Super-success story on Twitter can lead you astray

Here’s a Twitter fundraising success story from Connection Café: Leveraging Twitter Influencers to Drive Social Good.

The short version:

After the January Haiti Quake, a small nonprofit called Free The Kids that runs an orphanage in Haiti sent an email to its supporters saying We are going to run out of food in 4 days.

One of the supporters tweeted this information, and that tweet reached author Neil Gaiman, who has more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter. Needless to say, Free the Kids did very well from that point.

You can take this story two different ways:

There’s the breathless Twitter-is-God’s-Other-Son way. Before the rise of Twitter and other social media, there was no way for something like this to spread. It’s incredible, wonderful, and exciting! All we have to do is dig the Twitter gold-field, and we’ll strike gold!

Then there’s the eyes-open, learn-a-lesson way. Look at the particulars of this case:


  • It took place during a major-scale natural disaster. That itself is an unusual condition that helps fundraising.
  • Free The Kids had a great, compelling fundraising offer. They were running out of food for the kids, for goodness sake! If you have an offer like that, you’re going to do well, no matter what medium you’re in.
  • A super-tweeter jumped on board — for reasons of his own. You can’t force that to happen. This is the wildest of the wild-cards here. You can’t force Mr. Gaiman or anyone else to notice your message, care, and RT. A compelling offer, a dramatic situation (like we have in this case) will help. But it’s still luck of the draw.

(It’s interesting to note that Free the Kids didn’t have a Twitter strategy. Someone else did it for them.)

You’re about as likely to have your donorbase get struck buy lightning as you are to strike twittergold as Free the Kids did. A trip to Las Vegas would probably be a better revenue-boosting strategy.

A Twitter strategy isn’t likely to hurt you. But a week spent planning and executing a good strong direct-mail or email campaign is going to get you some revenue.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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