Note from Beth: Last week, I wrote a reflection on a CNET article called "Crowded Roads Ahead for Charity 2.0," musing about the solution. A number folks offers some insights in the comments or on Twitter, including Amanda. I invited her to share her thoughts about cause fatigue and scaling as she launches the Twestival Local.
Cause fatigue is something I think about daily; particularly going into our second Twestival this September. I’ve felt a huge mix of pressure and enthusiasm to launch another one from previous organizers and cities who missed it the first time around. I didn’t feel like the Twitter community could handle another cause infused global campaign on the scale of Twestival so soon. My gut told me to think locally and use this international momentum and inspire people to shine a spotlight on a local cause, or a cause that a community would get behind. Where Twestival Global focused all of its energy on one cause, on one day; Twestival Local, taking place the weekend of 10-13 September 2009, has the potential to impact hundreds of causes.
Volunteers around the world feel empowered when asked to use their skills, not only to bring people together at an event, but contribute to something positive. Which is why Twestival Local hopes to challenge city organizers with two important questions with their selected cause:
(1) What will the not-for-profit do with the funds raised?
I think too many times people are raising money without a specific objective in mind. Sure $5,000 sounds like a fantastic fundraising goal, but what if I told you by meeting that target, a local cause would be able to launch an evening food program for the homeless, or make much needed repairs to a home for abandoned girls and boys. People are more likely to relate and give to something they can follow up on and social media allows causes and those supporting to do just that.
(2) In addition to fundraising, what are all the ways your city plans to work with the not-for-profit?
For me, Twestival is more than just about events in cities raising money for a cause. There is a huge opportunity here to bridge the gap between donors and volunteers. Twestival teams around the world are encouraged to think of other ways they can contribute to their selected cause; provide social media training, arrange for a local company to donate products and services, or leverage Twestival to strategize and create awareness.
You wouldn’t know it, but charity: water had very little Twitter presence before Twestival, compared to the way they use it now. Founder Scott Harrison was the only one on Twitter and I’m pretty sure he’d admit that he didn’t really ‘get it’. We sent in some social media heavy-hitters from the Twestival NYC team to give them some free training and now a running joke around the charity: water office is that even volunteers must go through a little Twitter initiation. Causes should recognize specific skills of volunteers as a valuable commodity, the same way it does with cash donations. After working with charity: water on Twestival, I now have a personal vested interest in seeing them meet their goals financial and otherwise.
I have always believed in the power of ‘the ripple effect’. I know that Twestival has inspired causes that otherwise wouldn’t have considered investing time in social media. It is my hope that with Twestival Local, even nominated causes which aren’t selected as a final recipient feel an impact in awareness.
So, can we have a Twestival every week? In my opinion, no. Twestival involves more than just tweeting; they are physical events happening around the world under short timescales. It is also not organized by a cause directly, but by volunteers who took it upon themselves to get involved.
Is the approach of Twestival sustainable? Absolutely. Eventually, the masses will come to realize that Twitter is just a great communications tool. The other fantastic thing about Twitter and certain other social media sites is this ability to develop an online community and empower them to evangelize for you, which can be extremely powerful. Hosting events for fundraising is nothing new. Communicating and engaging with potential donors and volunteers in a creative way is nothing new. To get it ‘right’ is another thing - but there are lessons learned from Twestival that can carry over to even the smallest of causes.
Recently, my best friend Alyson (www.alysonwoloshyn.com) was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. I mention this only because my life is now directly impacted by cancer in ways I could not have predicted a few months ago. I don’t have a Livestrong band on my Twitter avatar because it is the cool thing to do. I have it because it is something I believe in and have a reason to support. Ultimately people are going to support what resonates with them and how you use social media to reach out can make all the difference.
Causes thinking longer term with social media should recognize that there is no magic recipe, no guarantee of online global fundraisers raising over $250k like Twestival. But, what is exciting to consider and continues to keep me experimenting with social media is how it evens the playing field. Thanks to social media, causes can now have direct and personal impact with their audience in ways that were once costly and ineffective. This much I know for sure.
Note from Beth: I wrote several detailed posts about Twestival while it was unfolding and aggregated other posts as well. If you want to catch up in the stream, here's some links.
Beth Kanter, "Look Out, Here Comes Everybody To Raise Money for charity:water on Twitter
Beth Kanter, Are fundraising groundswells an opportunity for mass distraction or a major opportunity?
Beth Kanter, Interview with Amanda Rose: A Reflection on Twestival
Entry-Level Living, Reflecting on Social Media Fundraising
Mashable, Twestival Raises Over $250,000
Guardian, Twestival Raises $250,000 and Expectations
Mashable, Twestival Social Media for Social Change
Miriam Kagan, Twestival
Posts about earlier charity:water and Twitter efforts
Paul Young's Reflection on his September Birthday Campaign
Pistachio's experiment in micro fundraising
September Birthdays on charity:water