Twitter for Nonprofits and Fundraising

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Twitter_logo_blue350wTwitter is a great free tool that can transform your approach to fundraising. And in a time of economic uncertainty, a free tool is a welcome help!

Twitter: A Brief Introduction

At its most basic level, Twitter is called “microblogging.” You get 140 characters to get your message across. It’s sort of like text messaging but on the web.

140 characters to answer the main question on the Twitter home page: “What are you doing now?” When you first start to tweet, it feels really odd. Why would you share what you’re eating? And why would anyone care? It seems like it’s only useful for narcissistic people or those trying to waste time.

But people do. And the conversations get even better when you start answering a question like “What are you focusing on?”

People use Twitter to ask questions, follow people that are interesting, promote links to various websites, share news stories, to coordinate events during conferences. Forbe’s reports that people are even using Twitter to provide real-time disaster relief information.

Twitter for Fundraising

From a fundraising perspective, Twitter is an amazing way to engage donors and potential donors. One of the hardest things to do as a fundraiser is to maintain relationships. We so often get stuck to our desk rather than getting out to where our supporters are.

Twitter allows you to do that…right in the midst of your normal every day routine.

  1. You get to meet people all over the world that might be interested in your cause.
  2. You get to hear what people are really thinking about a wide variety of issues.
  3. You can follow other fundraisers and get great real-time advice.
  4. You can even promote traffic to your website or those of your friends.

Better still, if you can make your comments effectively understood in 140 characters, think about how all your fundraising writing will improve! You are forced to be succinct and understandable!

You can use tools like TwitterFeed to automatically have blog posts broadcast over Twitter. Then your blog posts reach those that follow you. And if anyone of them like it, they may “retweet” it, broadcasting to the people that follow them.

Twitter’s Not Just for Broadcasting

Be warned: Twitter is not just a tool to push your message out. BusinessWeek had a great article on Twitter. In it they said:

Amy Worley, who manages [H&R] Block’s Twitter program, had to alter her approach. “I went in thinking Twitter was a free way to push our message out,” she says. “Big mistake. We learned to listen. We started winning once we let people decide on their own about our services.”

It’s got to be a two-way conversation. And that’s where the genius of Twitter is. You can form your very own “listening post” and hear what others are saying about the issues that affect your mission. This can help you generate ideas and tell your story better.

What About Fundraising with Twitter

I can hear some of you saying, “This is all nice, Marc. But what about fundraising? Can Twitter really help with my fundraising?”

Beth Kanter rightly writes that tweeting doesn’t mean people will give. Neither does creating a cause on Facebook or simply starting a blog. But at the same time, she points to Avi Kaplan’s blog post reporting that “Tweetsgiving” raised over $11,000 in just 48 hours!

Avi Kaplan also gives some great measurements on how “Tweetsgiving” spread around the world. What would it cost your organization to get over 100 press and blogger mentions in over 100 countries using traditional media? On Twitter, it was free.

Even better, on February 12, 2009, an global event called Twestival raised $250,000 for one charity:water. The best part? It was initiated and organized by on very well connected person who didn’t even have a connection with charity!

For most organizations, both amounts of money would be welcome! But NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) reminds us that Twitter isn’t the point. Relationships are the point. Relationships are always the point. The most basic of fundraising secrets is that people give to people. Twitter is simply one more tool to help people connect with each other.

Can your nonprofit afford to not explore all the tools available? What if one very well connected fan of your organization came to you with an idea like Twestival? Wouldn’t you want to at least be familiar with these tools?

Jump In, the Twitter Stream’s Warm!

Why not test it out? Check out my Twitter stream right now by going to And if you choose to create an account, I’d be honored to have you follow me.

Twitter’s more interesting if you start following people right away. Mark Hayward (@mark_hayward on Twitter) has a list of 97–yes, 97!–people he suggests following on Twitter. Check them out and follow the people that interest you. (It’s ok. You’re not being invasive. You’re supposed to follow people.)

Other ways to find people that work in your field are tools like or Twellow. Search “fundraising” or “nonprofit” or whatever else you’re interested in. Whatever your cause is, you can search on to see who’s talking about your cause. Simply follow those you find interesting and join in the conversation that’s already going on.

At first, you’ll probably want to just listen. It’s amazing how just listening will help you tell your nonprofit’s story.

It’s as Simple as Having a Conversation

Don’t let all the tools confuse you. Twitter is as simple as having a conversation. Like anything else, it’s odd to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fun. You may raise money as a result of your tweets, but more importantly, you’ll learn a lot about the people that choose to support your cause and other causes. And that will help you get more effective at your nonprofit storytelling.

What have you got to lose? Come in and join us!

Ways to Help You Use Twitter Effectively

In the early stages Twitter seems to be:

  • confusing at first
  • then fun as your friends get involved
  • then intriguing as people you’ve never heard of follow you
  • then entirely overwhelming as you get to see the tweets of hundreds of people on every subject under the sun all at the same time

All of us already have too much information coming at us. Fortunately, there are loads of
tools being developed to help people use Twitter more effectively. Brian Solis provides a great compilation of Twitter tools for building community.

In his post, he gives a description and links to each of these tools:

twubble, GroupTweet, twitt(url)y, TwitLinks, TweetDeck, Gridjit, Tweet Later, Twist, Twerp Scan, Summize, Twemes, #hashtags, Tweet Scan, Twinfluence, TwitterGrader, Twittertise, Twitterrific, Twhirl, TwitterWhere, tweetbeep, twitterfeed, TwitDir,, brightkite, TwitterLocal, twitpic, SnapTweet, DoesFollow, follow cost, Qwitter, Twittelator, Twitterfon, Twinkle, Twitterberry.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? To learn how each of these help, read Brian’s blog post:
Twitter Tools for Community and Communications Professionals.

More blog posts to Help You Get Started with Twitter

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