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.

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