Tammy Tibbetts deems Twitter her favorite social media outlet– “Twitter allows you to release smart information and ideas to the universe, show your personality and passion, and it creates miracles for you!”
Tammy is Seventeen Magazine’s first ever Social Media Editor as well as the Founder/President of She’s The First a non-profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in the developing world while nurturing a new generation of global leaders here in the United States. As of December 2011, She’s the First has raised more than $70,000 to sponsor the education of 190 girls.
I actually met Tammy on twitter when, on a whim, I tweeted @seventeenmag that I was near their office and asked if I could come in for a meeting! Tammy tweeted back at me and told me to come on over. After trying to get a meeting with a Seventeen Magazine editor for months – this was such an exciting surprise.
After sitting down with Tammy recently to discuss her inspiring life, I’ve realized that she got it wrong; it is Tammy, not Twitter, who creates miracles for others!
Stephanie Hayman: You use the phrase “DIY world change.” What does this mean to you in regards to She’s The First?
Tammy Tibbetts: “DIY world change” means contributing whatever talents you have, whatever amount of times you have, and all the creativity you have to something that is larger than yourself—a cause, a campaign that will improve the lives of others, not just your own. Philanthropy today is not about writing big checks. Social media gives you so much power to connect your online networks and make a difference offline, so use it!
SH: Your experience in the world of journalism prompted you to take a more active role in the movement to expand girls’ education. What else were driving forces in your decision to found She’s the First?
TT: This answer could be a book! But in short, I believe unequivocally in the power of our social networks to change the world. If we use our social media tools well, and constantly find creative ways to bridge our online activism with offline action, there are no limits to what we can achieve. It’s also important to remember that I founded She’s the First as an idea that then attracted other young women, in particular Christen Brandt, Monica Townsend, Kate Lord, Rachel Datello—volunteer leaders we still have to this day!—and together, we produced a YouTube PSA video and simple website…we released a simple message. It turned into a non-profit based on the response from our peers. So if you believe in something, find a way to get your idea out there so it can be shared and shaped by others. The result will be something bigger and more amazing than anything you would have dreamed yourself.
SH: What was the process like to create such an empowering not-for-profit? How did you find the team to support you?
TT: I didn’t–they found She’s the First! Because both @shesthefirst and @GirlsWhoRockNY both keep an active, 365-day, 24/7 presence on Twitter and Facebook, we naturally attract talented guys and girls who care about our mission and take the initiative to get involved. These volunteers usually tweet or message us, or send an e-mail, and then we connect offline or via Skype to take action together. No matter your company or cause, if you are authentic and you’re constantly pouring your passion out into the universe, you will attract the resources and help you need! From there, it’s important to streamline communication and make sure everyone clearly understands their role and responsibilities—appoint leaders and teams within the organization. I am still growing myself as a leader, and learning how to delegate better and not to micromanage. What’s important to remember is that the team doesn’t support me—my job is to support them, to bring the resources into the organization that will enable us to achieve our mission.
SH: What is your greatest challenge each day in your process of increasing awareness of the lack of education in the developing world?
TT: I am incredibly fortunate living in such a diverse and international city as New York City, but one of the greatest challenges is when people of more closed-minded point of view question, “why aren’t you doing more to help the U.S.?” when in fact, we do intertwine a global and local impact. How do you help more people see that it’s not a “help them or help us” but let’s help each other? We’re global citizens.
SH: You also co-founded GIRLS WHO ROCK, the largest fundraiser for She’s the First, held during Internet Week New York. How does Girls Who Rock help support STF?
TT: GIRLS WHO ROCK raises funds to sponsor girls’ education at a different one of our partner schools each year. To date, we’ve raised $23,000 to sponsor girls in Tanzania and Uganda. This year’s ambitious goal is to raise $50,000 to sponsor girls in India. My co-founder, Cynthia Hellen, is a visionary and it wouldn’t be possible without her!
SH: With She’s the First, you were named one of Glamour Magazine’s “Young Amazings” at the Women of the Year Awards in 2010. What does it take to be a “Young Amazing”?
TT: Passion! And people who believe in you.
SH: You have your hands in so many different projects – between She’s the First, Girls Who Rock and your social media responsibilities at Seventeen – how do you find time to do it all?
TT: To be honest, right now I don’t sleep all that much and am well caffeinated, running on adrenalin and passion and an unwavering belief that the world desperately needs what we are creating with She’s the First! No one could work this intensely forever, and I understand the importance of work/life balance, but right now, I’m 26 and I’m able to push the pedal to the metal. We’re on a tipping point, so I will give it all I’ve got.
SH: You were the youngest website editor for Hearst Magazines. That’s a big deal! What’s your advice to young women who want to pursue a career in journalism and/or begin their own not-for-profit?
TT: For magazine journalism, definitely join the Ed2010.com network for aspiring magazine editors, and if you are in New York City, my best mentors and support system is within New York Women in Communications! They host incredible events for students, including an annual career conference, and award life-changing scholarships.
For non-profits, the beauty is it’s never your own—you share it with the world and the assets literally do not belong to you. But I understand what you mean. Just challenge yourself, in whatever you are doing now. Skills from the for-profit world are transferrable into non-profit. Ask questions constantly, try to build conversations for change and avoid well-intentioned but oftentimes misdirected charitable acts; and learn how to effectively do what most people shy away from—ask for money.