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 using offline/online tactics. I wondered whether or not those results would be replicable? Right before Thanksgiving, the TweetsGiving effort helped Epic Change raise over $10,000 in 48 hours to build a classroom in Tanzania seeking $10 donations. As Lucy Bernholz noted, this might be one more example that fundraising on Twitter is less marginal and moving to the middle.
Back in November, I wrote a post "Twitter As Charitable Giving Spreader: A Brief History and Meta Analysis of Fundraising With Twitter." Almost all the fundraising campaigns using Twitter at that point were organized by a single person or organization and used Twitter to spread the solicitation, but directed the actual donation off of Twitter to complete it. Most were using Twitter as one channel in a multi-channel campaign and asked for small donations ($10), although gave incentives for larger gifts.
During the holiday giving season in December, several micro-fundraising campaigns used tipjoy, a payment system, that makes it as easy to donate as sending a 140-character Tweet (a message sent to your friends on Twitter) and even smaller donation amounts. The boldest of these experiments was launched by Twitter maven, Laura Fitton (@pistachio) and raised almost $25,000 for charity:water, a nonprofit focused on bringing safe drinking water to villages in need around the world. Charity:water has been a favorite charity of Web 2.0 rock stars. Tre, who writes a blog called Thought by thought has several detailed posts analyzing the campaign here and here.
Laura Fitton's idea for the campaign marked a departure from current online philanthropic behavior which takes several steps from receiving a solicitation "ask" to typing in your credit card number and clicking on a donate button. Her campaign structure condensed those steps, perhaps making Twitter's velocity possible for charities or individuals working on behalf of charities to raise money at even faster speeds that we've already seen. And, she has also challenged the notion of the size of a "small donation." She asked her 12,500 followers to donate just $2.
Does the future of online fundraising lie in mobile social networks that have an easy built-in payment system for in-the-moment charitable giving of very small amounts by thousands and thousands of people? As Laura noted in a comment, "Imagine it for public radio: hear something great on the drive to work? What if you could effortlessly tip a dollar or two in appreciation? Or tweeting your order & payment ahead to your coffee shop? Or donating to a cause during a presentation or speech that motivated the giver? In tough economic times anything that can spread the load more evenly, reduce friction and make giving more spontaneous could go a long way towards making up some of the pinch nonprofits are feeling in this downturn."
Look out, the next reiteration of micro fundraising on Twitter is coming on February 12, 2009 and will combine online twitter fundraising with a groundswell of offline self organizing events. Called Twestival, Twitter users will meet up in over 100 plus cities to socialize offline, meet other Twitter users, enjoy some fun, have a few drinks, and raise money for charity: water. This event combines the lessons learned from previous fundraising activities on Twitter:
- A local, face-to-face component based on the popular "Tweet Ups" or "Net2Tuesday" meetups
- Decentralized event organizing, it's grassroots and anyone can organize a local event
- The charity isn't the central organizer of the event - it appears that they are letting their stakeholders run with it and not imposing "branding and messaging" standards. Each localized event is putting its own unique flair to the event.
- Micro donations using TipJoy
- Focus 24 hour event with broadcasts and all local partners participating to raise awareness (a sort of Blog Action Day on steroids)
According to the web site, the event will unfold in three phases:
- Phase one: Launch the homepage with a list of cities which have already registered. Over the next day, organizers will be given a password and instruction to upload information to their own city site (start thinking about a first blog post). Please have a bit of patience as we are working as quickly as we can.
- Phase two: All of the cities should be linked up to the homepage. Features to donate, bid on an auction, raffle and other fundraising projects will come online as buttons as they are completed.
- Phase three: On 12 February 2009, Twestival will be working with partners to have live broadcasts of the events around the world.
This event will certainly make fundraising on Twitter move front and center as well as demonstrate how the age of connectedness and social media is continuing to have a profound influence in changing the way charities raise money. I suspect the amount raised will be impressive.
Miriam Kagan, Twestival
What do you think?