10 Tips for Successful Twitter Fundraising

by johnhaydon on March 1, 2010

10 Tips for Successful Twitter Fundraising

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Twitter fundraising has steadily been on the rise in the last two years. Twitter has been used to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities and charitable causes, and has been used to spread awareness about social issues.

But it takes more than posting multiple tweets a day to get the job done. We talked to a few Twitter (Twitter) fundraising pros about what they’ve found to be the best practices.

Have you organized or taking part in any Twitter fundraising efforts? If you have any other fundraising tips for Twitter or other social media tools, please share them in the comments.


1. Cultivate a Strong Community First


First and foremost, always keep in mind that the power of Twitter is merely a reflection of the power of community. Twitter is not a fundraising machine; people are.We all know that asking people for money can be daunting. For this reason, it’s important to build a community of people interested in your content and cause before asking for anything.

The 12for12k challenge, founded by business consultant Danny Brown, leverages social media to connect charities with larger audiences. Brown says keeping communities as up beat as possible is key. “When someone’s tweeting about your charity or one you support, you need to involve them completely, make people laugh and want to take part. It’s important to offer updates and pushes for that next milestone, and show public thanks for people’s donations.”


2. State Your Purpose and Your Request Clearly


When disseminating information, be sure to state your purpose clearly and concisely. Let people know why they should care about your cause, and be specific about how their contributions will benefit others. It seems like common sense, but there are times when we forget to highlight the “why” and “how” when making a statement or releasing a call to action.The fundraising initiative Twestival is a primary example of an ecosystem effectively harnessing the power of Twitter to raise money at both global and local levels. In 2009, over 1,000 volunteers and 10,000 donors raised $753,000. Two hundred sixty-four thousand of that sum went to Charity Water, while the remaining funds were split among 135 local charities.

Twestival creator Amanda Rose attributes the movement’s success to the practice of putting an open call out to people to use their unique skills and talents. Rose says, “Twestival does well because it gives people a way to get involved in something they normally wouldn’t do. No contribution is too small, it’s just a matter of how you use it.”

When launching the Twitter fundraiser Tweetsgiving, Epic Change CEO Stacey Monk and her team asked people to express their gratitude for anything and everything and donate money during a 48-hour time frame. In November 2009, Tweetsiving raised over $11,000.

Monk says being concise is imperative in the digital age. “People are used to parsing 140 characters in a millisecond,” she surmised. “Your campaign has to give them the opportunity to digest your message and get involved quickly and easily.”

Disclosure: Mashable (Mashable) is a past media partner of Twestival Global.


3. Create Buzz and Excitement


Generating hype around your cause and event is imperative, which means it’s important to be singular and set your charity apart from the rest. Catchy taglines or hashtags and unique avatar ribbons are simple features that can be incorporated to brand your initiative.Brown says branding his campaign early on was one of the best things he could have done. “Registering our #12for12k hashtag early on, and coming up with a dedicated and easily recognizable 12for12k avatar really helped us,” said Brown.

Holding contests is another resourceful method to invoke interest in people. Brown held a Twitter trash-talk contest that led to a large amount of donations being made during the Super Bowl playoffs when the Vikings and the Cowboys played in support of Haiti relief efforts.

Reaching out to small businesses and artists in local communities is another way to create excitement. And more often than not, when asked, people who want to make a difference will think of innovative ways to draw attention to your charity.

“We had local musicians, who didn’t have money to give themselves, play concerts and receive donations,” said Rose. “That got the word out to people in town who weren’t active on Twitter.”


4. Have a Strong Set Up Behind the Scenes


Twitter is a great a many things. It’s a tool for communication. It’s a platform for spreading your message. It’s an information source, and it’s a community builder. However, using Twitter and creating hype around your cause doesn’t guarantee any cold hard cash.Rose says she’s run into some misconceptions about the best way to use Twitter for fundraising. “Raising money takes a lot more than getting Ashton Kutcher or someone with a lot of followers to tweet about your charity,” said Rose. “That’s not Twitter fundraising; that’s creating buzz and awareness. Twitter fundraising is getting people involved with your mission on a real grass-roots level.”

Rose uses Twitter primarily for crowdsourcing and linking relevant content. She asserts, “Ultimately, you need to have something strong set up behind the scenes of your Twitter stream.”


5. Have a Powerful Offline Component


While we can enjoy and value the exchanges we have via Twitter, at the end of the day, we’re humans and we feed the most off of human interaction. Whether it’s a tweetup, a festival, a rally, or a concert, having an offline component tied into your fundraising practice is vital.Brown says combining offline and online gives a fuller experience. “I’d like to see charities start to use apps like Foursquare (Foursquare) to tie in geo-tagged fundraising initiatives, or Social Scavenger for charity challenges,” shared Brown. “A user online could be following instructions on a web feed, and directing the user on the ground to where a challenge is for donation dollars or items.”

Twestival exemplifies an initiative rooted in offline events. In addition to the festival itself being a physical place where volunteers and donors can celebrate, Twestival encourages people to initiate their own offline meetups so they can get to know their communities in real life. While online interest is used to instigate offline interaction, offline meetings can drive online appeal to an even greater audience.

Rose says that having a strong offline component is what makes people want to donate their time and energy to Twestival. “Twitter is all about communities,” said Rose. “Twestival brings communities offline and creates a whole new level of engagement. In Nashville, North Carolina, some supporters made a video and rallied people together a week before the event. They set out bottles on a table in the center of the city to accept donations.”


6. Plan, Prepare, Execute, then Get Out of the Way


Like with any entity branded by social media, it’s important to remember that because Twitter is an integral part of your fundraising campaign, you do not have control over how your message is going to be spread. In many ways, social media fundraising is unpredictable and must develop on its own. After cultivating communities, stating your purpose, and building buzz, a great deal of what occurs next must happen on its own.When asked what her biggest mistake was when producing Tweetsgiving, Monk replied, “over-asking and over-planning.”

To plan to the last detail removes any chance for an unanticipated miracle to happen. This doesn’t mean you should leave everything to fate. It does however mean that the spirit of giving, synergy, creativity, and community cannot be forced. In other words, you can expect the unexpected, but you can’t manifest it.

“To be honest, there’s more than a bit of magic required for any meme or trend to really take hold,” Monk surmised. “Your plan has to be just incomplete enough to leave room for serendipity to sneak in.”


7. Recognize Volunteers and Donors


Recognizing individuals for their contributions goes far, especially in the Twitterverse. Whether it’s a mention on a blog, a photo on a website, a thank you tweet, or a goody bag, your contributors should be acknowledged for their time and energy. Honors can be issued at offline events and make the entire fundraising experience that much more celebratory.You can get creative with what you’re rewarding people for too. Fundraising isn’t just about who raised or donated the most money. It’s about vision, teamwork and follow-through. And all parties involved with any of those details deserve to hear about the impact they had.


8. Keep Contributors Up-to-Date on Progress and Needs


The relationships among supporters and those in need that come about as a result of Twitter fundraising can and should continue to grow after a charity event. People like to see where their money is going and whom it’s affecting. This gives them incentive to come back next year and continue to give.Monk likes to connect the Tweetsgiving community directly to the people the campaign is impacting. “I think it’s critical for them to have direct communication,” she said. “With online tools, there’s no reason they all can’t be kept abreast. The Twitterkids of Tanzania and their participation with their parents and teachers in TweetsGiving are just one example of how that’s possible.”

Through the power of Twitter, supporters can talk directly to the children being educated through philanthropy and the work of Epic Change.


9. Keep Track of Developing Relationships


Seeing money come in is merely one of the many rewards bestowed upon non-profits, volunteers and donors. In addition to raising funds for important causes, a certain alchemy transpires when people come together to create social good, and from there more change-making can occur. Once again, the cornerstone is community.Rose say she consistently takes note of different groups that form as a result of Twestival. She says, “what’s happened with Twestival is it’s created these communities where people continue to work with local charities that they’re supporting.”

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?


10. Look for Ways to Improve for Next Time


Whether you meet your fundraising goals or you come up short, there is always room for improvement. Communicate with your supporters about what tactics worked with blazing colors and what actions bombed miserably. Be open to criticism and suggestions about ways the process could run more smoothly and effectively. Keep your humor and your wits about you.Have brainstorming sessions. Research what other groups are doing to raise money using Twitter, but don’t try to replicate their campaigns. If you do so, your audience will see right through you.

Keep dreaming. Keep believing. Keep tweeting. And give yourself a pat on the back for doing your part for social good.

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