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Home » Random

Tell us your story: Give a Brick

This is a guest post by El Edwards as part of our Tell Us Your Story Week.  El is a blogger and writer, sharing strategies for smiles at and helping change the world at the charity

Over to you El:

Give A Brick celebrated it’s 3rd birthday last month. What started as an idea in my head in August 2007 became, within three months, a fully fledged, UK registered charity. Back then I remember thinking that once we got our registered charity status, the rest would be easy. We’d open our site, offer online donation, wow the world with our amazing idea of asking people to just give the little they could and then tell their friends and then bingo!

We had our website. We had passion. We had a unique new message. It should have been so simple. Build it, they will come. Or will they?

Fast forward two years and one major website overhaul (I was hand coding all this stuff back then) and things were a little slow.

You know what life is like. This wasn’t my full time business. It was a charity I was passionate about but it was something that had to be fitted in along side work and a young family. I knew, just knew, that there had to be a way to get Give A Brick ‘out there’, I just didn’t know what it was. Yet.

Offline, Give A Brick was doing quite well. By May 2009 we’d raised enough money to complete the first phase of our first project (an ambitions £100,000 community centre) and that was worthy of a celebration but my ambition of building an online community just wasn’t going anywhere.

August 2009 was another key month for the charity. I was searching one night for something to do with bricks and stumbled across a nifty little website powered by something called WordPress. Instead of having a website and separate blog (Give A Brick was running a blog at the time) this clever site had it all together in one place. It looked and felt seamless.

In the space of one night I learned WordPress and moved our entire site over using the free Atahualpa theme. Looking back I have to give credit to divine help. I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing but it was the smoothest and least stressful thing I have ever done (aside from eating cake of course. Eating cake is never a cause for stress!)

Finally it felt like we were getting the look together but there was still the problem of how to tell the masses about us. And that is when we fast forward to January 5th 2010 and the part of the story that really makes me smile.

A couple of months earlier I’d joined Twitter on behalf of Give A Brick but I didn’t really get it. I giggle now to remember that time because these days Twitter is like my second home. I have absolutely no idea how it happened but somehow a young, passionate new blogger called James Richmond came under my radar. Those of you who know James will probably be smiling now because back then, he was really rocking things in the blogosphere. I know Matthew credits much of the initial growth here at The Big Red Tomato Company to learning from James and his methods.

James’s own story doesn’t have a happy ending. He didn’t even make it to the 12 month mark before ill health forced him to sell his site. But James left a legacy. I met some of my closest friends through an initial connection at James site and have made no secret of the fact that I believe James was an answer to prayer.

Thanks to writing regular inspiring blog posts and chatting with people on Twitter, Give A Brick finally started to build the community I’d so long yearned for. And here’s the bit of the story that gets really exciting. Thanks to the power of blogging, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Give A Brick is on the verge of completing that first project.

After three years, we’re finally starting to see people getting behind the charity and supporting us. This in turn has enabled us to support not just the one big building project but an under 11 football team, an impoverished student and a struggling young blogger.

People have donated money but thanks to the connections we’ve made via Twitter and the blog, people have also given of their time.  We’ve had free business consults and a wonderful cartoon, people have written for us and others have agreed to helps us with fund-raising. It’s been amazing!

But what does the story of one small Welsh charity have to do with you? Remember this story had a very slow start. We had the vision, the dream, the passion, but we didn’t yet have the knowledge to bring these things to the fore.

The same may be true of your business. If you’re hugely enthusiastic but feeling a little discouraged right now because nothing is happening fast enough, remember Give A Brick. Everything happens at just the right moment in time. Be persistent, keep going. I promise you it will be worth it.

The other big winner from this story is new media. The tipping point for us came when we joined and started playing on Twitter. Finally we had a platform for talking to people about them (because we all know everyone likes the sound of their own name) and us. We had the opportunity to sell the Give A Brick concept to a new group of people and they loved it!

If you’re not using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with your business, you’re missing out on huge opportunities. I fear I’m preaching to the converted though so if you’re already using social media then I challenge you instead to look at your how.

Are you consistently talking to people about their stuff? Do you have a plan for when you’ll tweet your links? Do you visit other people’s sites and re-tweet their material? If you want to use these social media sites to market your business, it pays to have a plan.

But more than anything else, the Give A Brick story is about persistence, faith and courage, something else you can use in your business. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you’ve got to believe that you can do it and decide to stick with your business, no matter what. Don’t get me wrong, if your business is more leaky than the tap in my downstairs bathroom we should be having a different conversation.

But you and your business need you. You’re your most valuable asset. If one small Welsh charity with zero paid staff can do it, anyone can. That’s the exciting thing about this new arena we’re stepping into.

All that remains is for me to ask you a question: What are you still doing here? Go be you already. I can’t wait to see what you do!

El is the smiley face of Heaven and El and UK charity Give A Brick. She spends her days writing stuff to make you smile, inspiring people to share their awesome selves with the world and building nifty looking websites. Say hello to her on Twitter or subscribe to her RSS feed but whatever else you do, smile. It’s El’s favourite currency.