By: Leena Rao
Sunday, July 5, 2009; 3:30 PM
Ashton Kutcher added a philanthropic element to the race with CNN to reach a million followers by promising donations to Malaria No More if he won. And Kutcher even initiated a follow-up fundraising effort for the charity shortly after. Hugh Jackman recently issued a challenge on Twitter to give $100,000 to the any charity that is best described within the 140 character limit.
Even on a smaller scale, there are some capabilities that Twitter provides on its platform that other social media outlets don’t have. For example, hashtags are one part of a fundraising effort on Twitter that can make it easy to search and identify a particular trend. Blame Drew’s Cancer (hashtag: #blamedrewscancer) is a great example of this. Drew Olanoff recently contracted Hodgkins Lymphoma, and launched Blame Drew’s Cancer as a way to get Twitter users who are complaining about something to use the hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. The tweets are pulled into www.blamedrewscancer.com with the hope the Tweets would be tallied to elicit a large donation from a non-profit organization. The site recently announced that Livestrong will be a partner.
The examples I mention above are just a sampling of ways non-profits and philanthropists are using Twitter to fundraise. Twollars and Tweet4Good also offer interesting ways for non-profits to raise money over Twitter. But it’s pretty clear that there are many compelling ways to use Twitter’s viral nature as a valuable fundraising tool for charities.
Some may argue that the thousands raised through social media sites doesn’t match the millions raised through traditional tactics, including direct mail and events. But most charities are relatively late-adopters to new technologies, and the success we have seen this early is probably a strong indication of the potential that is yet to be unharnessed. This isn’t to suggest that Twitter will replace conventional ways of fundraising, but it provides a low-cost, yet engaging way to diversify a charity’s fundraising efforts. And in this economy, diversification is too important to ignore.