The $1,000 NGO social media project

the epilogue of a shoestring-budget communications campaign 

This past February I started this WordPress blog for the Organization for Youth Empowerment in Honduras. The object of this campaign was two-fold: 1)  to advance the global visibility of this small, but committed NGO that provides mentoring and scholarships for at-risk youth in Northern Honduras, and 2) to create a kind of “open source” social media campaign for non-profits with a shoestring communications budget. This project, which lasted about 5 months, had a total cost of approximately $1,000 USD in travel expenses (plus, a $99 WordPress upgrade), but attained substantial international exposure. Much effort was put into determining which platforms were the most effective in generating site traffic, dialog, and shares.

I hope that your organization can benefit from our experimentation, research, and analysis. Although this project came to a close in August 2012, I am going to keep this site up as an overview of what we discovered about the various social media venues, and what they can do for non-profit organizational visibility. Also, the site continues to get daily traffic through search engines. Hopefully it will continue to bring attention to OYE’s tireless work in Central America….or even better, encourage donations.

If you find something useful on here, we hope that you’ll “like” it or post a comment so that we may have some feedback on the progress of your own communications efforts. Please feel free to use this WP site to discuss issues, ideas, and challenges relevant to small NGO social media initiatives.

-Richard Lakin/ Co-founder, 18 rabbits digital media

Posted in social media initiative | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment


This marks the conclusion of the OYE Social Media Project. The time spent with OYE in Honduras will stay with me forever; the walk through the market every morning on my way to their office, the interns that I worked with, the morning chorus of roosters, the kabob at Las Tejas restaurant, the conversations with Guillermo Mahchi (an El Progreso artist & prominent member of the community), the baleadas from the place near my hotel, the Columbia grad students, and mostly, the staff and scholars who persevere in sometimes daunting circumstances.

As I went through these photos, I really missed El Progreso and people that I met. Adiós, chicos. I’ll be back. Enjoy the photos!     -Richard Lakin

Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An analysis of social media platforms for NGO visibility

As we near the end of this project, it’s time to look at the stats and see which social media platforms were most effective.

The four most effective sources of hits to the site were:

Facebook: 37%

LinkedIn: 23%

Search engines: 15%

Twitter: 9%

The rest of the referrals included virtually every social media platform that exists, including; Reddit, StumbleUpon, Hootsuite, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, and WordPress Reader. Also there were about 100 re-blogs and ping backs. Google generated nearly 98% of the search engine traffic. Bing, Yahoo, AOL,, WordPress Search only generated a handful combined. While Facebook posts and shares resulted in the highest number of visitors, LinkedIn generated the most audience engagement, i.e., comments, blog followers, and discussions.  E.mail shares generated about 4% of total hits.

There was a very successful building of community around this project, both geographically and professionally. There were regular comments and shares from consistent followers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn forums. Repeat visits from a Central American audience  generated much local conversation about OYE, and there was a global following from the NGO and academic community. Social media experts, interested in the process, followed consistently as well.

The Twitter numbers reaffirm my earlier conclusion; it is the online equivalent to direct mail. Although there were well over 3/4 of a million total impressions on Twitter (with about 250 re-tweets), there was a relatively small percentage of traffic as a result.

About 50% of LinkedIn hits came from my own profile. The rest came from forum postings that generated considerable international discussion. Two forums in particular generated a lot of traffic: “Global Issues,” and “The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.” The latter facilitating much discussion in The U.K. and Continental Europe. Many thanks to the forums and their members for spreading the word about OYE’s tireless work for the children of Honduras.

global visibility

There was a great deal of global exposure to the blog. The United States (the main source of OYE’s funding) generated about 55% of total visits, with the other top ten visitor countries being: Honduras (local exposure), The U.K., Guatemala, Canada, Germany, India, Australia, Spain, and Pakistan, in that order. There were also large numbers of visitors from The Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico, Italy, and Switzerland. There were no hits from China.   Total countries with visitors included about 97% of the Western Hemisphere, all of Western Europe, all of Scandinavia (including Iceland), most of Eastern Europe, and big chunks of Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, & Africa.

Some conclusions: Facebook was the best venue for distribution that resulted in hits. LinkedIn provided the best audience engagement. The WordPress format is very effective for search engine visibility, and it provides meaningful stats. Plus, the WordPress share buttons were extremely effective, especially for Facebook sharing. Twitter can generate a lot of hits but requires a great deal of effort in contacting relevant Twitter sites. Although there was no specific effort to generate traffic from YouTube on this particular project (the videos were uploaded directly to the WordPress blog, but to YouTube as well), there were over 400 hits to the YouTube versions as a result of tags (Honduras, OYE, NGO, etc.).

Thanks again to everyone who shared, followed the blog, and participated in discussions about this worthy project to empower youth in the difficult circumstances of Honduran society. Special thanks to Laureate International Universities who sponsored the travel portions of this project, TACA airlines that discounted my flights (and gave me free upgrades), and The International Youth Foundation that posted links to this blog on their social media outlets.

-Richard Lakin

Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Get off your butt and change the world

We are nearing the completion of our campaign to raise the visibility of The Organization for Youth Empowerment. While I was in Honduras doing the field portion, I remembered an editorial about humanitarian work that I read in the UK Guardian about eight years ago on a flight back from Nairobi, Kenya.

I was returning from my first NGO documentary assignment. What I saw there really knocked the wind out of me, and has affected my outlook on life ever since. I was shooting a short video piece about Daniel Nduati, the founder of The Emmanuel Boyz Center in Karen, Kenya…a suburb of Nairobi named after the Danish writer, Karen Blixen.  Daniel works mostly with street orphans, most of whom are addicted to glue-sniffing. In my subsequent travels, I came to discover that glue is the drug of choice for the world’s poor. It’s cheap, readily available, and extremely potent in its ability to curb hunger and relieve misery. Of course, it quickly causes irreversible brain damage as well. Many of the children at the center are orphaned by AIDS, or the parents are so sick that they can no longer care for their own children.

One morning we drove to a district called Dagoretti in western Nairobi. As we pulled the van into an open yard behind a meat packing plant, about 50 young boys appeared from under the buildings surrounding the yard. I’ll never forget the scene…at first there was no one visible, but suddenly the burlap bags under which the boys lived started to stir, and the yard was then full of kids clamoring and yelling at Daniel’s arrival.  Most of them carried bottles of glue. I noticed that many of the boys had pencils in their hands which they shook nervously. I came to find out that the pencils are used to stir the glue to release its vapor. But the worst was yet to come.

The reason that these street kids had picked this spot was its proximity to meat plant’s garbage pile, every inch of which was covered by huge storks feeding on the fetid refuse that had been deposited there. These kids would fight the storks for access to the pile.

I was emotionally exhausted by all of this on my flight back, when I came across a newspaper article that really helped put it all in perspective. The writer (sorry…I haven’t been able to locate the original piece and credit him) was actively involved in humanitarian work in Africa. His effete friends occasionally mocked him for what they saw as a futile exercise to address an insurmountable problem.

His response was memorable, and one that I have repeated often. If you have a neighbor with whom you can’t relate to at all, and that neighbor lives in squalor and dispair…sometimes the victim of  circumstances over which he has no control, and sometimes because of his own doing…and you see that neighbor’s child walking towards a cliff, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to save that kid from falling to his death?

While that may strike some as a rather self-serving approach to humanitarian sentiment, it nonetheless addresses an important moral point: is the neighbor’s kid going to fall off the cliff on your watch? It’s easy to become distracted by our own everyday problems and forget about our historical societal legacy. There are cultures who will be forever remembered for supporting the Inquisition, slavery, fascism, and segregation. One night, when I returning from dinner in El Progreso, Honduras, I saw a horse’s head that had been left in front a business, apparently as an extortion threat. Do you want to be the generation that let these kids here be exposed to that kind of thing without doing something to change it?

When we started this social media campaign, we asked for the world’s help to distribute information about this worthy and committed NGO that works tirelessly to change the circumstances of youth in an environment that provides little opportunity, but much exposure to gang and drug activity. Many of you responded magnanimously; allowing us to post in many mediated LinkedIn forums, re-tweeting on Twitter, sharing on Facebook, re-blogging, etc, etc, etc. We have had visibility on virtually every social media platform that exists.

Irregardless, I’m asking again. Please forward, share, and reblog this editorial, and consider donating something to OYE. If you can stand in line for 4 hours to get the new iPad, then you can spare 2 minutes using it to help change the world. Look out your window and get off your butts…your global neighbor’s kid is heading for a cliff.

-Richard Lakin

Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

the OYE documentary

This is the story of four extraordinary young women. It’s easy to slip into hyperbole when writing an editorial like this, but “extraordinary” is the appropriate description. Occasionally you come across people who make a lasting impression on you, and that was the case with OYE scholars Neris, Rosa, Sandra, and Oriel during my three-week visit to the Organization for Youth Empowerment in El Progreso, Honduras.

Neris’ diminutive physical size (well under 5′) and infectious laugh belie her personal intensity and her desire to complete her education. Often in my travels, I see some pretty tragic circumstances. Neris, however, has a positive family environment and lives in one of the most beautiful areas that I’ve ever seen. Campo Monterrey is deep in the plantation region of Honduras. We drove an hour and a half through miles of banana, sugarcane, and palms (used to make palm oil) to her family’s modest home that is also a convenience store. Surrounded by tropical greenery, there is the sense of an idyllic family life. Nonetheless, attending public school is not a given in Honduras. It takes money, as well as transportation from the isolated community where Neris lives. Thanks to her family’s support and a scholarship from OYE, she is on her way to a business career.

Rosa is shy and unassuming, her voice cracking because she was a little nervous being interviewed. Due to her family’s economic circumstances, she was not planning on attending high school and was headed for a life of very limited opportunity. Thanks to her mother’s perseverance, and financial support from OYE, both Rosa and her brother are able to continue their education and break the cycle of poverty that is so common in Honduras. Rosa is very focused and is excelling in her studies. A rooster adds it’s voice to Rosa’s mom’s interview. One of the things I remember most about the trip is the daily chorus of rooster crows that started with one and then swept across the town for miles. You miss it when you leave El Progreso.

Sandra is a pragmatic realist who had considered leaving Honduras due to the lack of opportunity. I’ve conducted a lot of interviews with, and about youth who have been characterized as “at risk.” Sandra is the first student that I’ve ever heard discuss the stigma of such a characterization from her own viewpoint. Having witnessed much gang violence, she was tempted to just give up, but now she’s attending college and has a personal agenda of assisting her family to find a better life.

Oriel’s original posting on our blog was our most visited entry, and was shared all over the world. She is all sweetness and light. Her mother had passed away just a few weeks before our visit and she had assumed the responsibility of raising six younger siblings. Despite her grief and her newly acquired responsibilities, she had the time and energy to participate in an event to raise money to end hunger in Africa. The determination in her voice when she discusses setting an example for her siblings is very memorable, and I knew that it would be the last words of the documentary as soon as I recorded it. When you’re having a tough day, think about Oriel’s upbeat demeanor.

These four young women are just a few of the youth who are transforming their lives and their society through participation in the Organization for Youth Empowerment program. I hope you will find inspiration in their stories, hit the share buttons, and contribute financially to assist them in their important work.

-Richard Lakin

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

¡muchas gracias!


The Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) extends its many thanks to TACA Airlines, especially Roberto Kriete and Zulma Granados, for providing 12 OYE volunteers with reduced airfare so they could fly from New York City to Honduras to carry out a service project with OYE. TACA also reduced the fee for filmmaker Richard Lakin (not to mention generously rebooking his flight three times without a charge) so that he could carry out and complete his social media and documentary project in Honduras. TACA’s support helped make these projects possible, and its sense of social responsibility and customer service are values that have had a direct impact on the work that OYE carries out in Honduras. Thank you again to TACA from everyone in the OYE family, and we look forward to collaborating in the future.

OYE Adelante Jóvenes da las gracias a TACA Airlines, especialmente Roberto Kriete y Zulma Granados, por haber regalado un descuento de la tarifa del vuelo a 12 voluntarios de nuestra organización. Gracias a esta generosidad, el grupo pudo volar desde Nueva York a Honduras para llevar a cabo un proyecto de servicio con OYE. TACA también redujo la tarifa del documentalista Richard Lakin que filmó en Honduras durante el mes de marzo. Además, TACA cambió la reserva de su vuelo tres veces sin cargo para que él pudiera llevar a cabo su proyecto en Honduras. Este apoyo hizo posible nuestros proyectos. El sentido de responsabilidad social y el servicio al cliente de TACA son valores que han impactado el trabajo que OYE realiza en Honduras. Gracias de nuevo a TACA de todos en la familia de OYE y esperamos poder colaborar en el futuro.

Posted in social media initiative | Leave a comment

OYE’s Sandra Fiallos Selected to Represent Honduras at the One Young World Conference in October

OYE scholar Sandra Fiallos has been selected to represent Honduras at the third annual One Young World conference in Pittsburgh from October 18-22. She will be going as a fully sponsored delegate.

From One Young World Conference:

“The One Young World team reviewed all applicants who met the deadlines, taking the following criteria into account, including the standard One Young World delegate criteria, and gave every application a score. The highest scores per each of the 100 countries were shortlisted, and those shortlisted were required to provide additional information and references. We contacted the referees of those with the highest scores and where the competition was tough or we could not reach references, we contacted others. Everyone was required to respond in English, in a timely manner and answer all questions asked. The finalists were reviewed and decisions made with the Co-Founders.”

Sandra’s story:

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rosa’s story-the director’s cut

Early in our project, we presented the story of Rosa Yorleni Sevilla, an OYE scholar who nearly missed out on attending high school because of her family’s economic circumstances. Hers is truly a story of transformation…going from a life without the possibility of completing her education, to now becoming a scholar of the month.

Rosa’s story has consistently been a favorite of our viewers, and still gets regular daily hits over a month after its initial posting. The original was a rough cut that was shot, edited, and posted in a matter of hours. Today, we’ve posted the finished piece, which will be part of a full-length documentary about OYE’s efforts in empowering youth through education, self-esteem building, mentoring, and positive influences. This finished piece provides more insight into her family life (and the lives typical of OYE scholars), as well as an opportunity to view it for the first time if you’ve just joined us a follower of the OYE social media project.

So, we present…Rosa’s story, the redux.

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments



Following the success of three marathon runners who sponsored OYE in 2010, a fundraising initiative called RACE 4 OYE has been born. RACE 4 OYE provides an opportunity for athletes to “race” and raise money for OYE’s scholarship program. In 2011, RACE 4 OYE runners and bikers helped OYE raise approximately $10,000 from hundreds donors, which enabled 15 Honduran youth to continue on their educational path.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up your running shoes or biking helmet and learn how you can race for OYE by emailing

Be the movement. Be the change.


Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

on being an “at-risk” youth


OYE scholar Sandra Fiallos talks about being characterized as an “at-risk” youth in Honduran society.

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What is OYE?


We asked OYE scholars to describe what OYE means to them in one word.

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Put a cute dog picture on your WordPress blog to drive traffic

There are a lot of things that I miss about El Progreso, Honduras now that I’ve returned to the US…buying bananas by the dozen in the Centro, having a morning fruit licuado from the place across the street from the hotel. I couldn’t remember all of the fruit names in Spanish, but the lady who worked there told me that this particular blend was her boss’ favorite, so my daily order became “la bebida preferida de su jefe.”

Fruit vendor, central El Progreso

And I miss this little pug dog who would snort, and grunt, and slobber it’s adoration on days when I’d work by the hotel pool, which was conveniently in range of the WI-FI. He belongs to the couple who own the Hotel Plaza Montecristo. The Montecristo has been a friend, offering discounts and personal hospitality to guests who are visiting OYE.

After working for weeks on a project to bring insightful analysis of Honduran society, and emotional stories of personal transformation, I posted some dog  photos from the trip on several personal accounts; Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc, and they received more daily activity than anything on the OYE blog so far.

“Cute pictures of dogs generated more activity than insightful analysis and emotional stories of transformation.”

let sleeping dogs lie/ El Progreso, Honduras

So, the lesson here is what we already knew…if you post goofy content; a cat playing the piano, a talking dog, a divorcing Kardashian…you will get millions of hits. To that end, here’s our cute dog pictures and video from Honduras! Let’s see how it affects traffic to the site. Note the tags for the post below.

Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Justin Eldridge Otero, Co-founder of OYE


Justin gives an overview of OYE’s program.

Posted in from Honduras, moments ago, social media initiative, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We invite the world to participate! ¡Invitamos al mundo que participe! Wij nodigen de wereld uit om deel te nemen! Nous invitons le monde pour participer! Wir laden die Welt ein, um teilzunehmen! Προσκαλούμε τον κόσμο για να συμμετέχουμε! Invitiamo il mondo per partecipare! 私達は加わるために世界を誘う! Nós convidamos o mundo para participar! Мы приглашаем мир для того чтобы участвовать! 我们邀请世界参与!

an update on our global social media initiative

Much has happened during the three weeks that I visited the Organization for Youth Empowerment in El Progreso, Honduras.   We’ve been featured on  various news sites, and The Huffington Post ran Michael Solis’ editorial on the ethics of documentary filmmaking as it relates to this project. We’ve tweeted virtually every person/ organization relating to our subject and asked them to retweet, which many did. To name a few:

changagents, Lorna Li Social SEO, Liberationtech, Bonnie Welch, Farris Timini, MD/Mayo Clinic, Samantha McGowan, Latino Rebels, Gnetwork, Afrolatin@project, CSRwire, Aman Singh, Maura Donohue, Katrina Crew, Honduras Robot, and S.R. Reynolds, a very gracious lady that I haven’t seen since the late 60’s, and who was in 1st through 12th grade with me in Frederick, MD. Thanks, Sasha. Thanks, all of you.

Right now, we’re averaging 15 hits per hour. In the last two weeks, Facebook generated about 50% of our site hits, with LinkedIn at about 30%, and Twitter about 15%. The other 5% was miscellaneous sources (Reddit, StumbleUpon, e.mail shares, etc).

We are appealing to the global social media community to contribute their expertise. We’re hoping a social media platform will involve its members. Our big three, as far as site activity, are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, plus our WordPress blog platform.  Please give us advice on how to increase the distribution of this blog, and the visibility of the Organization for Youth Empowerment! Be part of a project that produces an open source social media strategy for non-profits, NGOs, and social causes around the world. Please share this post with your colleagues in the social media community. C’mon. This is a chance to do something good!

We hope you’ll view some of the videos on this site to see the impact that OYE has on Honduran youth. We think you’ll find Oriel’s Story, published earlier today, very engaging.

-R.Lakin, co-founder, 18 rabbits digital media

Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oriel’s story

Oriel Eunice Diaz is a scholar in the Organization for Youth Empowerment/El Progreso, Honduras

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

HuffPost and Latina Lista run editorials on the OYE social media project

“The Ethics of Storytelling: Documenting Change in Honduran Youth”

click to read editorial

“Going Global on a Shoestring and a Smartphone”

click to read editorial

Posted in from Honduras, social media initiative, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neris’ story


Education empowers youth in Honduras.

Posted in from Honduras, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dance to end world hunger!

From El Progreso, Honduras…a few hours ago.


This event is called “Alto al Hambre” or “End Hunger,” and is an initiative begun by the international NGO World Vision (Visión Mundial). World Vision established an office in El Progreso about 2 years ago and is reaching out to local NGOs. They identified OYE as a promising partner, and collaborated with OYE and it’s radio program to help organize this event. The kids on the drums were Garifuna youth from Proniño. Several local NGOs took part in the performances, events, and fund-raising to support the cause of ending hunger in Africa. This is one of the first events of its kind, as most initiatives in El Progreso are meant to raise money for local organizations or causes. Now, Honduran youth have identified and rallied around an issue of international importance. OYE staff, scholars, and the audience were caught up in the rhythm and joined the drummers on-stage.

Posted in from Honduras, moments ago | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

our video shoot in Campos Bananeros, Honduras

Neris Avila

Yesterday, we drove the long, dusty road to the home of Neris Avila, an OYE scholar who studies commerce in el Perla High School. She lives about an hour and a half outside of El Progreso in Campos Bananeros, the heart of the banana plantations. She is one of the few OYE scholars who lives with an unbroken nuclear family. She prefers rural life to city life, since she gets to spend a good amount of time with her parents and four siblings.

Neris, sister Merlin Avila, and mom Juana Gonzales

At OYE she takes part in the radio program, where she broadcasts her thoughts on issues like health, entertainment, and the country’s reality. She also organizes community outreach initiatives on special holidays to reach out to youth in the hard to reach communities of the banana plantations.

location shoot in Campos Bananeros

Posted in social media initiative | Leave a comment

An interview with Gerald Omar Velasquez, OYE scholar & coordinator of the Arte La Calle program

From El Progreso, Honduras earlier today:


Nineteen year-old Gerald Velasquez’s family didn’t want him to pursue an education, encouraging him to find work instead…but he persisted on his own. Today he is attending  a university in San Pedro Sula, and is the coordinator of OYE’s art program.

Art is a significant component of OYE’s educational approach. It helps build self-esteem, promotes developmental skills, provides self-expression, and keeps youth off the street by giving them focus.

Posted in from Honduras, moments ago, voices of OYE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment