Archives for fundraising

Tweeting for Good – Engage the Crowd (pt. 2)

Part 2 of Tweeting for Good (Read Part 1: Tweet to be Retweeted)

Tweep Killer

Are you killing your tweets? Instead of engaging your tweeps are you shunning them?

The test

Any Twitter user should take this test:

1.     Click on your profile and look at a list of your tweets. What is the ratio of replies and retweets to ones you have written?

2.     When was the last time your CEO tweeted a picture of her dog?

Many non-profit organizations miss the point of Twitter as social media. Their profile timelines are merely a list of bland, often vague headlines and links to websites or videos. This type of usage merely turns Twitter into a list of PSAs and makes them a boring follow. And in the Twitterverse, boring = ignored.

By following a few principles, any charitable organization (or any tweeter) can greatly increase their influence.


One of the beauties of Twitter is that it is very easy to connect and to say thank you. With a click of a “follow” button, you immediately have the attention of most users. If a legitimate Twitter account follows your organization, follow them back. How do you track following such a large number of people?  Organize them into lists.

Participate in the rise of “Crowdfunding”

Joe Brewer from “Chaotic Ripple” states that “crowd funding is a community-engagement process between an individual or organization seeking money to create something new, and a crowd of supporters who want to participate in the effort in a meaningful way .” Organizations such as 33 Needs and Donors Choose are turning “large numbers of small donations into big bucks.”

I hear many enterprises claim that they simply don’t have time for Twitter. It would delight me if this was a new attitude for these NPO leaders, related to just technology — but it’s not. As a volunteer, board member and employee I have worked with countless organizations that have always kissed the feet of potential large donors while ignoring their grassroots base.

In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, 75% of giving to charitable organizations was by individuals with single donations averaging around $150.  Social media such as Twitter present an unprecedented opportunity to engage large numbers of individual donors, particularly the Millennials and Generations X and Y.  We want our $150 to change the world. If a prominent activist talks back to a tweep, even just “Thx for the RT!”,  that tweep feels empowered.

Your daily Twitter habits should be to schedule and space out broadcast tweets about your organization and then replying to or retweeting any mentions you may have a few times a day. This has been covered in-depth elsewhere. In the article, “Where do you find time to tweet?” see how Aaron Lee engages a large number of Twitter followers during his busy day as a student and entrepreneur.

Say “Thank you” (or Thx or TU)

When someone retweets, replies or mentions your Twitter handle in a positive way, they are giving an endorsement of your organization. Think of the followers retweeting and mentioning  you as micro-blogging volunteers. Your volunteers would not stay engaged for very long with acknowledgement, and neither will your supporters on Twitter.

One of these “crowdfunding” organizations is Global Giving, a website where anyone can organize a fund to benefit projects anywhere in the world.  Since 2002, 179,303 donors have given $41,625,501 to 3,832 projects.  A look at Global Giving’s Twitter feed illustrates the best practices in community engagement.

One of Global Giving’s supporters, Cheap Ass Gamer, offered to match donations to Global Giving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund up to $10,000 and met that goal in just two days. How many hours has your organization spent courting known potential $20,000 donors?  If they call, most likely you drop everything and answer. If a gaming forum administrator named @CheapyD follows you, you’d best be following him back.

Make it fun

One reason I’m addicted to Twitter is because I spend so much time laughing while I’m using it.  Usually, this occurs when I’m tweeting back and forth with everyday, ordinary individuals like myself, or reading tweets from my new favorite follow @BronxZoosCobra, the escaped snake that is now micro-blogging about his visits to destinations throughout New York City.

Crowdrise, another site where individuals can sponsor any charitable project, has the stated goal of making “fundraising so fun and addicting that everyone wants to do more of it. The power of the crowd is real, lots of small donations really do add up, and the Crowdrise community can have a monumental impact on causes around the world.” Crowdrise gives away a T-shirt a day on Facebook and Twitter and encourages users to send in pictures of themselves in Crowdrise gear but are “required to have seen ‘The Big Lebowski’ at least nineteen times.” @CrowdRise makes an interesting follow on Twitter and always says thank you.

Ultimately – it’s personal

Twitter is an important tool for engaging a large number of supporters on a personal level.  In less than 140 characters, you can immediately thank someone for their support. It is this personal engagement that turns followers into avid supporters. Twitter can be a fun medium, a break from stuffy galas and board meetings. So go ahead and let your tweeps get to know you: tweet a cute picture of your dog. Make sure you mention @ipaddenver or @twilidiot so I’ll be sure to see it. I’ll retweet — and I won’t be the only one.

Gretchen VaughnProfessionally, Gretchen Vaughn is a social media enthusiast and writes about the iPad for Examiner. She can be contacted on Twitter @ipaddenver or at

Personally, Gretchen is an avid Twilighter and conducts the Twilidiot’s Tuesday Twilight Trivia on Twitter contest. Follow @twilidiot from 9-11p ET to play. After connecting on Twitter through a mutual adoration of actor Robert Pattinson, she and @MelbieToast created designs to raise funds for relief organizations working in Japan. Please visit their store at

Social Media: The Fundraising Powerhouse

Raising Money

Social media has changed the face of campaigning.  We are seeing more of our political candidates making their voices heard on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Besides being a great way to get your voice heard, build relationships with your constituents, communicate with people and promote your campaign, social media is also the newest platform for campaign fundraising.

On the campaign trail you meet a lot of people, but you can’t meet or talk to everyone. This is where social media seems like an obvious benefit. Think of how many conversations you can initiate and how many people you can ask for contributions – it would take months to knock on that many doors. But with Facebook and Twitter you can reach thousands in seconds. The problem is, it is not as simple as just asking for money. When people meet and talk to you, they are more compelled to donate to your campaign. You have spoken with them, and they have made a commitment to you. When you write a post asking for money, it is easy for your friends to ignore it or pretend they never saw it. If it is cleverly worded, you might even get a few “Likes”, but that does not mean that a donation is following the public show of support. So the big question is, how can you harness social media for fundraising?

Talking to New Mexico Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, Brian Colón

Brian Colón, Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, found the answer to that question. As with all social media, it is all about the relationships. It is not enough to simply ask for money. If you were collecting donations at an event, you’d be offering food and drink, conversation and networking. In short, you are building and sustaining relationships. Online, it is simply not enough to post updates about your campaign and have a website. You have to interact with your friends and followers. You have to create buzz and excitement.

Brian Colón managed to do that with his big fundraising push in April and May. After receiving $138,000 in online donations, he raised more money than almost any other Lt. Governor candidate in the country. He was also publicly recognized for a 48 hour period as the top online fundraiser in the country on ActBlue, the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.

I recently spoke to Brian about these successes. He said he wanted his campaign to be the “gold standard” in New Mexico for political social media. With more than 3,200 friends and a highly interactive social media presence, he accomplished this. Brian said, “My campaign was built on social media. I won the primary by 5,000 votes. Facebook and my online activity got me those votes. I would have been at risk of losing the election without social media.”

Brian didn’t just use social media to bring awareness to his campaign, he was able to harness his influence into tangible fundraising results. On Facebook and Twitter he was open with his fundraising goals, and posted updates about how much was still needed to reach those goals. During big push times he would even post about who donated, giving them public thanks and appreciation. In many ways this is the social media equivalent of the ticker running on the bottom of the screen during the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. We all call in because we want to see our name at the bottom of the screen. Brian Colón managed to capture that atmosphere and enthusiasm.

Taking inspiration from the telethon, Brian said, “My father was one of Jerry’s Kids. I have been raising money my whole life, whether it was walking around with a fish bowl raising money for MDA or walking the campaign trail. I have always recognized the value of seeing my name on TV. People like recognition. The telethon was an inspiration.” Brian successfully translated that inspiration into social media with his updates about who donated and how much. He was able to convert the excitement into real contributions.

I asked Brian what advantages he found in social media fundraising vs. more traditional methods. He said, “People are motivated to do it online because it’s instant. When someone says they are going to drop a check in the mail you have a 50% chance of it happening. It’s not that people don’t want to donate, it’s that writing a check is inconvenient.”

The “instant” quality of social media fundraising combined with the telethon style promotion of fundraising efforts creates a momentum that direct mail and phone calls simply cannot generate.

Fundraising on Social Media: Plusses and Pitfalls

Many candidates learn the hard way that adding a donation button to a website causes almost nothing to happen. Donations are a by-product of the decision to support a candidate. They are not isolated actions, but an integral part of the campaigning process. They are a financial show of support that is tied to the relationship between the candidate and the contributor. Social media is becoming one of the best tools to build and maintain voter/candidate relationships.

On the verge of becoming the best way to leverage a candidates’ time, social media is a public conversation.

Some people are still reticent about donating online. They are wary of sharing credit card information. They don’t trust that their information won’t be used to spam their email box. They are embarrassed about the size of their donation. They don’t want to sign up for an account on another website. However, sites like Paypal , ActBlue and Fundrazr protect your transaction and your information. You can help quell your online community’s concerns by addressing them in your social media fundraising efforts. Post about the safety of online contributions;  address their issues publicly and give them the option of sending in a check.

Candidates who use social media are moving from simple tools that handle small pieces to a much more sophisticated system that treats every interaction with a voter as an important piece of their political relationship. Political relationship management is the next evolution of campaign management and social media is the keystone of that strategy.