Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tweeting For Your Nonprofit (Part I)

I wish Twitter had been around back in the days when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sri Lanka and the communications director of a non-profit humanitarian organization, American Near East Refugee Aid. Twitter can help communications professionals connect with new supporters, donors and other stakeholders, and develop exposure for the needs facing underserved populations around the world. For those professionals currently tasked with fundraising and generating visibility for your mission or who want to incorporate the use of Twitter into your marketing strategy, here are a few tips and suggestions.

1. Find mutually passionate individuals utilizing Twitter and hashtags

If your organization uses Twitter, one way to reach potential supporters is to find them with hashtags. Tweets are often followed by a number sign and word (e.g. #gaza). These "hashtags" offer a system for filing tweets by subject. At, enter a keyword that is critical to your mission in the box at the top of the screen. Other individuals who have tweeted about this subject with the hashtag will appear in a list that scrolls down the screen. (ANERA, the organization I worked for, provides aid to economically and socially challenged individuals in the Middle East, hence my above example of the Gaza hashtag). Checking out the profiles of those tweeting about subjects related to your mission may encourage you to follow those matching your target audiences. In turn, the connection you establish may encourage them to follow you, as well, creating the basis for a relationship.

2. Find Reporters Who Tweet

Keep a sharp eye out for articles that appear in traditional media related to your mission and/or cause. More and more reporters are using Twitter, and it would be worthwhile, when you find articles highlighting your area of concern, to research the reporter online and determine whether they have Twitter profiles. Following reporters positions you to serve as a resource (and a potential interview source) as they develop more editorial related to the subject. Establishing a Twitter connection also provides access to the reporter's followers, another channel for identifying stakeholders. Scrolling through these followers can help you find other individuals your organization may want to know about, as many of them likely are interested in the same topic as you (i.e. the type of editorial generated by the reporter).

3. Follow Other Fundraising/Charitable Organizations

Are organizations utilizing Twitter to generate coverage for a capital fundraising campaign? Are they tweeting statistics to highlight the plight of underserved populations around the world and to encourage donations? Social media has been, is, and maybe always will be a work-in-progress and in flux. Following other organizations to find out how they are maximizing the value of their presence on Twitter can provide you with ideas or examples for how to successfully execute a communications strategy. One internationally-oriented organization that has a great presence (and a lot of followers!) on Twitter is @charitywater. Another good one is @theonecampaign.

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