Is Twitter right for your nonprofit?

twitter logo

Let me start out by saying that I love Twitter. It’s one of my favorite forms of social media. I’ve learned a great deal about fundraising on Twitter, and Twitter has helped us drive traffic to the Fundraising Assets Web site and blog.


But that doesn’t mean it’s right for all my nonprofit clients.


Here are a few things that can help you decide whether Twitter is right for you.


What you can do with Twitter

Twitter lets you communicate with people through extremely short, frequent messages. The messages can contain a link to a blog or Web site where people can get more detailed information.


They’re like headlines, and you click on a link to see the full story. Or, they’re like conversations as you’re passing someone in the hallway—very brief.


With Twitter, the more active you are, the more popular you are and the more you get noticed. You’re active by not just sending out tweets, but by engaging in conversations.


What are your goals?

Are you trying to raise money? Recruit volunteers? Raise awareness of your cause?

Before you engage in any medium, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, television or billboards, you must have goals, an audience, a plan, an idea of your resources and a way to measure success. If you don’t have all that on paper, stop reading and go make a plan!


Now look at your plan and try to determine whether Twitter will help you meet your goals. If your goal is to raise awareness of a rare disease nationally and worldwide, Twitter can be a great medium for you. One of its big advantages is that it offers such a broad and diverse audience.


On the other hand, if you have a private school that draws its students from the surrounding neighborhoods, it would probably be better for you to choose a method that is more focused.


Investment

It doesn’t cost money to use Twitter, but it does take time. If you’re going to get involved, I estimate you’ll need to spend a minimum of half an hour a day. At the beginning, it will take longer. Do you, your staff or volunteers have that much time to devote? Think of it this way: A TV ad might be useful to you, but you have to cross it off your short list if you don’t have the money to pay for it. In the same way, Twitter might be useful, but if you don’t have the human resources to spend, consider other social media where your time may pay off better.


Alternate uses

Having said all that, just because this is how most people use Twitter, it doesn’t mean that’s how you have to use Twitter. I’ve seen small nonprofits that don’t use Twitter as a way to engage in conversations, but as a message board. Picture a board in front of a school saying, “Art show on March 17.” An example is Toledo Central Catholic High School, which you can see if you sign up for a free Twitter account. Using Twitter this way greatly reduces your time investment. If using Twitter this way meets your goals, go for it!


Help is on the way!

We know that social media is a very new area for busy fundraising professionals. It’s difficult to figure out where to start and how to invest your resources.


To help you sort through the muddle, we’re working on two initiatives.


The first initiative is a webinar to walk you through the basics. We’ll discuss Web sites, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and how each might—or might not—help your organization.


The second inititative is a series of e-books that lay out the basics for social media. We’re also going to offer books to help you get the most out of your appeal letters and fundraising newsletters.


We’ll keep you posted and let you know when they’re available.

Find us on Twitter at @fundraiserhelp.


For more information on using social media, or for other expert help on fundraising, contact Fundraising Assets at 1-888-244-4013.


Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

6 Comments »

  1. 1

    Twitter is such a powerful medium!

    It can be used to produce some fantastic results!

    I am Raising Awareness for Madeleine McCann on Twitter!
    Please follow me to show your support!

    I follow everyone back fast!

    http://twitter.com/PrayMaddyMcCann

    ******************************************************************

    Comment by http://twitter.com/PrayMaddyMcCann — March 14, 2010 @ 10:57 PM

  2. 2

    I use twitter quite a bit for personal and business reasons but I don’t think it is a good medium for either non profit I do work with. I have tried with one of my non profits, an organization that hosts a car control clinic for teens that teaches teens and their parents how to avoid crashes, but after being on twitter for about a year and amassing a pretty good following I’ve learned that for the most part the only people I’m talking to are fellow driver’s education groups. No parents or teens are hearing what I’m saying.

    In a lot of ways twitter is one big echo chamber. If you have small or locally based non profits it isn’t the best way to reach people at all. I find Facebook to be much more effective.

    Comment by Lauren Pearce — March 16, 2010 @ 12:29 PM

  3. 3

    Lauren,
    Those are great insights. Through Twitter, I’ve been able to talk with people who also provide services to nonprofits, and that’s been helpful. If I weren’t also able to engage people from nonprofits, it wouldn’t be helpful to me. If you’re not finding your audience on Twitter, then you can’t meet your goals, and it’s not the right medium for you. You’re smart to recognize that. You wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on a Super Bowl ad when your audience can be reached through your local weekly paper. Just because a medium is new, it doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. I also want to note that it sounds like you gave Twitter a fair test. Some people post a few times over a week or two, then give up. If you don’t invest some time, you can’t really know whether it will work for you.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
    Connie

    Comment by Connie — March 16, 2010 @ 1:11 PM

  4. 4

    Twitter is really a good way in keeping yourself updated with the day to day activities of your friends and families members. I update my Twitter and personal blog daily.

    Comment by Ken Santos — March 28, 2010 @ 7:17 AM

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