If the dollar amounts from fundraising campaigns using social networks are disappointing, one response is to say this doesn't work and stop doing it. An alternative approach is to experiment and find ways to improve results.
1) Sponsored Tweets/HashTags: Donors do not have to open their own check books, but instead retweet or use a hashtag to leverage a donation from a corporate sponsor to a charity.
2) Spreading Person to Person Asks: This approach uses twitter and encourages people to ask their friends through Twitter to donate to a charity and spread the ask to their friends. Successful versions of this approach tie a human emotion to the click action - blame, thankfulness, etc.
3) Tweet Meet Give: This approach weaves together online and offline activities and leverages "Tweet Ups." Amanda Rose and Twestival pioneered a networked version of this approach to benefit charity:water, but it has also been used by single nonprofits.
Take for example, The Free Rice Game, an interactive online game that donated rice to the United Nations World Food Program based on clicking. All you had to do was click and play a word game, and that leveraged a food donation to fight hunger. The game was very engaging for adults and children alike.
For each click, 10 grains of rice is donated. That may seem like a small amount, it is important to remember that millions of people have played the game since its inception in 2007. It is everyone together that makes the difference. The Free Rice Game has generated enough rice to feed millions of people since it started in October 2007 or a total of 70,991,387,110 grains of rice as of October 2009.
In 2008, we started to see click action philanthropy on Facebook with Lil Green Patch raising over $100,000 for the Nature Conservancy. In 2009, it has evolved to incorporate a networked approach and there are even platforms or communities of people dedicated to click action philanthropy, including Every Wun. And it comes as no surprise to see click action philanthropy become more common on Twitter, with the platform Twitcause.
More and more we are seeing fundraisers incorporate Retweet This Message or Use This HashTag to leverage donations from a corporate sponsor or to simply spread the fundraising message from friend to friend. This transition began a year ago as Twitter came into its own as a charitable gift spreader. (See my Twitter Fundraising Timeline.) We've also seen some versions of Twitter fundraisers not do too well - take for example this follow me Twitter and I'll donate a dollar to a charity or applications that integrated donation engines in Tweets.
TwitCause, a service not unlike the popular fundraising application Causes on Facebook, only built on top of Twitter has been implementing some new interesting twists on click fundraising on Twitter. As a basic service, TwitCause will find a cause to support (partially based on community feedback) and use Twitter to drive awareness for it. They also ask that you donate some money.
Here's an example of a campaign to raise money on TwitCause for honeybee research.
The fundraising campaign added some extra buzz, a sponsor, Ice cream maker Häagen-Dazs, willing to pay for any Twitter user who tweets out the support for the cause. The sponsorship worked liked this: Häagen-Dazs was offering to donate $1 per tweet for the first 500 people that tweet everyday with the hashtag #HelpHoneyBees. The money was donated to UC Davis research project to further look into Colony Collapse Disorder, as well as help fund the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, which aims to teach people about how to create their own honeybee farms.
I got some of the back story form Julio Vasconcellos, VP for Business Development, for the Experience Project which operates TwitCause. "I think the #HelpHoneyBees hashtag campaign was very effective and helped
raise $7k for the honey bee research as well as get Häagen-Dazs some great exposure around the contributions they've been making to the cause (and of course, to their brand)."
For those that want the numbers:
- 6,818 tweets sent out during the official week (several more before) by 3,294 unique Twitterers
- Total followers reached was slightly over 5MM (these are non-unique followers, basically a sum of all the followers of each of those 3kTwitterers)
- Total Twitter impressions generated 12.4MM (here an "Twitter impression" is anytime a follower is presented with a tweet - if I have 100 followers and tweet twice, that's 200 "Twitter impressions")
- Häagen-Dazs donated $7,000 to UC Davis for research into colony collapse disorder which is afflicting honey bee populations
- Participation from some celebrities and notables
Vasconcellos predicts that we'll be seeing more and more sponsored tweet programs of all shapes and sizes. There are already a number of active causes on TwitCause. And some are building their own Twitter Fundraising Drive pages for sponsored Tweet Campaigns. Here's one to benefit Make A Wish Foundation, each tweet will drive a 5 cent donation from LeapFish to raise $10,000 to send a sick child to Disneyland. That's 200,000 tweets which compared to these other efforts seems like an ambitious goal. I hope they make it for Jacob's sake or if not I hope they just donate the money anyway.
Spreading Person to Person Asks
Scott Henderson called it "creative philanthropy" but it is really the Twitter version of person to person fundraising asks for small amounts, taking advantage of Twitter's ability to easily spread person-to-person fundraising solicitations. He describes last Thanksgiving's Tweetsgiving campaign and Blame Drew's Cancer campaign.
This year Stacey and her flock (I'm one of the honorary turkeys) will launch this year's Tweetsgiving, another 48-hour celebration. They have integrated the Twestival strategy - tweet, meet, and give by organizing meetups from different cities to help promote the drive.
I think one of the important qualities that make these and other retweet or hashtag fundraisers successful is to tap into human emotion. Good fundraisers (and marketers) know that tugging at the heart strings can open the wallet. Stacey is doing this with gratitude, Drew is doing it by blame (blaming his cancer).
So, the click to donate action needs an emotional lever as well as a money lever.
Tweet, Meet, Give
We are all curious to see these approaches fundraising on Twitter become a standard practice both for nonprofits and for corporate sponsors. Some questions:
- How to set a realistic goal (total dollars = $ per retweet or hashtag) that helps the nonprofit actually implement the project or solve the need?
- What is too ambitious or too low a goal?
- How does the ongoing affinity/relationship building online and offline impact amounts raised?
- How do amounts raised compare - sponsored tweets or person-to-person asks or tweet-meet-give approaches?
- How to make a click philanthropy action on Twitter engaging and fun?
- How to best incorporate human emotion in the Twitter?
- Will this approach become so popular and so many nonprofits and corporations using it that it will create "Cause Retweet Fatigue"
- Is there value in the impressions metric?
- What's next for Twitter fundraising?