Using Twitter for Distributed Fundraising


charity: water - Mozilla Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 (Build 20081201061100)There’s been a lot of talk about what Twitter’s own monetization model will turn out to be – even though Twitter itself has been mum on the subject beyond saying that they do have a plan. But meanwhile, some of the communities on Twitter have taken matters into their own hands, and proven that money can flow into good causes based on the social capital that Twitter users build up in just chatting with one another. Whatever else you say about Twitter, it does seem to be bringing out the best in people and opening their wallets.

The most recent of these campaigns that I’ve run across is Well Wishes, an effort by prominent Twitter user Laura “Pistachio” Fitton to raise $25,000 for Charity: Water, two bucks at a time. She’s lined up some matching donations and hooked up with Tipjoy to handle micropayments; if you’re on Twitter, you can get involved simply by tweeting. So far, Well Wishes has raised thousands of dollars in this way.

Nor is this the only success story. Nonprofit consultant Beth Kanter has looked at a number of fundraising efforts on Twitter, from gathering money for heart surgery in India to motivating people to donate blood to raising over $10,000 for a classroom in Tanzania. She brings out a number of valuable lessons, from the need to have a human theme to how to best leverage multiple channels of motivation.

At least two services – Tipjoy and Twitpay (which we wrote about last month) are working on making it easy to collect and aggregate micropayments via Twitter. There’s still a bit too much friction to make things really easy (Twitter could do much more if they’d bring this functionality in-house), but the building blocks are there to run a successful on-line giving campaign.

It seems clear that the increasing rise of person-to-person connectivity is enabling some new models of how things can be done, from fundraising to publicity campaigns. Even if you’re not actively involved in raising money for a good cause, you should be asking yourself how your own web work could benefit from access to a huge network of potentially-motivated people.


Beth Kanter

Twitter makes raising money fast. I was amazed last August when I was able to raise $2,500 in 90 minutes with Twitter

What is interesting to me is the rise of people outside of nonprofit organizations doing the fundraising – free agent fundraisers. It will be interesting to see how nonprofit work with this energy and spirit – and if continues beyond the holiday season.


Thanks Mike for this post. While relatively new to twitter and social media,I read a tweet from @bethkanter about@wellwishes just days after @bethkanter and @bobcollins call to action at Boston’s Social Media Breafast (org’d by @gradontripp) to promote Tyson foods’promise of 100lbs of food to Greater Boston Food Bank per each comment received on its blog. (3 hours, 700+comments and 2 truckloads of food later or 700,000lbs, Tyson closed the offer)…all this from just tweets and emails. Whether @wellwishes campaign for Charity:Water or Beth’s/Gradon’s/ food drive these microsharing/donating campaigns make it so simple for all of us to tangibly support our communities–locally/globally and give from the heart in ways that are lasting and sustaining. I’d go build that well and hand deliver all the food if it was practical. I wrote about it here:
Fascinated by all this…and looking fwd to learning how to keep perpetuating these efforts. Thanks for your summary! And here’s to making microsharing the norm to make 2009 a prosperous year for all of us! Tre~

Laura "Pistachio" Fitton

Thanks for covering our experiment and my fondest Christmas wish. Asking for $2 from 12,500 people is a little insane, but I truly believe micropayments and microdonations will come to seem quite normal in the future.

Your readers should also know they can support The Salvation Army using Twitter payments too. Just use the tools you mentioned and direct the payments to @tsaredkettle (

This even has the potential to influence media and publishing. When it is simple to pay for quality content at the moment it is consumed, those with editorial skills will be able to curate excellent content streams from within mobile enabled tools like Twitter and Friendfeed for consumption anywhere & everywhere. ‘Follow-me publishing’ with sustainable microrevenues…

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