It was my second year as a speaker at BlogPaws’ 2014 conference. BlogPaws is a social community that includes pet owners, pet lovers, pet bloggers, animal welfare nonprofits (including animal rescues and shelters, American Animal Hospital Association, and the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation), and pet-product companies. What continues to impress me about BlogPaws is how much this social community focuses on serving as an “advocate for pets in need” with its Be the Change initiative. For example, at its annual conference, BlogPaws awards donations to several animal welfare organizations. To date, the pet community has donated over $90,000 in cash and goods. Another highlight of the conference is giving a safety vest to a police dog and oxygen masks to the local fire department in the community where the conference is held. All leftover swag from sponsors get donated to a local shelter.
I interviewed Yvonne DiVita, social media professional and BlogPaws co-founder, to learn more about this social community’s commitment to giving back.
QSM: Tell us about BlogPaws and what makes it a special community?
Yvonne: We’re truly focused on saving lives. A key part of that is supporting shelters and rescues through a variety of efforts. If we go back to day one of BlogPaws, when three simple bloggers (myself, my husband, Tom Collins, and Caroline Golon of Romeothecat) met at a BlogHer conference and decided to replicate that model for our pet blogger friends, a key element of the decision was Be the Change. This, of course, is based on the familiar “Be the Change You Want To See”… for us, it was a challenge to inspire all bloggers at that first conference in Columbus, Ohio, to go out and be the change for pets in need.
When folks ask me what’s ‘different’ about BlogPaws, compared to other social networks, I tell them about Be the Change. You see, Sybil, I have yet to meet a pet blogger that is not passionate about her local shelter, and many other endeavors to help pets in need. It’s an over-arching goal of this community to facilitate the saving of lives, even one life – to help you understand, I refer you to this video, shared at that first event, and still important today. Frugal Dougal is no longer with us, having passed to the Rainbow Bridge, but this video lives on as our commitment to animals everywhere. In fact, we are also part of a Disaster Relief Network, working with groups like World Vets, to make sure animals are not forgotten during disasters.
QSM: How do BlogPaws members get involved with Be the Change?
Yvonne: The members of our community participate in Be the Change is a variety of ways. Each one has a passionate purpose or focus – whether that’s their own shelter, where they volunteer, or a purpose they saw on Facebook or Twitter. We use social media regularly to reach out and connect with as many people as possible. The key here is to recognize that the pet community isn’t just bloggers. It’s pet parents everywhere who are devoted to saving pets. Be the Change encompasses all people, the world over, who see the value of the human–animal bond, and work to help the rest of the world accept the importance of pets in our lives. This transcends the usual “we love our dog” focus. It recognizes that pets of all manner help decrease blood pressure, teach children responsibility, assist veterans with PSD, and more. These are creatures that make lives whole for so many of us.
Members of our community share experiences and events, and make sure not only their event is noticed, but everyone else’s is, also. And when we see elephants rescued, or animals in need in disaster areas (flood, earthquake, typhoons), we rush to make sure the entire world is aware. Being involved just means doing what you feel is important. It can be a $5 donation, sharing on Facebook, or working hard to raise awareness of puppy mills.
Yvonne: It’s easy on some level to judge the impact, and, on another level, not easy at all. For instance, BlogPaws itself has contributed over $90,000 in goods and cash (most of that in cash donations via the conference) over the last five years. If we were to go back and ask each shelter that received donations from us, there is no doubt we’d get a lot of stories along with the many thank you’s we receive when the donations are made. In our heart of hearts, we love seeing the change first hand at the events we hold. Shelters are invited and most of them attend. They are astonished at the outflowing of good will and offers of help from the folks who meet them. The cash donations go far to helping feed and care for their charges. The donations of all leftover swag help many, many pets over the course of their stay – donations include dog beds, treats, pet food, toys, and more.
Within the community itself, the change is also apparent. The act of contributing to a shelter or rescue, whether in time and talent, with cash donations, or sharing among a network to help raise much needed medical care, lifts each and every person up in ways nothing else can! Among the deep seated passion for helping these local groups as they rescue and care for neglected or abused animals is the sense of having done something purposeful, of having been part of something bigger than ourselves.
Our Be the Change community is so strong and so sincere, it continues to stand as a foundation of everything we are about – helping pet parents be all that they can (or want to) be… including, angels for animals in need.
The hard part of understanding the impact is in having such an enormous reach – from working with folks like Eldad Hagar, who contributed $25,000 at the latest BlogPaws event to help medical care for pets displaced and lost in the tornadoes of the U.S. during May 2014 … to sharing the efforts of folks like Robin A.F. Olson, who writes Covered in Cat Hair and runs Kitten Associates … to Amazon Cares, which takes people to Peru to save animals in need – all of which means our efforts in Be the Change are just a blip on the radar of the universe and we still have much more to do.
QSM: What would you tell other social communities about giving back?
Yvonne: I would say, get to it. What are you waiting for? The ability to give back, to participate in a charity organization or event, lifts up all people, and reminds us why we are here – we are here because we are not alone. We are a community across the globe and, as a community, the ability to give back is inherent in our desire to be accepted and loved. When you give, you get… it’s as true today as it has ever been. I am not the first to say it. At BlogPaws, we remain true to this quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” If you hesitate because you aren’t sure how to begin, ask your community. You will be amazed and inspired by the response.
And when you’re ready, connect with others like BlogPaws. Because it’s only in working together, in bringing neighborhoods together, in giving voice to the human desire to save each other, that we will achieve the great success we all strive for.
QSM: Thank you!