Last Friday, I was moved to donate to Epilepsy Society by a Twitter thread written by someone I don’t know (“H” or maybe Hari) talking about someone she had never met, called Amelia. You can read the whole thing if you click through on the link below.
This is a short piece on why it connected with me, why I think it reached so many others, and what charities can learn from the power of Hari’s words.
I inherited a desk and drawers in my new job but didn’t have the key until today. When I opened it the stuff from the previous person was still inside it. Shuffling through I stumbled across the order of service for a 21yo girl, Amelia. pic.twitter.com/VupNvkK1uj— H (@hari_miller) January 17, 2020
Just in case you can’t read the whole thread, or you’re not on Twitter (!), here’s a quick summary. Hari had come across the Order of Service for a 21 year old called Amelia who had died from a rare form of epilepsy. Hari was moved to make a donation and subsequently received an email from Amelia’s parents about what an inspiration she had been in her short life.
They told me what that Amelia had made quite an impression in her short life. She’d arranged to donate her brain to epilepsy research when she died. And she had over 600 mourners turn up and spill out of the church at her funeral.— H (@hari_miller) January 17, 2020
Full disclosure: Epilepsy Society is a former client of mine, so I know how important the work they do is. But I wasn’t alone in making a donation. Hari’s tweet went viral. When I gave, on Friday evening, the Justgiving total was approaching £80,000. As I write this, two and a half days later, it stands at over £114,000.
Why did it connect so well? Here’s a few thoughts.
The power of good writing: Hari is, I think, a wonderful writer. No word is wasted. No word gets in the way of their force – unlike my use of “subsequently” above, for example. I’d edit it out, but it makes my point.
The importance of storytelling: we fundraisers talk about storytelling all the time. Is there a better example than this? And the Twitter thread turns out to be the perfect medium for Hari’s vignette, with the end of each tweet drawing the reader into the next one.
Convey personal emotion: Hari is so moved by the Order of Service she “stumbled across” that “it hit [her] … right in the guts and [she] … had a cry in the loo”. This is a powerful, personal and intimate story. The “guts” are where the most powerful stories hit us.
It’s more than a “case study”: in only a few words, Hari really conveyed what an inspirational person Amelia was, and indeed remains. This includes the details of how many attended her funeral, as well as Amelia’s response to developing the condition and her decision to donate her brain to research so that it can be better understood and controlled or prevented.
The importance of images: Hari’s words and her portrayal of Amelia were given added power by the photos she added to the story from the Order of Service and from the Justgiving page. I got a real sense of the power of Amelia’s personality from them.
It’s not just about money: I think Hari’s original intention in telling the story was to encourage people to donate their organs and be good to each other. The Justgiving link was added a little later, in response to people wondering how else they could help. It’s certainly only a ‘soft’ ask, which is interesting from this fundraiser’s perspective.
I know we hate threads. I’m not sorry. Donate your organs. Be brave, and be fucking kind to each other.— H (@hari_miller) January 17, 2020
It’s poignant: I thought there was something very powerful about the fact that Hari and Amelia had never met but had connected. It also ‘legitimised’ my own donation. I don’t know either of them but I was moved by the story, and Hari’s own kindness left me and clearly many others with less of an ‘excuse’ not to give too.
It’s not an ‘official’ story: This isn’t written by a medical researcher, by Epilepsy Society or even by a member of Amelia’s family, although the latter’s endorsement in subsequent tweets helped to reinforce the power of the appeal, I believe.
The power of kindness and social media as a force for good: The world, and Twitter in particular, can be quite a toxic place. This was a small antidote, an example of goodness, kindness and inspiration that we could all share in by donating.
Bravo, Hari, that was an inspirational thing that you did. And through the power of your words, we shared your connection with Amelia, who sounds amazing.