Friday, February 6, 2009

Twitter and Fundraising

The company I work for has decided to sponsor the upcoming twestival that is being organized by volunteers in Dallas. The event is, at it's core, a fundraiser for charity: water which is doing all kinds of good work across the globe to provide clean drinking water to the billions that don't have it.

I am interested in it for a couple of different reasons.

As you read about how it is being organized you can see that it is a very grassroots event that is simultaneously taking place in various city centers across the globe. It is mostly PR professionals and friends in London who are behind the initial push when, in September 2008, this group of Twitterers decided to organize an event where the local Twitter community could socialize offline; meet the faces behind the avatars, enjoy some entertainment, have a few drinks and tie this in with a food drive and fundraising effort for a local homeless charity. Simply, a tweet up with a common goal of social action.

This same group who experienced the success of last September has now seen participation sprout up from city centers all over the world for this upcoming event.

Here is my prediction. The day after this event, press releases everywhere will shock the fundraising world with the headline... Charity:Water Raise 750K in One Day Using Twitter

These London PR pros who volunteered their efforts (@amanda, @tommalcolm, @renate and @timhoang @brightonecomms)to begin with with (rightly) get all kinds of credit.
Nonprofit everywhere will start to look at taking twitter very seriously, but will be so transfixed by the headline that they will be at a loss to recognize how it was accomplished.

If you work for a non profit and your reading this, know that it takes a lot of work.
Know that exposing your organization to social media will mean fundamental changes to the culture of your organization in order to be effective. Know that, there are resources available to help you get started, but twitter is not a magic bullet. Fund raising strategy hasn't fundamentally changed...
Acquire, Cultivate, Solicit, Steward
You can't jump in to social media and expect to quickly move to Solicitation.
You need months of cultivation using social media tools, NOT USING THEM AS A DISTRIBUTION CHANNEL FOR YOUR PRESS RELEASES!

I am going to report on the progress of the Dallas Twestival event and keep give an update of the ongoing observations can make.

By the way, Beth Kanter has a great write up on the origins of twestival.