Today is Beth Kanter’s 53rd birthday. I have met Beth in person several times and have always (not so secretly) wanted to work with her on a project. She is a complete inspiration, one of my heroes, a person whose excitement and enthusiasm for using social tools to help a good cause never wanes. In fact, her passion goes beyond just what is needed to do her job—she is passionate about no less than making the world a better place.
When I first met Beth at BlogHer in San Francisco during the past two years, I walked right up to her, knowing without question that it was her, just from the welcoming openness of her smile, her forthrightness, her absolute authenticity. There was no gap between the person whose posts I saw each day on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, her blog, Blip.tv, YouTube, Flickr, her innovative Wiki Portfolio, or in any of the many places where she has a social presence. She was immediately friendly and natural. I felt that I had known her for years, even though we had just met.
Since I also have an extensive nonprofit management, board, and social entrepreneurship background, and have helped to raise millions of dollars for good causes, I paid special attention to Beth when I first met her online. Immediately, I noticed how up-to-the-minute she was—and remains—on using any and all technological tools that can be employed to help nonprofit organizations in a variety of ways they never had available before. I found it eye-opening that she used a Wiki for her portfolio, and I avidly studied how she used Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and many other social networks to start new conversations, build communities for good causes, and raise funds in smaller and larger amounts.
Most of all, over time, I’ve observed how no challenge seems too great for Beth, and how she approaches each task with great excitement and joy. Her ability to interface with people is even more admirable than her formidable ability to grasp and employ new technologies for social good.
I subscribed to Beth’s blog and have followed it regularly. How could I not? This woman is all about changing the world and making it better for all citizens, no matter what their walk of life, no matter whether they are children, adults or animals. It seems the real purpose of her life is not just to raise money, or to mentor, coach, train and advise organizations about how to integrate social media into their outreach methods—yes, she does all that and much more—but her real purpose in life seems to be to spread love everywhere.
In honor of Beth’s 53rd birthday, Tweetsgiving Founder Stacey Monk enlisted 53 bloggers to blog about the impact Beth has made in our lives. I was honored to be included, and the number has actually expanded to 64, the last time I looked, so Beth has some extra blog posts stashed away in her honor.
As my colleague and friend, Geoff Livingston blogged, “Beth reminds me of a Bodhisattva, an enlightened one who dedicates their time teaching others the path. She teaches, trains, blogs, and constantly gives information to people who can use it for societal change everyday.”
I think of Beth that way, too. She fosters joyful learning, teaches you even when you don’t ask for it, and maybe you don’t even realize the immense value of what she’s sharing with you until you think about it later. She plants seeds of thought, passion and action wherever she goes; and sooner, rather than later, there’s suddenly a forest of social activists in our midst, engaging in collaboration and community.
This year, Beth is living in the San Francisco Bay Area, working as a visiting scholar at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. I heard that today, she taught a class at Stanford. She is now going further to make a real difference, working with a major philanthropic organization and teaching future nonprofit managers and social entrepreneurs how to use social tech tools to engage in actual policy making, and making changes in how funding is allocated, which moves the concept of using social media for fund-raising to an entirely new level. Beth has always been a leader and taken the initiative; now she is doing research and helping to make initiatives. I can hardly wait to see what happens next in the world, as a result of her work, and I look forward to many, many more years of sharing in her community.
Oh, by the way—if you haven’t already done so today, stop by Beth’s blog and celebrate her life help make her 53rd Birthday wish come true by joining the party and sending at least send 53 Cambodian kids to school. You can find out more about her support of The Sharing Foundation there, and why she is so passionate about this cause, among many others she supports. And, you can wish her a Happy Birthday!