How Twitter can transform your fundraising

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

Written by
Marc Pitman
June 02, 2013

Twitter: a brief introduction

Someone with his own radio show just has to be taken seriously. Check out both book and show, on Marc’s site.

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.

The main question on the Twitter home page is, ‘What are you doing now?’ When you first start to tweet, as the messages are called, it feels really odd. Why would you send a message about what you’re eating? And why would anyone care? It seems as if it’s only useful for narcissistic people, or those wasting time.

But people do care and do converse. 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, (for instance, President Barack Obama, who was an enthusiastic user during his election campaign, though he hasn’t been seen on it since), to promote links to various websites, to coordinate events during conferences. It is used to report new stories – during the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, it is estimated that eyewitnesses sent 80 tweets every five seconds as the tragedy unfolded.

Twitter for fundraising

But from a fundraising perspective, Twitter is an amazing way to involve 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 everyday routine.

  • You get to meet people all over the world who might be interested in your cause.
  • You get to hear what people are really thinking about a wide variety of issues.
  • You can follow other fundraisers and get great real-time advice.
  • 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.

Twittter’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 (a coach and trainer in effective use of technology) 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 is a Washington DC-based changeblogger. Tweetsgiving is an event that set out to raise $10,000 inside two days for a classroom in Tanzania, and broke target.)

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

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?

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.

Enthusiastic twitterer 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 or Twellow. Search ‘fundraising’, ‘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 takes a while 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. Here’s a great compilation of Twitter tools for building community, provided by Brian Solis.

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

​Another view

‘Look, I know the fundraising world is moving faster than ever, with tweets and eblasts and viral campaigns, but without the right words, it’s all just technological smoke and mirrors.’

- Lisa Sargent, US-based copywriter, from a post by Tom the Agitator.

About the author: Marc Pitman

Marc Pitman

Marc Pitman is the author of Ask Without Fear! (Executive Books, 2008, USA) He is also the founder of, a website dedicated to practical ideas for more effective fundraising.

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