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A 'Flip' Chat With...Wendy Harman, Director of Social Media, American Red Cross

March 24, 2011

(This is the sixteenth in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat, with Taproot Foundation president and founder Aaron Hurst.)

It's been two weeks since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, and video footage of the disaster -- of coastal villages turned into matchsticks, of cars tossed about like they were bath toys, of a wall of water devouring everything in its path -- still shocks and is unnerving to watch. The disaster, which may have cost 20,000 people their lives, is likely go down as the most expensive ever (and that's before any costs associated with the ongoing emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex are figured in), and it will be years before Japan and the Japanese people have fully recovered.

Americans responded quickly and generously in the days after the disaster, and by this past Monday had donated $136 million to relief and recovery efforts in Japan -- almost two-thirds of that to the American Red Cross.

In our latest "Flip" chat, Wendy Harman, director of social media at the Red Cross, talks with social media strategist Larry Blumenthal, co-host (with Bill Silberg) of our new Talking Philanthropy series, about the public response to the quake and tsunami, the organization's social media strategy in the wake of a disaster, and some of the things the Red Cross is doing under her leadership to maximize its social media efforts.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)

(Total running time: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

What do you think? Has the Red Cross discovered the "secret sauce" in terms of social media? Is online and mobile giving supplementing or cannibalizing more traditional giving channels? And is, as many have said, the fundraising model for disaster relief in this country broken?

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Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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