We are living in a time where the news of near-daily horrific loss and tragedy can easily fill us with anxiety and fear for our future. Musa Tariq, (former) CMO of GoFundMe, and Maryam Banikarim, (former) Head of Marketing of Nextdoor, tell a different story. These marketing leaders are agents of hope and kindness. They are leading organizations overflowing with stories of everyday people, strangers, and neighbors who found the secret to making the world a better place through community help.
Here is what they had to say on Visionaries and how it could influence your team, talent, and future.
- The Difference Between Marketing Products and Enabling Community
- Helping Those Suffering from The Pandemic and Gun Violence
- Recent Campaigns and Thoughts on Evolving Community
- Spreading Stories of Hope That Change the World #KindnessRising
- How To Build External and Internal Community on Shared Purpose
The Difference Between Marketing Products and Community
Maryam Banikarim: Our form of marketing is a unique paradigm; what we are selling at Nextdoor is the ability to connect with your neighbors. When I say neighbors, I mean Nathaniel and Troy, who live down the street from me, Stefan, who runs the French bakery, and the EMT who came to our rescue in the middle of the pandemic. Our strategy is about unlocking an active value community. Nextdoor differs from other platforms in that we are a neighborhood network that wants you to use technology to connect in real life.
Musa Tariq: At GoFundMe, we provide an easy way to connect individuals around a common cause. Like Maryam, we are not selling an object; we are helping people feel more comfortable asking for help; just as Uber made you comfortable getting in the car with a stranger and how Airbnb made you comfortable staying in a stranger’s house. Ultimately, we are trying to change people’s behavior around asking for help.
Helping Those Suffering from The Pandemic and Gun Violence
Musa Tariq: Unfortunately, my team knows how to navigate crises because they have done it too many times. I joined this incredible team halfway through the pandemic. Since I’ve been here, we have seen many mass shootings across North America, including the tragic incident at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, and the grocery store shooting in Buffalo, New York. We are grateful to be getting the necessary support to the right people when they need it most, and making GoFundMe a safe and trusted place for people to ask for help. People worldwide have donated to families who lost a loved one or people injured. In fact, we have seen people come together across 50 states and 104 countries around the globe to help the Uvalde community and the families impacted during this critical time. What’s promising is that behind every tragedy is the number of good people who utilize the platform to help.
Maryam Banikarim: Like Musa, my team is no stranger to challenging events. I started this job three weeks before the pandemic. We had a remarkable uptick in traffic, where in the first month, the number of people offering to help was up by 80%. We made a map on Nextdoor that we initially designed for trick or treating and converted it into a help map. People could pin themselves on the map for neighbors to find them. Neighbors everywhere demonstrated incredible generosity, which gives me hope in the middle of a very tough two and a half years, not just the last few months.
Recent Campaigns and Thoughts on Evolving Community
Maryam Banikarim: After reading an article listing the most influential people, I decided we need to celebrate the real heroes who have been there and whose names we don’t know. We started an inaugural Nextdoor 100 where we invited the community to nominate an outstanding neighbor. People started posting, and before we knew it, we received 46,000 submissions. We recently announced 100 winners- if you are ever having a low day, go to Nextdoor 100 and read these submissions.
Musa Tariq: We have a similar initiative called GoFundMe Heroes, where every two weeks, we showcase the stories of incredible people on the platform doing acts of kindness in their communities. Far more good things are happening than harmful; they just don’t get told. We have seen society evolve – data shows that one of our fastest-growing categories last year was weddings; this year, our fastest-growing categories have been Community and Volunteer. We have seen people’s desire to help their communities on the rise. I love this because we have all recognized that we can’t solve big problems, but we can solve them locally.
Spreading Stories of Hope That Change the World
Musa Tariq: Instead of gifts, I set up a fundraiser to help a local after-school program in Detroit for my last birthday. I felt inspired by a 15-year-old named Kai Martin, who raised money for cancer treatment ten years in a row on his birthday. Another inspiration was U.S. Navy Veteran Kenny Jary. His neighbor had set up a fundraiser for a new scooter, and his reaction went viral on Tiktok. The fundraiser raised over $100,000, which he then used to help other veterans get electric scooters. These characters are real people; they are people you know, whom you walk past on the street and live beside.
Maryam Banikarim: I live in New York City, and let me tell you, if there is a crisis, you want a New Yorker to be right there with you because they will come to your aid. A year into the pandemic, a neighbor posted that she wanted to visit her father’s cemetery in Staten Island with her ninety-year-old mother but didn’t want to take public transportation. Thirty strangers and neighbors offered to take her. She connected with one of them, and they took her out to the cemetery. It was and is the most remarkable thing; these strangers became friends. I always say out of despair comes purpose; that has been true for us in what has been a difficult two and a half years.
How To Build External and Internal Community on Shared Purpose
Musa Tariq: Our goal is to build community with our users, but how do we make sure our teams feel like they’re a part of a group of people solving meaningful problems? Previous to the evolving work style, we came to work because of the culture. Now that our teams are remote, community is one of the most important things to build within our organizations.
It’s no secret that being in a company with a clear purpose matters; it is the first thing that brings people together, and it is what drives community. People are coming to work now, not for the fancy offices or the free lunch, but because they work towards the greater good. The second thing is to help them feel connected by enabling people to come together virtually or in person. The highlight of my week is getting together with my team and spending 15 minutes sharing the good news in our life during Tea Time; it feels good to be connected and not talk about work.
Maryam Banikarim: My team continuously feels the reward of joy as we have worked together to solve something that isn’t about us. The mental health numbers reflect the disconnection that we feel in life and at work. Finding ways to bring people together is essential, so we have done traffic weeks where the team comes into the office and regular opportunities for our teams to work together in person. So much of what I learned in my early jobs was by osmosis. Being in the room where the conversations were happening, especially for creative roles, was invaluable. There are many accessible tools, but nothing compares to being in that shared space and the ideas that can form when you are together.
Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every Tuesday at 9 AM PT and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plans and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.
Musa Tariq, CMO, GoFundMe: Musa Tariq leads with the pride of being a father and mentor for emerging leaders. In fact, Musa has mentored over 10,000 marketers in the last few years. He is an accomplished marketing expert with an impressive background as the Senior Digital Marketer at Nike and Burberry, the youngest Chief Brand Officer at Ford, and the recent Global Head of Marketing for Experiences at Airbnb. Musa started his work with GoFundMe as CMO halfway through the pandemic and has contributed to building generous communities that have supported the nation and world through various crises.
Maryam Banikarim, (former) Head of Marketing, Nextdoor: Maryam is a proud mother who helps her children navigate while helping organizations navigate how to shift mindsets and build themselves through the lens of purpose. She is a prolific writer on purpose, you can find her anywhere you google “maryam” and “purpose”. Maryam is currently the Head of Marketing at Nextdoor, overseeing marketing, community, and global developments. She manages the global community that Nexdoor serves. Maryam has worked as CMO for five other organizations, including Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Gannett Corporation, NBC Universal, Univision Communications, and CitySearch.
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