Is Twitter Important for Thon Participants?

Ian Gruber- 05.20.2009 Follow me on Twitter

I like starting a blog post with a question that doesn’t have a clear answer. But the question begs to be answered, even if only a Magic 8 Ball answer is available. Other notables like Beth’s Blog and The Chronicle of Philanthropy have been asking themselves similar questions about fundraising and Twitter.

Anyone who knows me knows patience is a virtue I lack. Blackbaud released the standard Twitter and Thon integration 2 weeks ago and I am already prematurely analyzing usage data (thank you SaaS) in an attempt to understand how important Twitter is for Thon participants. 

Finding #1: The Twitter integration is accessible. 

In two weeks the integration has already been activated for 40 Thon events. Based on the rate of adoption for other features that have been added to Sphere, the Twitter integration is being adopted very quickly within the Sphere customer base. I believe this is driven by two primary factors:

  1. SaaS to SaaS product integrations are standardized and make it ridiculously easy for end users to adopt these solutions. Does the Connect partner directory ring a bell?
  2. Twitter is so HOT right now, that they may best the king of “instant information” Google. All of this Twitter attention creates lots of demand for the Twitter Thon integration.

Finding #2: Participants know how to Tweet. 


Over 90 participants have already grabbed the reigns and sent out Tweets to their followers. In a detailed review of the tweet data, I found that 58% of tweets were customized by participants.   Not surprisingly, many participants have only sent one tweet so far. Perhaps adding tweet templates will provide participants more examples of how to engage their followers over time?

Finding #3 Tweets have more “Reach” than email, but are less effective. 

Given the one (speaker) to many (followers) nature of Twitter versus the one to one (or one to a few) nature of email, it is not surprising that Twitter provides vastly more reach for participants than email. 

Think of it this way: when you go to send an email you don’t cc everyone you know. You would be thought of as having poor email etiquette or even worse a “personal spammer.” By choosing recipients of an email message you are forced to be direct and intentional. Twitter tears those constraints down. Any person who chooses to follow you will receive all of your updates and every update you send reaches every one of your followers. That is just the way the world of Twitter works.



The open communication framework of Twitter generates an enormous response to Tweets that are sent out. On average the first Tweet sent by a participant generates over 14 clicks back to their personal page.   As you can also see there is a diminishing return to multiple tweets from the same participant. It is likely that these stats will change based on content, format, and call to action of the tweet. The verdict is still out whether multiple tweets will continue to see diminishing returns.

Interesting facts: the average Twitter user has 70 followers, and the average fundraising participant sends 23.5 emails. Sending one tweet can nearly triple the audience for an average event participant that users Twitter. More work needs to be done to understand if there is significant overlap between email address books and Twitter followers.

Twitter effectiveness for participants to date versus email:


Click Through Rate*

Gift Conversion Rate**

Average Gift Amount










* Click Through Rate = Personal Page Visits/# of Tweets or emails Sent

**Gift Conversion Rate= # of Gifts/# of Tweets or emails Sent

It is also noteworthy that Twitter communications used in tandem with email communications may generate even better responses than Tweets alone, unfortunately I have not controlled for these situations in this analysis.

Finding #4 Twitter Fundraising is Viable.  


As you can see the dataset collected so far is very small, but still demonstrates an important concept. As long as “the ask” is heartfelt and the participant demonstrates the importance of their involvement in the cause, their friends and family will give independent of the communication channel that delivered “the ask” (Twitter, eMail, in person). 

In Summary

Knowing what I know today, if I had to answer the question Is Twitter important for Thon Participants, I would shake up my Magic 8 Ball and the answer would point to: “My Sources Say Yes.” It is worth noting that it is unrealistic to assume Twitter will replace email as the “go to” online personal fundraising solicitation method anytime in the near future.

Special Note

I noticed that some customers don’t have Participant HQ available under their Event Website Creation Checklist. If so, please create a ticket with customer support, this can easily be activated for you. There’s no excuse to not get started today!

Time for you to share:

  • What other communication channels would you like to see in Thon, perhaps Facebook?
  • What do you think the best way is for event participants to show their dedication to your cause?


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