This hopeful, inspirational story of strangers from all over the world helping to put an end to this disease is remarkable.  It is humanity at it’s best.

The quote is from Glenn O’Neill, father to Eliza, a beautiful little girl who thanks to an unlucky roll of the cosmic dice is facing something no kid should have to. BUT this post is not about disease, medical developments, doctors, treatment and care, charity or even Eliza, as cute and unfortunate as she is.

This post is about Glenn and his wife and their record breaking viral marketing campaign to try and raise $2.5 million online in a bid to save Eliza’s life. 

This story is not only inspirational but educational. Read on and if you can, I would ask you to share this story with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and whatever other social networks you might belong to.

The Interview

1. Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got from “oh my God Eliza’s sick” to “lets do a video and try and raise funds via social channels to get a clinical trial which might save her” via a GoFundMe campaign? In those early days did you have a strategy or did things just evolve on their own? Please tell us a little bit about it…

We quite honestly did not have a fully thought out strategy. After diagnosis in July 2013, my wife and I formed a non-profit 501c3 as we knew we had to immediately start raising funds. We started with traditional fundraising (parties, 5K’s, golf tournaments). I also decided to do a very amateur home video of Eliza on GoFundMe in October 2013.

This video after 6 months up until the end of March 2014 had raised just about $40,000. Our total fundraising efforts (including everything) after these 6 months was about $250,000, well short of the more than $2M needed. At this point, we were desperate and had to think “bigger”.

2. You mentioned to me before this interview that your video has broken fundraising records, can you tell us a little bit about that?

SavingEliza.com video was released on April 2nd. In early June, the Saving Eliza campaign on GoFundMe officially broke the record for most ever raised. It has broken all records including most raised, most shares, most donors, etc.. Now over $1M raised and over 22,000 individual donors.

[ED: The story was featured on NYDaily. You can read that here]Since April 2nd, two other videos have been released and have boosted views of SavingEliza also. All videos here:

Video 1: Saving Eliza:

Video 2: Eliza’s Brother asks for help:

Video 3: Strangers make SavingEliza:

3. The video you made is excellent. How did that come about? Did you shoot it yourself?

Thank you. I did not make the video and never could. I have no videomaking skills ????

One very late night in February, out of desperation, I did a simple Google search for “how to make a viral video”. It seemed plausible that a viral video might be a way to reach more people, but I admit, I had no clue how to proceed and the idea seemed far-fetched even to me.

I sent a “shot in the dark” email to the writer of the first article that came up from the Google search (Karen ChengGive it 100).

She responded! We had a back and forth, and she in turn reached out to the editor-in-chief of Petapixel, DL Cade. He sent out a blast email to all of his photography and videographer contacts around the world asking for help. One freelance photographer, Benjamin Von Wong, in Australia at the time, answered the call.

Mind you, I knew none of these people. After Skype-ing with Ben, he said he would try to help us and could be at our house in 2 weeks if he could sleep on our couch.

We had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The last week of March 2014, Von Wong came to our house. He and 2 other artists stayed at our house for 8 days, all sleeping on couches. They filmed 40 hours of footage, editing along the way. And for all of this, they charged us nothing for their time and expertise.

When they left, they gave us the 3 minute video of our very personal story you can see at SavingEliza.com. The video does a better job explaining the time critical situation Eliza is facing, and our cause, far better than any words written here could. How this video came to be is an amazing story on its own!

4. Tell us a little bit about how you got the word out about your mission?

It really started with realizing that, in the video, we had THE BEST tool to tell our story. We started with press releases about the video release in hopes some would pick this up. The National viral video online channel Right This Minute did pick up the story, video and interviewed us. From there it took off.

5. Tell us about some things you did really well, that were really effective at getting donations?

To start, personally we take no credit for the amazing things that have happened. The one thing we did early on which helped, was opening up about our situation and realizing we needed to ask others for help.

Know your strengths: It was clear early on, the video was our strength. In addition, web content of our story & video on media channels was the primary driver of views. Views were leading to more donations. Our message of not only please watch the 3 minute video, but also please SHARE, was/is key. The “SHARE” exposes our story to another +300 users on average. We realized the video is so compelling that we don’t necessarily need to say the words “give” or “donate”. We just ask people to “watch & share” the 3 minute video at SavingEliza.com. The rest is up to the viewer and so many strangers (over 22,000) have decided this is a worthy cause and have reached out to help us stop this disease for all children.

Hashtag: Hashtagging everything #SavingEliza (every Facebook, Twitter post, etc..) has been very effective, to the point of some national news articles titled their stories with #SavingEliza.

You can find a lot online!: Simple Google searches can help you find writers/websites/media/etc.. that are more likely to cover your story, given that they have done similar spots in the past. Update stories seem to be something many editors are interested in. Package a short, succinct press release and send, send, send. We had one come back interested early on (Right This Minute), and from there everything took off: ABCNews.com, FoxNews.com, Huffington Post, DailyMail UK, NY DailyNews, BBC, many more including The Today Show and 60 Minutes Australia.

6. If you knew back then (on the bad news day) what you know now, what would you advise the younger version of yourself to do and not do?

–A “business plan” ahead of time would be good if you have resources/time. Had I known all of this would come to be, I would have tried to be much more organized ahead of time, from administration (handling calls, emails, press requests) to strategy (timing of how things roll out, day of week, when we released videos, etc..) Don’t get us wrong, it has been very successful and we never could have expected this. There are things we could have done better if we had experts advising us. While I read some books and web articles, that was the only background I had in social media or fundraising.

— In hindsight, since we have had so much success with SavingEliza.com, I would have named our facebook and our foundation with this as part of the name. We had no idea this would come to be of course. As it stands, we have several different names and would be better if the “brand name” was streamlined across all channels.

7. Was there anything you did that really surprised you in how effective (or completely ineffective) it was as a technique/effort?

–An interesting observation is that we have had some significant national LIVE news segments, and these have NOT had a huge boost in views or donations, because they weren’t accompanied by web content where someone could easily access the video to view it and share it. Even though the LIVE segment mentioned SavingEliza.com, a person either watched it, or didn’t, and then it was gone.

–I have been surprised that since the original release April 2nd, we have been able to re-boost the campaign twice with new videos (pointing back to original) and new “updates” to story. One thing we remember as that even though 350,000 have viewed the video, think about how many have not. We imagine 1,000,000+ views of the video and what impact that would have. That is our push now.

8. How much time have you got left to hit your funding goal?

We need to raise another $1M before October 2014, to ensure the clinical trial will be funded to start on time (pending final FDA steps). Since TIME is one of the biggest factors in the progression of this disease, for Eliza we cant afford to miss this goal. Of this, we have $750,000 more trying to raise on SavingEliza.com before October through the sharing of the 3 minute SavingEliza.com video.

9. Anything else you would like to say to our readers?

This hopeful, inspirational story of strangers from all over the world helping to put an end to this disease is remarkable. It is humanity at it’s best. It is social media and crowdfunding working in a way that’s never been seen. It is historic.

We ask you please watch the 3 minute video and share on all social media outlets possible (facebook, email, twitter, blogs, etc.) Humble and ever appreciative thanks for hearing our story…from a dad just trying to save his daughter (and stop this disease for all kids)