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How to Raise Money on Twitter – Tweetathon 101

I love Twitter. Not just because it makes up for my lack of popularity in high school, but for all the incredible people I’ve met since joining it. It has restored my faith in humanity. No other event has proven this more to me than the day I decided to hold a Tweetathon.

Back in March I decided to lend a hand to the cause of child hunger in the United States on behalf of, which was the charity of choice for the 12for12k Challenge, which is:

The 12for12k Challenge is the combination of social media and fund-raising that aims to change the lives of millions worldwide.

The goal was to hit $12,000 for 12for12k for March (they were already at about $1600 for the month)

So I logged on at 10am on the Thursday of the Tweetathon and went at it.

The $12k goal was hit in 5.5 hours. And by the end we raised around $14,000, all through Twitter.

chipinI was overcome with emotion. All these people, strangers in “real life” but friends on Twitter would rally together and give to a great cause.

After everything had calmed down, people started asking me how I did it. I also started to notice others trying to raise money doing a version of a Tweetathon, and people were having trouble replicating this success, so I decided to figure out why this one worked so well, and where others were faltering. (Unless you’re Trent Reznor)

I boiled it down to 9 key areas:

1. Organizer span of influence: I was around 16k in followers at that time and rarely ever ask for anything from anyone. I had built a lot of social currency with my network and wanted to cash some of it in for a great cause. This is especially important if a non-profit wants to be the one running the tweetathon. You can’t just open an account on Twitter and start asking for donations. Twitter is a community, a conversation, not a pitch platform.

2. The cause: Doesn’t take much convincing to get people to feel for the cause of child hunger. If I was raising money for an obscure illness, it may not have worked so well.

3. The raffle: I asked the Twitter world for donations first for the raffle. Out of 60 offers, I picked 11 of the best that would give the most bang for the buck. You can see the raffle items on the tweetathon page. To get these awesome donations, you have to go back to point #1. Almost everyone that donated an item for the raffle, I had a previous relationship with on Twitter. I didn’t get to know them for this purpose, but it’s incredible what happens when you ask for help from virtual friends, people step up to the plate.

4. The set donation suggestions: For every $12 donated, people got one entry into the raffle. If they donated $120, they got 10 raffle entries plus a website review from me ($300 value). That gave people a focus, instead of asking them to “donate what you can”. Overall about half the donations were in small amounts ($12 at a time) and the other half were the $120 donations and three $500 donations.

5. The short timeframe: One of the issues of getting people to donate over a month (12for12k is a month long for each charity) is they can put it off, there is no sense of urgency. This was a 12 hour window, nothing more. To be entered in the raffle, people had to donate in that small time window.

6. The amount of tweets: I tweeted more on that day than any other day in my history of Twitter. A single tweet lasts a minute or two on people’s radar, tops. I tweeted almost every minute about it and every tweet had a shortened link back to the donation page.

7. The social proof retweet: every time someone tweeted about donating, I retweeted it with my addition (I.e. “AWESOME!” or “THANKS!”) that kept the word going, helped the topic #12for12k trend and it showed others if they donated, they not only helped a cause, got a chance to win something cool, but also gained new followers.

Danny Brown - Founder of

Danny Brown - Founder of

8. 12for12k soldiers: Most who had the 12for12k avatar stepped up and became a tweeting army. Momentum is everything in a charity drive like this. Danny Brown, the founder of 12for12k gave me all the support in the world, including the use of the blog page to host everything. It added credibility to what I was trying to do.

9. FOCUS: This is where I see the biggest mistake being made in online fundraising. When the tweetathon occured, there was only one action people could take – donate. If you look at the page, the video I recorded, the text, everything focused on donating. Recently I’ve seen live streaming video, interviews, musical acts that take away from the donation focus. Their heart is in the right place, but if people are busy listening to an interview subject talk about a topic outside of the fundraiser, they get distracted and eventually click away. If you still want to have virtual events during the fundraiser, at the very least have a banner across it always reminding people of what you’re there for. Make the donate button (or ChipIn widget) at the very top, or alongside the video that is being used.

I’ve also had a lot of questions on how we did the raffle, figured out number of entries etc… the great thing about using the ChipIn widget is it allowed us to get a spreadsheet of all donors and amounts but allowed all the donations to go straight to the charity without us having to deal with it. After getting the information and creating a custom Excel spreadsheet, giving a line for every $12 someone donated, I used a random number generator to choose the winners of the raffle.

For the sake of total transparency, I also partially ran the tweetathon out of spite. I wanted to show all the people out there that said social media is a waste of time. I wanted to show them that Twitter was filled with the most incredible people in the world. I was right 🙂