Last October, I created the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange hoping for maybe 100 or 150 participants. There wasn’t anything too fancy about it. People found out thanks to the magic of social media, and emailed their name, address, and details they wanted taken into account when I matched them to a postcard buddy. I entered each participant’s information on a spreadsheet, and manually matched them based on age, type of diabetes, gender, number of years living with diabetes, and relationship to diabetes (self, parent, sibling, spouse, child, friend, aunt, etc.). I flagged emails in my received box so I knew who was entered on the spreadsheet, if I needed to send a follow-up email, if I had emailed their match to them. I’m not very good at planning and organizing, so it was a very dynamic process of refining what I was doing as I went along. As the number of participants increased, I developed a system for responding, sending confirmation emails, sending postcard buddy names and addresses, and following up. In the end, an astonishing 529 people signed up, far beyond my expectations, so it was an absolute miracle that I pulled it off.
Since it was the first year, and far more people joined than I anticipated, it was not without glitches. Not surprisingly, some postcards got lost in the mail, but the bigger problem was people not sending postcards at all. I did my best to rematch people who didn’t receive cards with people who volunteered to make extra cards, but in the weeks after World Diabetes Day when this was proving to be an issue, Jason and I had a long anticipated vacation, I was trying to finish my school work before the semester ended, and we had just gotten a new puppy, so I was completely overwhelmed trying to multitask. I was literally sick to my stomach and losing sleep trying to respond to people who were emailing me to say they still hadn’t received postcards, contact those people who seemingly hadn’t sent postcards, and reach out to anyone who was willing to send extras. There was also understandable disappointment from people who received store-bought postcards in a handmade postcard exchange to which all I could do was apologize because I felt like I should have been clearer that postcards were to be homemade. I wanted everyone to have fun and enjoy it, so I felt personally responsible when that didn’t happen.
I still feel terrible that not everyone was satisfied with their experience, so I’ve been working to make improvements. I hope this will eliminate or at least minimize the things that went wrong last year. There is a dedicated website now, www.wddpe.com, so all the information about joining is in one central, easily navigable location. Instead of having to manually enter everyone’s information onto a spreadsheet from emails, there is an online registration form that automatically puts everything onto a spreadsheet for me. There is an online gallery on the website with public image uploading so everyone who makes or receives a card can post a picture and browse images of others’ postcards.
There are some other improvements I hope to make, but they are contingent on receiving a Seed Grant from Diabetes Hands Foundation. This grant money will go towards stipends for two people to help me communicate with participants. While the manual work of entering data on the spreadsheet is now automated, each person who registers still has to be emailed a registration confirmation, and once everyone is matched to a postcard buddy, the name and address of that person needs to be sent to them. I expect there will be a need to follow up with some people too. I desperately need help with this part of the project, and I would like to be able to compensate the people who help me.
If I receive the grant money, I also plan to promote this project. I’m excited that as of today, 99 people have already registered, as many as I had hoped would join last year, and it’s only June 15th… but we can do better! For as much work as it is on my end, I believe this project has great value to those who join. There is value in the self-expression that goes into making the postcard. There is value in connecting with people. We connect with people in the DOC, but there are so many more people out there, and I want to find a way to reach some of them. Sending mail is old-fashioned, but I think those who received a postcard in the Postcard Exchange in 2011 can attest to the magic of receiving a piece of snail mail, made and mailed by another person in the world who “gets it”. Should I receive the grant money, I will spend some on Facebook advertising. I am already ordering promotional postcards to take the the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference in Orlando in July, and if I receive the grant money, part of it will compensate me for the cost of the postcards.
To win the grant, I need your help though. Please watch the Vimeo video about the project. Please click “Like” (you need a Vimeo account to “Like”, but it’s easy to make an account). Please click “Share” and share the video to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest (you don’t need a Vimeo account to “Share”). Each “Like” and “Share” count as a vote, and if the World Diabetes Day Postcard Exchange video receives enough votes, I will receive the grant money and be better able to grow and improve the project, connecting more people with diabetes with each other, and making it a better overall experience for participants.
Today is the LAST DAY to vote, so please don’t hesitate! “Like” and “Share” today!