This is the final part of a four-part interview with the creators of a fan-led grassroots movement to raise money for charities within the Supernatural fan community. I have been publishing my e-mail discussion with three organizers for the group: Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.
Sam: What has been the impact of using various social networking sites to help spread the word of Fandom Rocks?
Dana: Utilizing as many networking sites as we are familiar with has been important because we know each site has a subsection of the viewing audience. Some people participate in more than one site, but often there is a specific site you spend more time at than others. We wanted to make sure we were reaching as many Supernatural fans as possible. However, we know it is also important to reach fans away from networking sites - potential fans on other forums and especially offline. We have plenty of work ahead of us to reach new fans. Recently, a fan on the CW Lounge forum responded to my post that she hadn't heard of Fandom Rocks before that moment, despite my posting there three times prior. This showed me we still needed to work hard at spreading the news of Fandom Rocks if we were missing fans who participated regularly at the network's Web site.
Brande: Most people I know participate in at least one social networking site, maybe more. The analogy of the "World Wide Web" is just as true in these sites. You can walk into any of them and run into a friend who knows someone who knows someone who knows.... ad infinitum. By using this existing network, we can reach existing fans and contributors and use their own social network to reach new ones.
We do have our work cut out for us, as Dana said. Some of these sites move swiftly, and topics get buried quickly unless people take it upon themselves to bring them back up, usually repeatedly. Again, that's where using multiple social networking sites comes in handy: If a person misses us on MySpace (for example), they may catch our posts on Facebook or LiveJournal.
Rebecca: We're also working on the 'real life' aspect of networking. Conventions, posters, and even general day-to-day discussions with people help to get the name out there. It's particularly interesting when the campaign is brought up with people who don't know the show. It peaks their interest: what kind of show would initiate a entire group of people, who do not necessarily know each other, to come together like this? In this way, Fandom Rocks isn't just raising awareness of these charities, it's also increasing (if ever so slowly) awareness of the show.
Sam: What do you have planned for the near future?
Dana: We are regrouping now that the first campaign is complete. We are trying to establish ourselves as a non-profit so fans feel confident in donating and are able to claim their donation on their taxes. We would like to get more fans involved in brainstorming unique fundraising activities. Knowing the humane society is one of our next charities, I would like to find some knitters in our fan-base to create cat toys. We could promote donations then by including one toy in a care package to the humane society for every $5 donation. We are also looking to continue podcasting, and we would love to involve more fans there as well.
Brande: We have a lot of ideas, but right now it's determining which ideas best align with our current charities, as well as the logistics of that particular idea or incentive. We definitely want fans to feel secure donating through us, which means we've started the legal processes to establish Fandom Rocks as a nonprofit. The fans out there have shown us they have the time, the energy and the desire to support the FR charities - we love that, and we want to capture that desire while it's still burning.
Rebecca: We're looking toward the future campaign with the Lawrence Humane Society and the Semper Fi Fund as our fan-chosen charities, and as Brande said, just figuring out the logistics bringing the fans, ideas and charities together.
Sam: Have you seen interesting campaigns like this from other fan communities while you have been moving forward with Fandom Rocks?
Dana: I haven't seen new campaigns sparked, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there.
Brande: I don't know that I've seen new ones, but I've had people bring up others I'd not been exposed to previously.
Rebecca: I haven't seen any new ones, but then I haven't been looking.
Sam: What do you hope is the legacy or impact of Fandom Rocks on fan communities and the industry?
Dana: It feels very early to think of a legacy, but I hope that we are successful for many years - that people will look back at Fandom Rocks as a strong organization that gave fans the opportunity to collectively give back to society. I hope a more immediate impact we can have is educating anyone who happens across our group about the different charities and their causes - homelessness, disadvantaged families, animal advocacy, etc.
Rebecca: I agree it's a bit early to be thinking upon the idea of a legacy, but I hope that each person's involvement in this initiative strengthens their resolve to help in their own communities, even in small ways.
Brande: I think looking at our legacy at this point is a bit premature. But when people look back at Fandom Rocks in the future, I hope they can do so with a sense of pride and accomplishment and say, "Wow, I was a part of that!" I'd like to put a personal spin on the work we've done - hear from people who found new hope after losing homes or jobs, or someone who adopted a pet that changed their lives for the better, or any other number of personal stories.
It's very easy these days to get overwhelmed by the various social issues and the charities involved in them. Issues become so massive that I think many people get despondant. They feel like the problem is so big that they cannot make a difference, so they give up trying. I'd like to give them back a sense of belonging to their community, on a personal level.
Maybe our fandom won't end famine and homelessness, or stop war... but we *can* put a roof over a family's head for a month or help buy an injured soldier hand controls for his vehicle so he regains his independance.
And if the people we do help can "pay it forward," then so much the better.