Social Media Helps Young Rock Star Raise Funds for Cancer Research on a Shoe-String

Teagan Stedman (middle) is pictured with “shred heads” Alex Berson and Andreas Knickman (courtesy of

Teagan Stedman is an aspiring rock star who, at just 12 years old, has been on stage with members of such headliner bands as Guns and Roses, System of a Down, Limp Bizkit, Fistful of Mercy, and Rage Against the Machine. And, more importantly, he’s inspired those rock stars to rage and fundraise for pediatric cancer research.

Teagan founded Shred Kids Cancer, a nonprofit organization “made up of kids and started by a kid.” Inspired by his friend Alex Berson who was battling cancer, Teagan combined his passion for music and helping others.

The organization enables young people to make a difference by raising funds to support research that leads to improving the care, quality of life and survival rate of children with cancer. In Teagan’s words, “It’s a way to make the kids who have cancer know that we are here for them and show them we care and give them strength.”

 ShredFest: A successful fundraiser driven by social media

One of their most popular fundraisers, now in its fourth year, is “ShredFest,” featuring a battle-of-the-bands format with celebrity rock star judges held at notable venues such as the House of Blues and The Roxy.

Despite raising nearly $40,000, the organization doesn’t buy advertising and relies solely on word-of-mouth, hand delivered flyers and social media. They were initially drawn to social media because of its cost effectiveness, allowing the nonprofit to put more of its money toward cancer research.

I caught up to Teagan and his mom Kelly (after school and band rehearsal) to talk about how Shred Kids Cancer is using social media. I was struck by how their experience paralleled that of many other health-related organizations, and how their lessons can serve as reminders to those of us implementing social media in our organizations.

Go where your audience is

Shred Kids Cancer started with a webpage because, in the wisdom of a 12-year-old, “Nowadays you kinda need to go on the web ‘cause you need people to know about your organization, and I would say more people go on the Internet than look at newspapers weekly.”

Be authentic

Shred Kids Cancer is intentionally kid-directed. Even though they have adult help, their presence has the look and feel of the young volunteers involved…and that alone tells an impressive organizational story.

Listen and respond

Being authentic doesn’t mean you don’t respond to community feedback. When the website was first designed it had a darker, heavy metal feel to it; but after receiving feedback, they’ve shed their black background in favor of an intentionally more upbeat feel.

Localize and humanize your message

Each year, the organization names a “shredhead” on their website to be the face of the organization and inspire others. This approach has also benefited the organization by attracting local media coverage.

Recognize the strength of different tools

Their Facebook page is most successful in promoting events; YouTube videos share their stories of their organization’s mission and history; and their new @shredkidscancer on Twitter has helped them connect to people with similar organizations who, according to Kelley, “we learn from… and we might want to partner with in the future.”

Strengthen face-to-face connections

Many of the celebrities who served as judges for their annual ShredFest now follow them on Twitter and Facebook – a good way to keep them connected to the organization all year long.

Share your message through stories

They recognized that the post-event photos on their website where mostly serving as a nice memory for the volunteers, but didn’t share the message of the organization. Videographer Jared Sagal volunteered to produce a post-event video that better expressed the story of the organization’s mission.

Welcome volunteers and partners

Recognizing that this is a part-time venture for Teagan who is a fulltime student and aspiring musician, they rely on volunteers. In addition to the video, two student volunteers (Andrew Ceco and Andreas Knickman) lead up the webpage effort. Partnerships with sponsors like Guitar Center and Van’s Warp Tour help bring attention to the organization through more popular and highly followed social media outlets.

Embrace the transformational experience

Using social media to enhance connections to do good certainly has benefits for the organization and society, but if you become involved in using social media to help others…you can also expect benefits. According to Teagan, connecting people for a common cause has made him a better person who is “learning to help other people and help the community.  It’s going to change me forever.”

How we help

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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