Lessons Learned From A Twitterthon | Beth's Blog

Lessons Learned From A Twitterthon


Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department

Note from Beth: Diana Scimone is a free agent fundraiser.   She is no stranger to building relationships.  She and I have have linked to each other’s blog posts and commented on each others posts over the past three years.  I wrote about her project  The Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking in  January, 2009 on National Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Awareness Day. (Ironically, it is also the same day as my birthday).      She did her first Twitter fundraiser in September on 9-9-09.

She is making it an annual event, but this year it will happen on 10-10-10.     I asked her if she would reflect on her first Twitterthon and share some insights that she is bringing to her second one to improve results.

Lessons Learned From A Twitterthon by Diana Scimone

Last year,  Born2Fly launched the 09/09/09 Twitterthon  to raise money to stop child trafficking, Our goal was 9,000 people giving $9 each on 09/09/09—or $81,000.

We didn’t come close to raising that amount, but learned a lot about using social media tools like Twitter to promote and raise money for a cause.   We used those insights to design our Twitterthon on 10/10/10 .   Our goal this time around is—you guessed it—10,000 people giving $10 each on 10/10/10.

1.    Build your base first.

That’s a key for any kind of fundraising and it’s no different from a social media fundraiser. We tried a very limited Twitterthon a few years ago, and it ended up with a big fail-whale on it—because I was new to Twitter and hadn’t built any relationships. So I spent a year getting to know people and letting them know me. When it was time for 09/09/09, I didn’t have to scramble to find RTers or bloggers; they were there.

2.    Think big, but don’t set your goal in concrete.

Aim for somewhere between “gutter” and “Are you out of your mind?” On 09/09/09, I was so focused on raising $81,000 that I missed the amazing point that raising $20,000+ in one day via social media was phenomenal. Those funds allowed us to pay for the pre-prep for the wordless book that’s the centerpiece of The Born2Fly Project—illustrations, design work, professional scanning, and a lot more.

3.    Don’t focus on your goal.

So we didn’t raise $81,000, but what we got was even more valuable: an entirely new group of donors, many of whom have continued to give all year long. You can’t get that kind of loyalty or enthusiasm by buying a mailing list.

4.    Widgets work.

ChipIn worked great for us last year and we’re using it again this year. This year I’m encouraging more bloggers and other sites to post the ChipIn widget in their storiesIf someone makes a donation via the ChipIn widget on, for example, the Born2Fly website, the totals updates on all the widgets throughout cyberspace.

5.    Don’t assume people know what you’ve been working on 24/7.

Late in the evening on 09/09/09, I DM’d a few people whom I assumed followed my every breath—and was shocked to find they didn’t even know about the Twitterthon. I thought I’d tweeted about it so much that Twitter was going to suspend my account for spamming—yet many of my followers didn’t even know about it. So this year I DM’d and emailed my best contacts well ahead of time and asked if they would help retweet before the event and the day of the event.

6.    People love information.

I knew people needed information about what child trafficking is, so last year I put together an info sheet. It gave them plenty of material to post on their blogs—or write their own stories. This year I did the same thing, but incorporated it all into a news release format.

7.    Everyone loves a good logo.

Having our own 09/09/09 Twitterthon logo worked great (thank you, @CathleenKwas) and we did an update of it for 10/10/10 using the same font and overall design. We sent it to bloggers, media, and anyone who’d open the file. Last year I started a separate Twitter account for the event (@09-09-09), but it was more trouble than it was worth, so I didn’t do that this year.

8.    People need to know what the funds will be used for.

The more specific we can be about describing that, the better. For 10/10/10, I’m emphasizing that once we finish testing the B2F educational materials in the Dominican Republic this month, we’ll begin distributing them all over the world to schools and organizations that have been patiently waiting for them. So we need money to print and money to ship.

9.    Get professional help when you need it.

I’m a writer, but I knew I needed more professional help to write a targeted news release. For 09/09/09 I worked with Christine Moore (@epiphanymediapr) who crafted an excellent release that gained us a lot of exposure. For 10/10/10, I updated her release (and also worked with her to send it out to media). In September, @HelpaReporter (HARO) ran an ad for @PRWeb offering a free news release for new users. We jumped right on it, and used most of what Christine wrote for us, and then scheduled it for release the week before the Twitterthon.

10.    Don’t sweat the small stuff.

For 09/09/09, I spent far too much time getting prizes and then blogging about them to try to create excitement about the Twitterthon. For 30 days leading up to the event, I blogged about one of the prizes, linking back to the donating company and somehow connecting it to the fight to stop child trafficking. It was great to have prizes and I think they did draw people, but when I factored in my time, the ROI was low. So I dropped the prizes for 10/10/10. We’ll see if that was a wise decision (although so far no one has even asked about them).

11.    Major in media.

For 09/09/09, I spent a lot of time contacting digital media and got some excellent coverage including on Mashable.com. Having so much media coverage was huge and allowed us to go way beyond my own 2,000+ Twitter followers and the people on our mailing list. This year I followed up with many of those same reporters; in some cases it worked and we got a repeat story, and in other cases it didn’t.

12.    Ask what you did right—and what you did wrong.

The week after 09/09/09, I emailed tweeps and bloggers who were especially helpful promoting the Twitterthon and asked for their feedback:

1. In your opinion, what worked? What didn’t?
2. Any suggestions or ideas you’d like to share about B2F, the Twitterthon, our future direction?
3. Would you like to stay involved with B2F—and if so, how?

When I was planning 10/10/10, I read over their replies and tried to incorporate them. The best piece of advice? From @JonSwanson: “Celebrate what happened; it’s a huge deal.”

Jon is right. We didn’t hit our financial goal, but we hit many others we didn’t even know about. It was a huge deal. And I’m hoping we’ll have a lot to celebrate after the 10/10/10 Twitterthon, too. After all, I’m trying to work myself out of a job.

Diana Scimone is director of  The Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking, she blogs here and tweets there.

11 Responses

  1. Frank Strong says:

    What a wonderful and compelling write up! Thrilled that the PRWeb/HARO offer got to play a small part! Going to Tweet this now… @PRWeb

  2. What a wonderful, wonderful case story! I thought the point about setting lofty goals but realizing successes was so crucial here – not many organizations are raising money with Twitter. To have raised anything over $1,000 is incredible!

    I am also seeing a trend towards raising funds for specific projects, and I think project-specific fundraising and twitter could be great marriage partners. Twitter is finite (140 characters), quick, and about fast mobilization. I believe that a short fundraiser for a specific project (to pay for shipping, build a house, etc,) suits the Twitter community well.


  3. Ash Shepherd says:

    Agreed, this is a fantastic post with a ton of very valuable information and insight.

    I also really liked the idea that the fundraising through Twitter be focused on a timely event. I think it does more to encourage timely interaction.

    I also really found the discussion around use of widgets helpful as a way to make workflow real-time AND easy.


  4. Daniel Skinner says:

    Good work but sometimes it shows how much there is to know in this world. Fund raising is hard. Many a year I have listened to public radio and T V raise money.

  5. DF says:


    Working with a fledging .org that’s in a hurry to get to the donation stage. They have under 100 followers on Twitter. Not sure this is big enough and I’m wondering how big of a base do you need to have before launching this kind of a donation campaign?


  6. Highlighting your connections (ie, Twitter) is a great way to display social proof

  7. mozartha.com says:

    Great Lessons learned. I will definitely try to apply this info in the future.

  8. […] dedicated to banishing sex trafficking, and Diana Scimone of Born2Fly’s excellent guest post (http://www.bethkanter.org/twitterthon/) here on Beth’s blog (which was reproduced in Twitter for Good (http://ht.ly/4RirJ) tells the […]

  9. johnbeeter says:


    Working with a fledging .org that’s in a hurry to get to the donation stage. They have under 100 followers on Twitter. Not sure this is big enough and I’m wondering how big of a base do you need to have before launching this kind of a donation campaign?
    – See more at: http://www.bethkanter.org/TWITTERTHON/#sthash.ORmsEbeq.dpuf

  10. Beth says:

    John, my advice is to build your network before you need it ..