Using Twitter for Fundraising (Guest Post from Lisa Gerber)

As an avid stalker of the Spin Sucks blog (yes, stalker), I asked Lisa Gerber if she’d be able to share her wisdom on how nonprofits can get started–from scratch–on Twitter. Twitter’s not as popular as Facebook, but it’s still an incredible source of community building power for nonprofits. So if you’re not sure about using Twitter for your organization, this post should help convince you of how easy it is to get started and useful it can be to make your nonprofit grow.

Lisa is the chief content officer for Spin Sucks and Spin Sucks Pro, a blog and professional development website directed at marketing and PR professionals.

Twitter can be a great tool in your fundraising toolkit if used appropriately. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. If you think you are going to open a Twitter account and start broadcasting links to your Donate Now button, you will be unhappy with your results.

As in any initiative in which you engage, you need to have a plan; a plan that aligns with your goals and your strategic approach to securing donations. Twitter is a tactic in your strategy; it is not a strategy.

You’ll want to have a good story to tell. You’ll also need to have your digital home base in good order, with a strong landing page.

With that foundation, and an hour or so a day on Twitter, you can really grow your community.

Create Your Account

Set up your profile. This is the first impression people will have of you; don’t take it for granted. Upload an avatar that best personifies your cause; something that will be easily recognizable. 12 For 12K is a great example of this. Be thoughtful about the bio: Describe the cause, provide a link for more, and tell us who is tweeting.

Now get started with a few tweets. Yes, you’re speaking to an empty room, but we’re going to have you start following people soon and you want to show that you are worth the follow back and that you’ll be sharing valuable information. Build a profile page that shows some personality and will encourage the return follow.


Twitter is about building relationships, and networking. People love to talk about themselves. The good listeners are the ones who build a loyal community. Don’t make it about you; make it about your community of volunteers, advocates, and benefactors.

It is not about selling. Approach it with the perspective of informing, helping and/or entertaining your followers.


  • Set up a tool such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck or MarketMeSuite. (All free tools with paid versions)
  • Perform searches either within the tool you selected or on
  • Look at what other fundraisers are doing out there
  • Search for potential donors and ambassadors
  • Do keyword searches and listen to the conversation


Is your current audience on Twitter? Connect with them right away using a tool like Fliptop, which allows you to upload your email database and returns social profiles. (There is a cost for this service.)


Now you are ready!

  1. Know your audience. Start engaging with them on topics relevant to your cause. I love the story of Foiled Cupcakes. Mari Luongrath knew her audience was women of a specific age. She knew they’d be talking about shoes. So she searched (you can use the tools I listed above, or for women near Chicago talking about shoes. And she started talking to them about shoes. And eventually, she started talking about cupcakes, and about bringing cupcakes to events. And eventually everyone else was talking about Foiled Cupcakes.
  2. Share stories. Share stories, photos and video related to your cause. People who have benefited from you, or people in need. We use the 80/20 rule. 20 percent of our tweets are self-serving, the other 80 are about helping others and sharing their content. When you share their content (relevant to your audience) they, in turn, will be more likely to share yours.
  3. Continually follow more people. Target your demographic either by interest, geographic location, and/or keywords they are using.
  4. Create a hashtag: This provides a great way to monitor the conversation around your cause. #bluekey, #movember, #give2max, and #12for12k are just a few examples.
  5. Show personality. Obviously being appropriate to your cause, show you are a person. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it and be human.
  6. Thank and recognize people. @movember has a twitter stream full of recognition, thanks and retweets. This not only makes people feel great, but they feel a part of your community.
  7. Build an army of ambassadors: What can you do to involve others that extend your network. #bluekey has enlisted Blue Key Champions. (I am one!) #movember involved men all over the world to grow a mustache.
  8. Tweetchat: Host a tweet chat. Con Agra Foods hosted a tweet chat on #childhunger this past week. For every hashtag tweet that went out during the chat, they donated $1 to Feeding America.
  9. Show progress towards goal: encourage your volunteers and ambassadors by sharing occasional updates.

Some might encourage newbies to Twitter to use Tweetadder or other tools to grow your following and give you instant credibility. I’d argue if you jump in, start showing value immediately, get your current audience involved, and keep growing organically, your community will grow.

What do you think? Did I help you get started? Would you add anything to this list?