Top 10 #GivingTuesday Tweets: What They Teach Us for Fundraising on Twitter

December 5, 2013

by Christine Schaefer, VP of Community and Marketing, Salsa

My eyes are bleeding. Okay, not really, but it certainly feels like it after staring at HootSuite for more than 16 hours yesterday. Why would anyone in their right mind do that? #GivingTuesday, of course!  More specifically, I wanted to be part of the online conversation - experience every minute first-hand.  So, I set myself up on HootSuite and I watched streams and streams of tweets from Salsa’s more than 2,000 clients as well as every tweet that included the infamous #GivingTuesday hashtag itself.

And, I learned A LOT!

First and foremost, I learned a lot about a couple of our clients that I hadn’t known before, and I even made donations to them both. But, more importantly for this article, I learned a lot about how to apply fundraising best practices to Twitter.  BIG POINT: Fundraising best practices apply, even when you only have 140 characters (or especially so).

Using fundraising best practices as my lens, here’s what I saw as the Top Ten Tweets or Tweet Series on #GivingTuesday and why, broken into four categories: 1) Conveying Impact, 2) Making the Ask, 3) Storytelling, and 4) Twitter Best Practices. 

1. Conveying Impact in a Tweet - Make It Specific & Relatable

When one is philanthropic, often it means one is also altruisitic.  That is to say, I am not looking to donate money for my own sense of satisfaction but to know that I have made a tangible difference in the world, or better yet for a living, breathing person or animal.  So, fundraising best practice has always been to communicate as specifically as possible what that donation will achieve and do it in a way that I can relate it to my life. Surfrider and FoodLifeline did a great job with that:

$20 is a sum of money that we all understand.  We can picture it.  Heck, we have all had that amount in our pocket at some point.  Follow that with specific explanation of what it does - i.e. pay for 2 water tests - and now you have something relatable. Surfrider went one step further to tie it to my life - keeping me healthy & safe on my next beach trip with my kids. I’d pay $20 to keep my family healthy and safe at the beach. Ooh, and they have me thinking of a nice day at the beach - warm sand, cool water...are you feeling it?  I am.

Three for a dollar isn’t just a special at the local flea market - it’s philanthropy at its best!  Thanks, FoodLifeline for making certain I knew that.  Maybe I should click and donate a $1 to you right now.

2. Making a Tweet Ask - Be Realistic and Tie It to a Larger Goal

In our Essential Guide to End-of-Year Fundraising Online, we advise that before any online fundraising campaign, that you set a goal and communicate it in the campaign.  For #GivingTuesday, you could either set a goal for that day itself (which I recommend highly) or just communicate your year-end fundraising goal.  Then, best practice is to communicate progress towards your goal.  And, even though you only have 140 characters, it is absolutely possible.  Check out what EnableCNY and Children & Nature did:

I like what Enable CY did here, both stating goal as well as giving a very achievable way to get there - only five more donations. Heck, they only need five more, why not help right?  Be one of five people who helped them make it.  Oooh, that makes the donor feel special.

Not only did Children & Nature have a goal, they had a special reward arranged in advance - an extra $10k.  And, they specifically asked for any-sized gift.  Wow, if I give even $1, I can help them get to their 100 donor goal and get $10,000.  Even better, what if I get my mom and sister to give too...that’s 3 out of 100. How can I not help?

The Big NO-NO on the Ask: DON’T Over-Sell. I saw a lot of tweets yesterday that made an ask for a donation promising that in doing so the person would drastically change the world - i.e. end hunger or stop sexual violence or make Congress pass a bill. Those are intangible, unrealistic and therefore ingenuine promises. People sense when they are being oversold, and it doesn’t matter if it is a nonprofit or a car salesman doing the selling. They will react negatively to being oversold, then at best not take action to make a donation, at worst turned off to your organization in the future.

3.  Storytelling

On Twitter, you have 140 characters to convey a story, that’s a tall order.  Pretty sure even Hemingway would struggle with it. What’s worse, you need the story to be re-told. Whoever sees it and takes action should be able to tell the story to a friend so you can amplify your message offline. If you’re lucky or extremely talented, you will write a 140 character prose that gets re-tweeted again and again until the whole world has seen it.  But we both know that last scenario is unlikely, and conveying a whole story in a tweet is nearly impossible.  So, what to do?  Learn from CCHI, Polaris Project and SOME DC, they made micro-stories an artform on #GivingTuesday:

While CCHI didn’t write this tweet, they did manage to get a story out of it.  First and probably most importantly, it made me chortle (yeah I said chortle).  It probably made a lot of people chuckle. And humor is both something people will repeat (read: amplify your message) and a great way to break the ice on a loaded/serious issue like healthcare and colonoscopies.  Second, they got a very funny tweet that not only brings up an important healthcare issue for men, they also have an implied juxtaposition to BlackFriday.  And, they didn’t have to do any work for it - gotta love it when your followers write your content for you!  Last but not least, they demonstrated they have at least two men interested in this topic - i.e. they have interest/engagement on healthcare transparency so supporters know they are not alone.

Presumably Polaris Project’s Twitter followers have some idea what they do: combat human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  So, think of how powerful a story it is to know that 4 of their clients have had babies recently. That is wrought with emotion - joy, worry, curiosity…and emotion is an important part of a good story.  Marianne Elliott spoke on the importance of vulnerability in storytelling at our community conference in October. And, what’s more vulnerable than a victim of slavery trying to make it in the world with a new baby?  And, the hero of the story?  You for helping them grow! That’s another emotion - hope. Powerful stuff in 140 characters.

This one was particularly fantastic.  Note the time this tweet went out.  SOME tied their impact to what the person was doing right then - eating lunch!  If you work in DC like most of us at Salsa, eating out is probably a $12 affair for even fast food.  What if I just donated two days of lunch money, I could feed 16 men, women and children!!  Guess I better pack my lunch the next couple of days.  Bologna sandwich for me = hot, nutritious meal for a child? Now, that’s a story to tell.

4) Twitter Best Practices - Follow for Both Form & Function

Some Twitter best practices are simply good etiquette (form) and others help you get noticed more (function).  And, I believe both are equally important.  I am not going to go into all the “rules” here, this post is already long enough. If you read this and want more, check out this whitepaper: “Twitter for Nonprofits: A Guide to Doing It Right.”

For this article, I just want to focus on two best practices that I saw repeatedly overlooked on #GivingTuesday: Engaging Others in Dialogue (good form for engagement) and Use of Hashtags (important for function).

I don’t know about you, but my mom always taught me that listening to others is extremely important. If all you do is talk about yourself, then who will want to be your friend? The same is true in social media.  It’s more about listening and responding to others - Engaging in Dialogue - than it is just another channel to blast a message.  Look at this thread between us and National Network of Abortion Funds:

Here’s what I like about this thread: 1) when I gave them a compliment, they responded and then took the opportunity to include others in the thread by adding their handles, and 2) they used their response to re-emphasize the importance they put on having an impact. Anyone who sees this thread should take away two things: 1) NNAF are listening in social media, not just blasting and 2) if they choose to donate, the people managing the program are passionate about impact and going to put their gift to good use.  The others in the thread also responded (sorry, I didn’t capture the screenshot), and it turned into a brief and good conversation. Good form!!

Now, let’s take a look at these three tweets from AAUW, Children & Nature and Metro Denver News and see what they have in common (think function):

Did you figure it out?  They all use multiple hastags - very important for getting the most out of each tweet as possible.  If someone is watching a thread based off an interest other than #GivingTuesdsay or if they do a hashtag search at some point in the future on that interest, then they are going to see this message.  All three of the above organizations just gave their 140 characters a lot more reach and longevity, increasing the chance of being seen and a supporter or potential new donor taking action. Function matters.

Okay, so that last batch of examples actually put me at 11 tweets.  Try not to hold that against me.  Maybe that one extra tweet made the difference, maybe it didn’t.  With what you learned from this article, do you think your next tweet will make a difference?

Tweet at me: @salsalabs, @christinegds #nonprofit #marketing

Planning for GivingTuesday and End-of-Year Fundraising

#GivingTuesday is rapidly approaching- are you ready? We’ve put together this handy new tool to help you out. It’s one part white paper, one part workbook and all about getting you ready to launch a year-end fundraising campaign with a special emphasis on #GivingTuesday. Read Planning for #GivingTuesday and End-of-Year Fundraising

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Christine Schaefer
VP of Community and Marketing

Christine Schaefer is Salsa’s Vice President for Community & Marketing. Having worked with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Auburn Wesley Foundation, and Quilters Unlimited of Northern Virginia, Christine has a wide-view of the varied needs of nonprofits that helps her better build Salsa’s community.