November 03, 2010

Lessons From the It Gets Better Project

Dan Savage

In social media, the most calculated catchphrases can cause barely a ripple while statements made on a whim might capture the collective attention of millions.

It Gets Better, a YouTube video made by the sex columnist and journalist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, is one of those spontaneous efforts that makes a big difference.

In September, Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller heard about a string of suicides among gay teenagers who had been bullied at school, among them a 15-year-old named Billy Lucas. Deeply disturbed by what they perceived as a lack of public discourse, the two put together an eight-minute video to share their own stories of teenage abuse, and acknowledge that, for them, things improved in adulthood.

"I was thrown against walls, lockers, windows," says Mr. Miller in the video.

A week after the video first appeared on YouTube, so many other people had contributed their own accounts that Mr. Savage couldn't refer to them all on his channel—YouTube limits that number for regular accounts to 650.

"Then YouTube expanded our limit," Mr. Savage says. "The gay gremlins behind the scenes at YouTube backdated the creation of our Web site so we could host 5,000 videos."

In the latest episode of Social Good, Allison Fine, the host, interviews Mr. Savage about what the experience has taught him, and how The Trevor Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, has received thousands of dollars thanks to It Gets Better.

Allison Fine, a nonprofit leader and expert on technology and communications, discusses how charities and foundations can more effectively use social-media tools to spread their messages and raise money. Ms. Fine incorporates suggestions and questions from readers into her podcasts and invites you to e-mail her at Look for new installments on the first Thursday of every month.