Twitter: Fundraising, Engagement and Tools


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Twitter is a fantastic tool yet, not many organizations know how to use it or, the benefits that can be achieved with it as a fundraising tool. This article will provide an introduction to those of you who have not joined the flock, while providing tips for organizations that are currently on Twitter; and how to use it as a tool for engagement, communication and acquisition.

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Twitter: Fundraising, Engagement and Tools

  1. 1. Twitter: Fundraising, Engagement and Tools<br />By Richard Castera<br />Twitter is a fantastic tool yet, not many organizations know how to use it or, the benefits that can be achieved with it as a fundraising tool. This article will provide an introduction to those of you who have not joined the flock, while providing tips for organizations that are currently on Twitter; and how to use it as a tool for engagement, communication and acquisition.<br />First let’s dispel some common misconceptions about the service itself. Some believe it to be another Social Networking platform such as Facebook but that’s not entirely true. Twitter is actually generally used as an informational tool and less as a Social Networking service but, that’s widely up for debate and not what this article is about. Twitter is a hybrid between a blog and a Social Network and while it does have some of those components, it was originally intended to be a micro-blogging service. It has evolved from its inception to much more than that though.<br />Recently, uses of the service range from posting updates about what’s going on in one’s personal life, to using it as a customer service portal. The blog aspect is what allows users to chronicle 140 character ‘tweets’ that are publicly viewable on their profile, and shared among followers. One of the Social Networking features of Twitter is allowing people to ‘follow’ each other and become part of each other’s Twitter conversations. Your followers can then also ‘retweet’ your messages to their own followers.<br />So why use it?<br />Cultivation and Engagement<br />As an organization, it’s your duty to engage and cultivate your constituents. Communication allows you to achieve this. Sure email and direct mail work great as communication tools but, remember Social Media is about conversation as well and, not just about sharing. You’ll get much better results if you take the time to actually engage and garner constituents using several mediums.<br />It’s in the numbers<br />According to an ExactTarget study, US Twitter users in April 2010 were far more likely than general Internet users to post to forums (75% vs. 25%), blogs (72% vs. 14%), comment on blogs (70% vs. 23%) and post ratings/reviews (61% vs. 20%). Those are some big numbers to ignore. Sharing a compelling message and having it spread virally across several networks of websites and reaching existing and potential constituents, is a powerful tool to have in your fundraising arsenal.<br />Twitter’s growth has been phenomenal! It now has 175 million registered users, which is up from 145 million users in September. That means the startup added around 30 million users, in less than two months; and Twitter has added 70 million users since April - Techcrunch. It should be no surprise that people now spend more time on Social Networking sites than email.<br />Increased Visibility<br />Search Engines index your tweets since they are publicly viewable and accessible by anyone on the internet. If you post tweets containing keywords about your mission or the great things that your organization is doing, there’s a good chance search engines will display them in search results when your keywords are contained within them. So not only are you reaching a wide array of audiences, but you’re making great strides in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts as well!<br />So how do I use it?<br />Creating an account<br />Well the first thing you’ll want to do is create an account; and did I mention it’s free! You’ll need an email address and a username. Remember to pick a name that closely matches your organization and if that’s not available, try something that’s close enough to your mission. This will help in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts as well. <br />Once logged in, you’ll see that Twitter has a very easy to use interface. There is nothing intimidating about it at all. You’ll see there’s a nice big textbox to post updates similar to Facebook. The difference is in the methods which Twitter provides you to post updates. You’re limited to 140 characters of text to share with your followers. This is great because it allows you to post concise, digestible messages.<br />Tweeting<br />You’ll want to moderately post quality updates every day. There isn’t an exact science to this yet but, they should be unique, provide information and include links in the form of call to actions when necessary. The velocity and quantity of your tweets is something that you’ll want to pay special attention to as posting too often, could be considered as spam so, it’s not encouraged as followers may decide to ‘un-follow’ you. The end-all goal is not to just broadcast information but to consume it as well. That means getting your followers involved in your campaigns by asking them, questions and providing feedback.<br />Re-tweeting<br />Re-tweeting is how Twitter users re-post and share interesting tweets from people they are following. When you re-tweet someone’s tweet, it’s posted on your profile to be seen be your followers. One usually does this to give credit to the author for sharing an interesting post or link.<br />Tweeting and sharing links<br />When tweeting and including a link, it’s standard to use a URL shortening service such as to shorten your URL’s since your limited to the amount of characters that you can post. There are several URL shortening services on the internet today but, seems to be the most favored because of its wide use and statistics it provides on links clicked.<br />Use of hash tags (#)<br />Twitter hash tags are a great tool for finding, following and participating in topical discussions. This is kind of like tagging your post or tweet. You can create a hash tag by simply adding a hash symbol (#) to the front of an appropriate keyword as you write your tweet (for example, if I were an organization working with hunger, I would post something like, “You can help end world #hunger by participating in this poll”).<br />Building followers<br />Building steady followers is something that fluctuates. It can be analogous to real life and how we establish friendships with real people. It can be a slow process as people are getting to know you and your tweets. Followers can grow exponentially as well when your message, a blog post or campaign becomes viral. Here are some tips to help you build your relationships.<br />Use to find industry leaders or other organizations that are involved in the same causes as you and follow them. This will let them know that you’re on Twitter and they could potentially re-tweet a post to their followers that can garner more followers for you. This is usually done on Friday’s on what’s called Follow Fridays. If you see a post with the hash tag ‘#FF’, that’s what it means. This will also provide you some insight as to what they are posting and doing as an organization.<br />Twitter has ‘Direct Messages’ that are similar to an email inbox. Prepare a predefined direct message thanking people for following your organization and including links to find additional information about your mission as well. This is good Twitter etiquette.<br />Re-tweet for Good Karma. When you re-tweet a post, you’re re-posting someone else’s status to your followers, and it can make a Twitter user’s day!<br />Always make sure to thank people who re-tweet your posts; your @mentions as it’s called, and reply to everyone who addresses a tweet to you.<br />Engaging your Audience<br />Turning followers into relationships<br />One of the hardest things to do as a fundraiser is to maintain relationships. In Twitter, you’ll want to keep the flow of communication open. Don’t treat your constituents like constituents. Get involved and present yourself as real person. Interact with them, and let them know what your organization is doing. You need to provide a human experience behind this communication spectrum.<br />Keeping up with updates<br />Keeping the communication lines open can require a full-time staff person. That’s why we encourage our clients to use some of the tools that are recommended in this article and some that we’ve developed in-house at SankyNet. For instance, one of our many tools, is a program that will automatically submit posts to Social Networks when, you add a new page, news articles or blog posts from your website. This is great for organization with smaller a staff present but, should not be completely substituted; but rather used in conjunction with hands-on tweeting. <br />What should I tweet?<br />Thinking about what to tweet about can be challenging at times. You’ll want to tweet about topics of substance or things that you would find useful if you were reading them. I recommend you start tweeting a combination of the following to help:<br /><ul><li>Link to your presentations or videos.
  2. 2. Mentions of attending or speaking at events
  3. 3. Announcing the publication of your newsletter’s latest issue, along with a brief description and a link to the online version.
  4. 4. Reporting industry and company related interests.
  5. 5. Talk about the impact your organization is making. Everyone likes a happy story.
  6. 6. Do a contest to increase the viral effect of your fundraising efforts.</li></ul>10 FREE Tools & Services to help you become a Twitter master<br />While there are several tools and services on the market to help you become a more efficient twitter user, I’ve listed some of the most popular ones that we recommend and use ourselves.<br />Tool & ServiceDescriptionTwilert – (’s a free web application that enables you to receive regular email updates of tweets containing your username, hash tag or any keyword.Twitter Grader – ( tool to help you determine how influential you are on TwitterTweet Backup – ( tool that backups your tweets.Tweet Stats – ( statistics about your account.Social Mention – ( real-time social media search and analysisTwit Pic – ( lets you share photos on Twitter in real-time.Tweet Effect – ( tool is incredibly valuable if you are focused on reaching the most followers possible. Simply enter your Twitter handle and the application determines which of your recent tweets affected your following.LaterBro – ( can schedule recurring Facebook updates or schedule tweets from multiple Twitter accounts! The tools mentioned above (HootSuite and CoTweet) do this as wellTwt Poll – ( a tool to engage your customers, ask questions, and get feedback through the use of polls.Bitly – ( helps you share, track, and analyze your links.<br />There are also several tools that provide additional functionality compared to Twitter’s native platform that you might be interested in using. They include additional features such as multiple accounts, managing other social networking accounts, scheduled posts, etc; all under one dashboard. Some are better than others. I’ve listed some of them below for you to try and find which works best for your organization.<br /><ul><li>
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
  9. 9.</li></ul>So from a fundraising perspective, Twitter is an amazing tool to engage your existing and potential constituents. Our client’s have had great success with it and we hope you do too!<br /> Good luck!<br />Richard has spent more than 9 years in the technology field mostly as a Developer, SEO and SMO strategist and most recently, as an entrepreneur an avid blogger. He’s currently employed as the Web Technology Director at SankyNet, a New York City based company that specializes in Fund Raising for Non-Profits. You can get in touch with him by following him on<br />