hansell
Well that was a fabulous idea. How did you get that idea?

Aria Finger
You know what? The exciting thing about DoSomething is, first of all, that ideas can come from anywhere. On Wednesdays we have this thing we call Innovation Meeting and anyone can present from an unpaid high school intern to the CEO and it's where a lot of our best ideas come from. So we actually have seven folks who are on the campaigns team and one of them is focused on education, and one on the environment, and one on health, and so our mobile team and our education person and our head of campaigns, they all put their heads together and came up with this really innovative new idea.

MarySue Hansell
Great. Here's another good one the Grandparents Gone Wired. Not wild. Gone Wired. It's a really cool program. How does that one work and what happens there?

Aria Finger
Grandparents Gone Wired is everyone's favorite campaign. It actually just launched and it runs through this holiday season. Grandparents Gone Wired is based on the concept that obviously young people now know so much about technology and often your grandparents or other seniors in the community might not be as up-to-date on tech as they wish. And actually technology is a really great way for seniors, especially those perhaps experiencing isolation or living in senior centers for the first time, it's a great way for them to keep in touch. They can keep in touch with their grandkids through Skype, they can share photos via Facebook or Instagram, they can email loved ones, and so it's actually been proven to be a fantastic way to fight off isolation. So in a really scratch-your-head partnership, DoSomething and the AARP Foundation have come together to work on this campaign, and we actually ran it with them last year to great success and we're looking forward to make it even bigger and better this year.

MarySue Hansell
Do you happen to have any stories on the top of your head that happened really great with this particular campaign?

Aria Finger
One of my favorite stories actually from last year, from Grandparents Gone Wired, was this 16-year-old kid and his neighbor. She was like 75, I believe, and she had never really used the computer much, and so he went next door and he said he was doing this campaign Grandparents Gone Wired, and so he actually taught this adorable grandmother who lived next door to him specifically how to use the computer, but also how to sell things on eBay. So she became like a one-woman eBay machine and she like sold all of these things and she made money and she bought things. And we have this adorable picture of him and his fantastic neighbor leaning how to use eBay, which was really fun.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, I love that story. See that? They can even create little entrepreneurs, huh?

Aria Finger
Absolutely. Why not? You shouldn't stop creating businesses just because you're 75.

MarySue Hansell
Definitely. One of my favorite topics that you've mentioned, and you also are running I think several campaigns, but the one I wanted to ask you about was the Bully Text. How does that work?

Aria Finger
So the Bully Text is another text game much like the Science Sleuth. But bullying is, as I said, one of those issues that young people are really passionate about, so we actually decided to partner with the WWE on a campaign called the Bully Text. And it's another one of those text games, and we had one of the great wrestlers from the WWE come and shoot the public service announcement, but it's all showing young people what they should do in different bullying situations. How do you step in? How do you be an appropriate bystander? How do we stop all of the bullying that's going on in our high schools and communities? And so that's, again, another really fun one. And you can play the game with friends, so you can type in your friends' phone numbers and get them signed up to play with you or you can play solo and you can play against the computer, so it's a really fun game to play.

MarySue Hansell
And what was the WWE? What does that stand for?

Aria Finger
Oh. Wrestlers.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, wrestlers. Okay.

Aria Finger
Yeah, exactly. So it's, again, sometimes people say, oh, like aren't these wrestlers being bullies? And it's just showing that, no, they're just as compassionate as everyone else. And we're really excited about this partnership to reach all the young men who watch the WWE, and are excited about the wrestlers that are involved, and to get them involved in stopping bullying.

MarySue Hansell
Okay, sounds great. Another campaign that I really liked because we have, in our game on Facebook, we have something called the Positive Post where you send positive notes, children send positive notes to people, and I noticed that you have a campaign called Notes from Shawn and that was about positive notes. How does that one work?

Aria Finger
So Shawn Mendes is this fantastically popular social media star - and anyone who is over the age of 25, it's totally acceptable for us not to have ever heard of him but he is incredibly popular with young people, and specifically with teenagers. He's really made a name for himself as sort of a mainstream singer/songwriter. But, again, he started on social media and he saw a lot of his fans saying on social media how they were having problems with self-esteem, or they were cutting, or they were getting depressed, and so he felt like, wow, he is this celebrity, he is this influencer, like he could do something really good, really positive to help his fans. So he started this campaign Notes from Shawn and he pushed it out to all of his amazing fans, and it encourages young people to create these messages, essentially, of positivity and of hope and to put them in the locker room at school, or put them on the mirror in the bathroom, or put them everywhere you go, because it's actually proven that if you see a note and you smile, you automatically become more positive. So it's this really fun campaign that we did with this celebrity influencer, and we had like 40,000 people sign up in just a few days just when he posted this. It was trending on Twitter. And I think it just goes sort of obviously, a lot of people talk about the negativity on the internet and internet comments, but this just goes against that. That once you put out some positivity out there, you know, this was trending on Twitter because all of his fans were super excited to do something so positive.

MarySue Hansell
Neat. Now do these campaigns have like a start and a stop date?

Aria Finger
So, yeah. A typical campaign will last anywhere from one week to eight weeks and then we'll keep the content up on the site, you know. Obviously, if someone wants to participate in the campaign when it's not one of the highlighted campaigns, we don't want to keep that from that. All of these campaigns are being excited to be done year-round, but I also think that there is something really important about the sense of urgency. You know, we all know that at any time we could take our old clothes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or whatever, but we don't. So when DoSomething creates this campaign and creates this sense of urgency and says to young people, listen, hundreds of thousands of young people across the country are going to be doing this campaign over the next month, join them, there's something really fantastic about sort of the peer pressure for good and the social norming for good that's going on about people being excited to join so many other young people their age in doing a campaign.

MarySue Hansell
You know, that's really great. You have some other ones, too, that get involved with health. I thought we have a minute, we should just mention to our listeners about those. I saw one that had to do with Diabetes and one that had to do with anti-smoking. If you could just tell us a little bit about those.

Aria Finger
Yeah. So we have campaigns, again, literally on every topic that's out there, both sort of mental and physical health, and one of the things that we've seen, unfortunately, about young people is that they are sort of more stressed than previous generations, and sort of anxiety and mental health issues are really something that have been coming up more and more. So our CEO, Nancy Lublin, she actually saw this happening again and again and founded an organization called Crisis Text Line. They're like our sister organization. They work out of our office, they were like burst from our ideas, and they actually really started from we text with two million young people every Tuesday. We have two million members via text out of our three million plus members, and we got this really terrible text from a young woman who was being abused by her father, and we just thought, wow, this young person had nowhere else to go, she texted us, you know, we have a responsibility. So that is why our CEO, Nancy Lublin, started this Crisis Text Line, to help teenagers who are dealing with some of these mental health issues, with depression, with suicide, with relationship advice, with eating disorders. And so it's actually a really incredible 24-hour crisis line via text the number one way that young people communicate and so far it has helped, you know, we've had I believe three million plus messages exchanged just in the first year of operation.

MarySue Hansell
How do people reach that text line? How do they do it?

Aria Finger
So anytime at DoSomething we get a message where someone says I need help, I need support, we immediately direct them to Crisis Text Line, and anyone can text support, so S-U-P-P-O-R-T, to 741-741. So the Crisis Text Line team did a great job of putting that message out there, that if you need help, text S-U-P-P-O-R-T to 741-741 and someone will be there, a trained counsellor will be there to offer the support that you might need.

MarySue Hansell
That's just wonderful. I noticed, I guess it was on your web page, that you have a whole page full of different hotlines.

Aria Finger
Oh, absolutely. And, again, if someone wants to talk to someone, we send them to a hotline, not run by us, but great hotlines that are staffed by people, again, 24 hours a day. We just want to make sure that people have the information they need to make a great decision about how to help themselves.

MarySue Hansell
I wanted to ask you, you mentioned every Tuesday you text to two million people?

Aria Finger
That's correct.

MarySue Hansell
Well, tell me about that. That sounds fascinating.

Aria Finger
So, again, we have about three million members here in the U.S., and some of those members are via email, and some of them are via text, some of them are both, but we've found that actually text messaging is a really fantastic way to communicate; it's immediate, it's more personal, we can sort of target you via your area code so we can make sure not to text people on the West Coast too early or too late. And so we use text messaging, as I said earlier, as part of some of our campaigns, as part of some of our text campaigns, but we also use it as a great way to get the word out. So we can say, you know, make sure to drop off your jeans this weekend at your local Aeropostale store to support homeless kids and they can text back and say, you know, where is the nearest Aeropostale? We can say, great, text us your zip code and we'll text you back the address. So there are a lot of fantastic ways that we can use text messaging to better serve our members.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, that really sounds cutting-edge and just exactly as you mentioned what the teens are doing today. So that's a good way to reach them because I think I read somewhere that you said half of the people that's the only way that they really deal, they don't really work on the computer.

Aria Finger
Right. A lot of young people, again, even if they have a smart phone, they might not even have their email enabled on their phone because email is just not the number one way that these young people communicate. So they're communicating via text or they're communicating via some of the new messaging apps that are coming out, whether it's Kik or LINE or WhatsApp, and so we try to be on whatever technological platforms our members are, because if they want to communicate via Snapchat, then we want to be right there on Snapchat to meet their needs.

MarySue Hansell
So you're saying text, Snapchat, what else? What else?

Aria Finger
Again, the messaging apps like WhatsApp and Kik and LINE. We've seen a migration of young people away from Facebook. That's still a top messaging platform, but certainly they're leaving that for Instagram, for even Twitter. And so we just, you know, I'm sure there will be a million new ways to communicate in a year, but that's where young people are right now.

MarySue Hansell
Really neat. Really neat. Now how do you think working for a cause helps young people build self-esteem?

Aria Finger
Also, I think, as I said earlier, that we're not saying that these young people are the leaders of tomorrow, we're saying that they're leaders of today, so you can build a lot of those leadership skills and you can also really prove to yourself that you can make a difference. So young people might feel sort of helpless or hopeless in another aspect of their life, but we're giving them ways to make a real difference in their community, and there's nothing more powerful than that to show that you can make an impact. So I think it's actually a great way to build self-esteem.

MarySue Hansell
It really is. It really is. And what would you tell our listeners, the people today, about young people today? I mean, you have a vast experience. I mean, I think this is a big surprise to a lot of people how impactful and thoughtful the things that they're doing can be.

Aria Finger
Yeah. I would say that this generation gets a bad rap. You know, the teen pregnancy rate is the U.S. is at its lowest rate in years. Young people today are actually less likely to smoke. They are half as likely to smoke as young people were 10-15 years ago. They are less likely to do drugs. All of these things this generation are actually eschewing. And one of the things that they really do care about is fairness and they really do care about making the world a better place. So, you know, certainly there's a lot of negative media that gets heaped among young people for using social media or for having their heads in their phones, but sometimes when their heads are in their phones they're doing some pretty incredible things. And we've heard from brands that we work with when they put out commercials or they put out ads that have to do with equality or gay rights or getting rid of racial discrimination, they get pushback from the old people who are their consumers, but the people who are leading the charge saying, yes, we're excited about diversity, we're excited about expanding gay rights and marriage equality, it's always the young people. So, you know, I just think it's really inspiring everything that they're doing.

MarySue Hansell
Very inspiring.

Raymond Hansell
This is an amazing story. We're going to continue this story after a short break, but we're going to take just another few minutes and be right back to talk more with Aria Finger in just a few minutes. Thank you.

Raymond Hansell
We're back now with Aria Finger, the COO of DoSomething.org.

Gregory Hansell
Hi, Aria. This is Greg. How are you?

Aria Finger
I'm great. How are you doing?

Gregory Hansell
Great. Enjoying the show so far?

Aria Finger
Absolutely!

Gregory Hansell
I'm glad you could be here with us. I wanted to ask you about the scholarships. I know that's a big part of what you do at DoSomething.org. So tell me how young people can earn scholarships through supporting causes. By the way, I just want to stop and say I think it's the first time I've used the phrase young people. Please, go ahead.

Aria Finger
So we love to say thanks to our members and we do so in three ways, essentially. One of the ways that we say thanks to our members is, of course, to fame them; is to celebrate them on social media, or in the news, or on our website, and we're really sort of excited about that. Another way we celebrate our young people is to talk about the good that they're doing. So, you know, people do things for intrinsic and extrinsic reasons, and so whenever we can, you know, match the amount of canned food they collected or sort of help them feel good about what they're doing. And then the third way is, of course, to give them something real, to give them something actual. So we saw that young people, their biggest pain point, it used to be getting into college and now it's paying for college. So high school students worried about future college debt and current college students feeling the pinch about all of the loans that they took out or paying for the college they're currently in. So one of our goals was how can we celebrate young people who are doing amazing things and also help them with that big pain point that they have? So we give out hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships every year. And every time a person does a DoSomething campaign, they qualify for a scholarship. And our scholarships are typically $10,000 and you get to be eligible for a scholarship just by doing the campaign. And sort of the more campaigns that you do and the more jeans that you collect the more sort of chances you have to win that scholarship. We're always so excited when we get to award these scholarships. And, of course, there's never enough for everyone, but we love the idea that you're not getting a college scholarship because you got straight A's. Maybe you got B's, that's fine, but you did something really good for someone else.

Gregory Hansell
I think that's really great. I mean, obviously student debt is such an issue now. Maybe it's bigger now than it's ever been before. So the fact you could help in any way with that I think is huge. So thank you for that. So I want to talk about DoSomething a little bit, the organization. I think the hiring process sounds really interesting. I know you say that you want to consider people that you're going to be stuck in a bunker with. Tell us about that.

Aria Finger
So, I don't know about you, but we spend minimum 40 hours a week at our job here at DoSomething, and, you know, usually probably more like 50 or 60, and so we of course want to hire talented and brilliant people who are going to do a brilliant job, but if you're hiring people who you don't like, who aren't nice, who don't sort of live up to the culture, you're making a mistake. So we have sort of three rules for hiring at DoSomething. The first one is would you be willing to be in a bunker with this person? Is this the person you want to hang out with for the week? And then our second rule is can they hit a homerun in 90 days? And part of that is sort of on the person doing the hiring. Will you give them a project that they can really kick butt in, you know, in their first three months at DoSomething? And then the third rule is are they going to be doing something amazing in five years? And that might be at DoSomething. You really see them and their potential to grow with the company and get promoted and do great things here. Or maybe they'll stay with us for three or four years but then they'll go off somewhere else and start their own company or do something really amazing at another non-profit. And that's great, too, because we want people doing great things at other companies, telling everyone how they cut their teeth at DoSomething or what a great first job DoSomething was. So those are our first sort of three rules for hiring.

Gregory Hansell
I love that. It's definitely a bunker here sometimes. I think I'm 40 hours just in the conference room. That's the way. I think that's a great way to set out looking for people. I'm also just wondering what it's like to work at a place like DoSomething. You know, I saw in your culture book you say you work hard but play harder. You have kickball, scavenger hunts, spirit days. I'm actually in trouble now with our producer because she asked me why we don't have kickball. So tell us about the culture there at DoSomething.

Aria Finger
Well, I think, honestly, the most important thing, forget kickball and fun and all that stuff, is that we do hire really smart, talented people who are willing to work hard. You know, nothing is more frustrating than being in an environment where someone's not pulling their own weight or you feel like your great ideas aren't thought about or applauded by the rest of the team and you have no way to get them out there. So I think that's actually the most important thing, what I was talking about earlier, where we really do give license and authority to young people because great ideas come from anywhere. But then we don't take ourselves too seriously. We know that social change should be fun, because if it's not fun, people aren't going to do it, and we feel the same way here. We think that you can be an incredibly professional, efficient organization while still having a good time, so that's why we do all of those great things, because we genuinely like our coworkers because we made sure of it when we hired them, that we really embrace sort of a kookie, diverse, weird group of individuals who maybe wouldn't fit in anywhere else. But our CEO likes to say that she wants to let our freak flag fly. That's always acceptable here.

Gregory Hansell
That's great. I like that a lot. Now I think social change needs to be fun. We believe in that here at BetterWorldians Radio and at A Better World with our Facebook game and the things we have coming up. I think it's great just to hear that people feel that same way. You know, it's so important to have fun and it really energizes and brings a lot of passion to the doing good, don't you think?

Aria Finger
Oh, absolutely.

Gregory Hansell
So I wanted to talk a little bit also about the consulting arm of DoSomething, TMI. Tell us about TMI.

Aria Finger
So TMI was formed because we had been approached so many times over the years by not-for-profits and for-profits running cross-marketing campaigns, trying to reach millennials, asking us for our advice, you know. We have a great social media team here, we really understand young people, and we just didn't have the bandwidth to help all of these people who wanted to run better social change campaigns targeting millenials. So we created TMI and it really is a strategy agency that helps these not-for-profits and for-profits build campaigns that reach young people. So we started about two years ago, and it's a team within DoSomething, and we work with all of these fantastic clients, and then 100% of our profits go back to fund DoSomething activities. So we feel really good about the work that we're doing day-to-day for our clients and then we also feel good about being able to give back to DoSomething.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. I think that's really incredible. Why did you say 100% out of the gate?

Aria Finger
Oh, why not? That's what we're here for. You know, we're not here to make ourselves rich, we're here to fuel DoSomething. So we're able to do it, so why not? All of the activities we're working on are sort of social change activities and non-profit activities and so we didn't really feel the need to be a for-profit entity.

Gregory Hansell
M-hmm. Well I know there's also some great sponsors involved with DoSomething Google, JetBlue, American Express how do those sponsor partnerships help you guys achieve your mission?

Aria Finger
So, I mean, on the face of it, the number one thing is all of those people are great funders of DoSomething. So we never ask our young people for money. We never say, hey, donate $10.00 to DoSomething. We want our young people's time and creativity and passion. And so the way that we are able to operate, in addition to the profits that TMI gives to us, is because we're 70% corporate funded. So we wouldn't be able to keep the lights on and run these amazing campaigns without our corporate funders. But I also do think that it's not just that. We work with companies who really care about this stuff and really understand young people and really want to make a difference. A few years ago, actually several years ago, we walked away from a funder because they weren't nice to our people and they didn't really believe in this stuff. Yeah, they were giving us a lot of money but they weren't sort of doing the rest of the deal. So it's really fantastic that we have corporate partners who believe in this stuff.

Gregory Hansell
That's great. You know, I was curious if you do anything to reach out to preteens and kind of prep them for the kind of values and volunteering that's such a part of DoSomething.

Aria Finger
So, truthfully, one of our limitations on that front is COPPA, which is the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act, which does and actually not-for-profits are actually exempt from COPPA but we follow it anyway and so you're exempt from keeping the information of young people who are under age 13. So certainly, you know, we reach out to young people who are in middle school, and a lot of our members have younger sisters and younger brothers who are really excited, and so I'm sure we are reaching tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of young people who are 10, 11, 12 who are sort of getting this culture of volunteerism and doing good, but they aren't our members because of those COPPA limitations.

Gregory Hansell
M-hmm. Interesting. Now I know on your website you said that anyone over 26 is considered old at DoSomething. So on behalf of the old folks, I wanted to ask you, how can old people get involved? I Googled Shawn Mendes when you were talking about that. I have no idea who this guy is, so I guess I am old. So, tell us, how can old people get involved?

Aria Finger
Absolutely. And no hate. I am a proud old person. The 25th birthday at DoSomething was a little rough. But, you know, a lot of people say why don't you service all ages? And I don't think you can be all things to all people, and so we have decided we are going to be really good at reaching young people 13 to 25. But there are still a myriad of ways that adults can get involved. So, first of all, adults can get involved as parents of young people, and as teachers of young people, and of coaches, and pastors, and anyone who works with young people out there can certainly tell them about DoSomething and all the campaigns that we have on offer. You know, if they are running a sustainability program at school, they can tell us about all of our great green environmental campaigns. So I think that's one way. And, obviously, the second way is to help us fuel our work. So whether that's making a donation directly, because we do accept donations of people who are over age 25, or putting us in touch with a great potential corporate sponsor or media partner who can help us hit our goals to reach young people or fund our initiative.

Gregory Hansell
I think that's an important point. So you do accept donations. How can people donate?

Aria Finger
If you go to DoSomething.org slash donate, we make it very simple. There's also a donate button on the footer of our website and it's pretty easy. You can just donate right there via credit card, PayPal, stock, bequest, we'll take anything. Bitcoin that's coming.

Gregory Hansell
Very cool. Very cool. So I wanted to ask you, what's been the most rewarding thing you've been a part of since you've been at DoSomething?

Aria Finger
Ooh, that's like asking me to like choose my favorite child. One of the most inspiring campaigns we have is actually called Give a Spit About Cancer and it's a campaign that focuses on getting college students onto the bone marrow registry. A lot of people who need bone marrow transplants are children suffering from leukemia or adults suffering from blood cancers and there's not enough people on the registry, and specifically there's not enough people of color on the registry, and college students, people 18 to 24, have the best bone marrow. We ran a campaign that asked young people to get signed up, and you just swab your cheek and that's it, and you're on the bone marrow registry for life. And so then they'll contact you if you find a match, and if you're a match, you're literally saving someone's life. So through this Give a Spit campaign that we ran last year, we actually had 80 matches. And from those 80 matches - and sometimes a match doesn't work out for various reasons, because you're a secondary match or not good enough or whatever but we've had 20 people who have gone through and saved a life by giving someone their bone marrow, including our very own head of product. One of my coworkers, Michael Fantini, he saved the life of a 5-year-old boy from Texas by giving him his bone marrow. So pretty exciting to see that social change can truly lead to saving lives.

Gregory Hansell
That's incredible. I love that. I actually have just one last question for you. I ask a version of it every week to our guests. And in the case of you, what is your vision for how DoSomething Network is helping to make the world a better place? How will the world be different if you have your way because of DoSomething.org?

Aria Finger
So DoSomething has three million members, which is fantastic, until you realize that we're only in eight countries, so there's many countries around the world where you can't get involved in DoSomething, or until you realize that we only have 50% brand recognition among teens. So only half of teens know about us. So I think the key here is that, you know, I'm an optimistic, idealistic person, I believe that people are good, you know, good deep inside, and the reason why people don't volunteer, don't make the world a better place, it's not because they don't care, it's because they don't know how.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah.

Aria Finger
You know? It's you or I. We could be really passionate about something, the reason we're not doing anything about it is we just don't know what to do. So I think DoSomething really bridges that gap. We give people a way to take action around those causes that they actually are passionate about. So my vision is for a world where everyone knows about DoSomething and so everyone is able there's no barrier that's stopping these people from acting and making a difference and taking action. And we want to be sort of so ingrained in the cultural fibre of Americans and young people around the world that nothing stops them, and I think that could be a really powerful force.

Raymond Hansell
Well, for all of our listeners out there, if you want to know what to do, if you have an inclination to do something, then you can find out exactly what you can do at DoSomething.org. Aria, I would like to thank you again for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio. It's been a real pleasure.

Aria Finger
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Raymond Hansell
Oh, you're very, very welcome. For our listeners out there, please join us next week when we'll be talking with children's book author Trudy Ludwig. Trudy will discuss her excellent books on bullying and childhood friendships. And as we end our show each week, we would like to share our BetterWorldians mission. Here at BetterWorldians we strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everybody so that we can all make it a better world. I want to thank everyone today for listening. You can join the BetterWorldian community at BetterWorldians dot com. And until next time, everybody, please be a BetterWorldian.