fundraising, listening, reputation management, Twitter

Online Engagement with Donors – charity: water Inspires

20 Comments 05 April 2009


I am a casual donor. I don’t donate regularly to the same causes, but try to spread my limited funds around.  When I  received an email today from charity: water with the heading “See the First Twestival Well Drilled,” I became more than a casual donor. Charity: water sent me a personal invitation to ask questions about how the Twestival funds are being allocated, view the drilling for new wells in Africa via daily videos, follow the drilling via Twitter updates, and hear answers to the most popular questions on April 13th.

Now that is stakeholder engagement.

When was the last time you were asked to by a charity to engage in conversation?

I was one of the organizers of the February 12th Jerusalem Twestival, a gathering of local Twitter fans to raise funds for charity: water. At the time I proposed the idea, I thought it would be a great way to meet more people and help Jerusalemites give to another part of the globe.  Like most stakeholders and donors, I assumed that my money would be used towards the stated purpose (drill wells in Africa near villages without access to potable water), but I didn’t know much else.

What did I expect from my one-time donation? My excuse to throw a party and meet others at a fundraiser? Not much, honestly. I expected a thank-you note of some sort. I expected to be solicited for further donations. I certainly expected a year-end update. But I never expected to be involved.  Here are the opportunities I now have to get involved:

  • As charity:water goes from village to village drilling wells, I can watch four daily short videos of the drilling.
  • I can follow the drilling updates via a twitter stream update
  • I can ask questions of the local drilling team during the five days of drilling, via email or twitter
  • The local charity:water drill team will answer the top five questions on video April 13th

Brilliant. What has charity: water done?

  • Involved me in the funds disbursement.
  • Offered transparency.
  • Made me part of the success story.

The recent Community Philanthropy 2.0 survey of social media power users by Mashable indicates that donors want to be involved. According to Mashable,

These online donors aged 30-49 want conversation about the following:

• 80% organizational impact
• 74% success stories
• 71% learning more about the organizations they are participating with
• 70% want information on causes they care about
• 43% want information on financial accountability

Furthermore, donors aged 50 and above want the same sort of information, but prioritized differently. According to Mashable, “verifying this opportunity for content sources, 71 percent of 30-49-year-olds directly looked to the charity they support for information, and 63 percent trust referrals from friends. In comparison, 78 percent of those 50 and older directly look to their charities and 72 percent trust friends.”

Charity: water is giving its donors exactly what they want: success stories, videos of the impact of donations, and information about financial accountability.

The study also shows that these same donors are already chatting online about philanthropy. Charity: water has is taking advantage of this trend (see chart below). Their twestival page offers simple button press options to “tweet about the facts” and “tweet about the live drill.”

image courtesy of Mashable

image courtesy of Mashable

Charity:water understands its Twestival donors are actively involved in social networks (many become involved through Twitter), understands online giving, and understands donor engagement.

From this one email Twestival update, I’m engaged and excited to talk about charity: water in my online networks and…guess what?

Give again.

What can your organization learn from charity: water?

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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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