Power to Your Peeps! Why Real-time Fundraising with Twitter Works

Chad Norman - 05.28.2009

I dig speaking at nonprofit conferences and events, and one of my favorite topics to cover is the real-time use of social media. It's the perfect mix of emerging technologies, social media, communities, and the web - some of my favorite things.

The conversations inevitably get stymied around Twitter - which is no surprise, as every nonprofit is trying to figure out what the tool means for them. A channel for promoting your mission? A monitor for listening to chatter about your cause? A way to connect your org to your community? It's all of those things, but it's also something else: a real-time fundraising tool!

Raising money on Twitter is happening all the time. Beth Kanter stood on stage at Gnomedex and used Twitter to help raise $2,657 in 90 minutes. Last November, Tweetsgiving used Twitter to raise over $10,000 in 48 hours for a school in Tanzania. And just last month, I used Twitter to raise $350 in a couple hours to help send the NTEN staff out for a relaxing excursion. These examples show just some of the ways Twitter can enable real-time fundraising. Clearly it works...but why?

Tara Hunt calls it Whuffie. Chris Brogan calls it the Trust Economy. I call it the Deep Network. Real-time fundraising works because of social capital...because we tend to trust the people in our network. When an org sends an email, the open rate can be low - but when a person sends an email to friends, the open rate is 90%! This is because of trust, and works the same way with Twitter or any other people-based network. When we build up large, diverse networks consisting of supporters, friends, and peers, we are creating a bank of trust to draw upon when needed. When it comes time to ask your network for something, they will not need the time to interpret your motivation - because they know you and your org. And some will be ready to act...right then!

So use Twitter for listening, communicating, and promoting, but don't overlook the platform as a vehicle for real-time action. Build your network around mutual trust, a sense of community, and personal attention. If you've taken the time to cultivate a trusting, loyal, and engaged following, you should be able to turn that social capital into financial capital - and in a hurry if need be. After all, when you're among friends, it's never hard to ask! 


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