How to use Twitter to benefit your nonprofit

Twitter has received a lot of attention in the news lately, not just surrounding the social networking site’s popularity, but with its involvement with world events. Following the election in Iran, the government shut down many communication devices such as YouTube and Facebook, but left Twitter. This has allowed people in Iran to communicate and get information about the protests and events out to the rest of the world. Earlier in the month Twitter also hit the news when it was blocked by China in the days leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. Twitter has already made a global impact, but it can also positively impact your nonprofit.

Hundreds of organizations are beginning to capitalize on Twitter, which provides a free way to broadcast changes, events, and new products. And while there are many posts excitedly telling an audience what C list celebrity was witnessed walking out of Starbucks, there are a growing number of Tweets providing people with new and needed information that helps point them to variety of helpful sources. This week’s Time magazine featured a cover story by Steven Johnson that investigated the relevancy of Twitter, which is proven to be a great resource for nonprofits.

One major upside to Twitter is that it is free. There is no startup cost or monthly fee, which creates a larger audience and gives incentive for even the smallest of organizations to take advantage of it. It is also easily accessible and quick to update. A blackberry or computer can conveniently send out Tweets, which are required to be less then 140 characters.

In order for people to receive your organization’s Tweets they must first follow the organization. Twitter user, or Tweeters, have followers and a following. An organization’s followers are Tweeters who will receive the Tweets and can comment back with thoughts. An organization’s following are other Tweeters who the organization may be interested in and will receive updates and Tweets about. However, an organization’s following will not receive Tweets unless it is also one of the organization’s followers. (Yes, a little confusing, especially with the emerging words like “Tweet” and “Tweeter,” but it is much easier then it sounds.)

Once your organization has established an account and a following they can begin sending out Tweets. Tweets are required to be short, but can offer a starting point for a conversation because Tweeters can comment on Tweets. Your organization can use these Tweets to release news about fundraisers, events, changes, and sites and news articles with relevant or interesting information. Our society moves quickly and is categorized by its desire to cut to the chase. Many may not read all of an e-mail or newsletter, but a Tweet, in its short form, will get the attention of the audience and provide it with helpful information that can be further researched if it catches a person’s interest.

Twitter can also be used to help with fundraising. A Twitpay aspect is in its early stages, but it will allow people to transfer money through the site, similar to PayPal.

Currently the American Red Cross can be found on Twitter with over 18,000 followers, Livestrong has over 22,000 followers and The March of Dimes Foundation has over 2,000. You can also follow TASC and look for our updates. Allowing people to follow you leads to a more engaged community interested in what, how, where, when and why you are impacting your community.

 

Originally posted: June 19, 2009 on NJ.com