Shaun King is lead pastor of The Courageous Church in downtown Atlanta. King devised a campaign to raise funds for troubled children in Haiti using Twitter and the help of more than 150 participating celebrities. Organized on eBay, donors can be followed on Twitter by a favorite celebrity, including Eva Longoria, Justin Bieber, Cher, LeAnn Rimes, big names in Ultimate Fighting, and Jessica Alba. Less than 24 hours after the start of the campaign, the effort had raised nearly $100,000. Money from the auction will benefit the Miriam Center, a home in Haiti for children with special needs like autism and cerebral palsy.
In this exclusive interview, we talk to Shaun about TwitChange, how he handles criticism and how people can get involved.
Q: TwitChange is the first Twitter charity auction—where did the idea for TwitChange originate?
Shaun King: I had the idea for TwitChange about a year ago, actually. I shopped it around, but almost nobody liked it. As a matter of fact, even a few weeks ago before we launched, almost everybody I told about the idea thought it sucked. I’m glad I didn’t listen—that’s a skill of mine!
Three people kept believing in the idea: my wife, who is generally cautious of all new ideas and will tell me if something is bad, loved it. My friend Joey Leslie in California believed in it. He runs StudioGood.com. One of my closest partners in ministry, a gifted web designer named Chad Kellough also made it clear that he thought he could design what was in my head.
The idea came about because I was considering how to use Twitter to promote a celebrity charity auction I was brainstorming about. I combined the two ideas and BOOM—TwitChange.com happened.
Q: How did you get the celebrities involved with TwitChange?
King: It wasn’t me. I had developed a friendship with Eva Longoria because of our mutual desire to help Haiti, and she has gotten most celebrities on board. The celebrities that she got on board brought more on board, and it was just like a domino effect. I have pushed as hard as I know how, but what we have found is that what we are asking celebrities to do is so easy and so compelling that it’s hard for them to say no!
Q: How do you respond to other church leaders that might criticize your use of celebrities to accomplish justice in Haiti?
King: I don’t respond at all. I’m very honestly too busy to care what other people, including other church leaders, think about what I do to help Haiti. I’m doing my best. I don’t mean to be snippy, but while other people debate methods, people are dying around the world, children are suffering, and I feel like my call is to kick butt now and ask questions later.
Q: What’s the response been like within your church community? Are they involved in TwitChange?
King: Courageous Church is amazing. It is because of Courageous Church that I am able to do what I do locally or internationally. They have my back, and it gives me a real confidence to go hard after what I hear God saying. Our key volunteers attend Courageous Church.
Q: How can someone get involved and participate in TwitChange?
People can help us out in four easy ways.
1. Go to TwitChange.com and spread the word about it.
2. Consider bidding, since all proceeds go to charity. A church leader may want a celebrity to tweet about an idea or program they have, and it could really help give their idea momentum!
3. Donate directly to AHomeInHaiti.org—
this is where all of the proceeds are going from the auction. We are building the largest home and school for severely disabled children in all of Haiti in partnership with my friends @ NW Haiti Christian Mission. (NWHCM.org)
4. Pray. Pray. Pray! I need it. Our church needs it. Our work in Haiti needs to be bathed in prayer. (The bidding ends September 25.)