Last August, I saw the impact of Twitter's velocity first-hand with a fundraising experiment. I was able to raise $2,500 in 90 minutes at Gnomedex. I wondered whether or not those results would be replicable? Right before Thanksgiving, the TweetsGiving effort and Avi Kaplan helped Epic Change raise over $10,000 in 48 hours to build a classroom in Tanzania. The campaign used the power of retweeting to spread the message across twitter users.
- Video, blogging, twitter, online payments, viral marketing,
instant thank yous, etc as the minimal expected organization
- Community building (you can identify other donors, everyone blogs about it), instant infrastructure (giving managed by chip-in, Paypal enables the back office);
- Quick commitment - set a goal, reach it, move on;
- Little gifts - and lots of them - are the holy grail;
- Creativity matters - next year you'll need a new twist;
- Anyone at an organization might be the leader of your next campaign;
I would add these points:
- It's not about the reaching a large number at once, but identifying the right six or seven influencers who can re-tweet your message and have their networks respond
- Small gifts, but incorporate some incentives or recognition for larger gifts
- Have universal human theme or tell stories
- Have a reporting page or widget that shows your real-time results
- Incorporate something visual that can also spread across Twitter
- It isn't just about Twitter - remember you need multi-channels - blogger outreach, email, organizing a team of people to reach to their networks, private messaging, phone calls, etc
- Use a hash tag and have that be part of the retweet so your campaign can benefit from extra visibility from the twitter trending
- Don't have your first foray onto Twitter be your campaign ask, build social capital first.
I can't stress the importance of community building or rather network building. You don't go into using a Twitter strategy without having built up a little social capital or as Tara Hunt calls "Whuffie." Tori Tuncan from Lend4Health mentions the importance of reciprocity as she offers some reflections on why she got involved in the campaign over at the Social Actions blog. She also raises some questions about cooperation versus competition between nonprofits, what Hilde Gottlieb describes "community benefit centers" and has written about in her soon to be published book.
Let's take a look at the brief history of fundraising on Twitter and lessons learned. I'm drawing from my experience using Twitter drawing and those of others that have posted case studies and reflections.
If you know of campaigns and lessons learned that haven't been included, please leave a comment:
I launched a campaign to raise money and get t-shirts donated for the Cambodian Bloggers Summit. I send updates on my progress on Twitter and noticed that everytime I twittered an update (not even a direct ask), I would receive donations. What seem to work was:
- Some influential people responding publically that they had donated
- My friends responding with public questions about what else was needed or suggesting fundraising strategies
- Private, personalized messages, not mass emails
This campaign was for $1,000 to send a young Cambodian woman, Leng Sopharath, to college. Chris Brogan and 81 other Twitter users helped reached this goal with small gifts in 24 hours. In fact, the campaign went over goal and we able to raise enough money to send another young person to college. What I learned from this campaign that it is important to get help from influencers on Twitter and that inbetween campaigns if you cultivate your network, the donations will not be a one-time only thing.
On December 2, 2007, the first Frozen Pea Friday Campaign on Twitter Launched. It raised $3,500 in 15 hours. This campaign was a community-generated effort - spearheaded by Connie Reece and came from people who knew of Susan Reynolds fight with breast cancer and rallied behind her. As an outside observer, the lessons that I took away from this effort were:
- Having people change their avatar to a pea photo gave a visual clue to the campaign and helped it spread.
- This was the first time I observed the use of "retweeting" a fundraising message
- The short time period helped build momentum and a forward moving campaign that people wanted to be a part of.
- There were a number of social media influentials who reached out to their networks helping to contributing to a community culture of giving on Twitter
As the first place winner in the America's Giving Challenge for Global Causes, I use several twitter strategies. I held a one-day retweet rally during the midpoint of the long campaign to spread the word. In reflecting on this now, it is important to make sure that your supporters are doing the retweeting and that you're not overdoing it on your Twitter account or you risk annoying people.
I also learned that one-on-one donor solicitation techniques can also work and some of the challenges of being able to track the velocity or flow of networked donations. What is missing is some software or features that track the flow of your donations, almost like doing a social network analysis similar to Twitinfluence.
Blogathon Vancouver: Rebecca Bollwitt reports that Twitter was instrumental in the success of Blogathon Vancouver 2008, raising close to $15,000 in 24 hours through blogging and with a big push from Twitter for traffic. The synergy between twitter and blogging - for traffic, commenting, and participation has been well-documented.
Austin Blood Drive Tweetup: This was for donations of blood, not money - but twitter got results. They turned out a record number of first-time blood donors and overwhelmed the Central Texas Blood Bank.
Using Twitter and other channels, I raised $2,500 in 90 minutes at Gnomedex. The experiment was to test Twitter's speed. What could happen if you had a lot of hyper-connected geeks who are comfortable using Twitter in room to retweet in a concentrated amount of amount? In the analysis, one thing I learned was the importance of instant thank yous - not only via Twitter, but other way channels. It generated some valuable insights from donors. One metric for me in measuring success, was I able to inspire other people to take action? (at least thre that I know of Pam Mandel, Duncan Riley and Dave Delaney)
Tyson Foods and the Austin Social Media Club organized a HAM TweetUp to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. They used twitter to drive comments to the blog - each comment would generated 100 pound donation. They got enough comments in two hours to fill a truck. Lessons learned is to know your twitter followers and who are the the ones passionate about your cause and have responsive networks.
Dr. Mani, a heart surgeon in India - and Web 2.0 expert, launches The Heart Kids Tweet-A-Thon On September 12, he spent 24 hours tweeting about his cause to help raise awareness and donations. His Tweet-a-thon raised over $5,000 for his charity on Twitter.
The Well That Twitter Built: On September 18th, Mashable's Twitter followers donated $3,536 to Charity:Water, an initative to build wells in Ethiopia. Paul Young raised an addition $637 through Twitter and shared some of his reflections.
We see one of our first examples of using Twitter to fundraise in connection with a holiday. This one was very creative, dubbed "Trick or Tweet" focused on retweeting, incorporated a contested, and was cooked up by the good folks at FutureNow. The takeaway here is the retweet message shouldn't necessarily be the ask, but something fun or related to the theme of the campaign. It also has to be a universally human theme that many people can related too. Who can't relate to Trick or Treat?
Laura Fitton (aka @pistachio) has launched the Twitter for Dummies site where folks are contributing ideas and tips to help write the book. I'm sure there will be a lively chapter about nonprofits and twitter.
How will Twitter be using for fundraising for good causes and by nonprofits in 2009? What are some your takeaways from these experiments? Is your organization considering using Twitter for fundraising sometime in 2009? What questions are you asking? Are there other examples previous campaigns missing from the list?