Five Ways Nonprofit Organizations Can Really Connect on Twitter

11 Comments 30 July 2009

Really engaging with stakeholders is critical to creating stronger organizational relationships, but it is relatively difficult to really engage followers on Twitter. Having a conversation with followers is one of the easiest way of engaging, but it is hard to have a conversation with every one of your followers (especially if you have more than 100). Here are five ways that nonprofit organizations are creating spaces for real engagement on twitter.

1. Engage Followers with a Live Chat

Hebrew University joined Twitter a month ago and wanted to find a way to connect with their followers. Two days ago they held their first live twitter chat with Maya Sigal, a victim of the 2002 Hebrew University cafeteria bombing. The live chat coincided with an anniversary ceremony honoring the victims of the bombing to be held the following day.

According to Molly Livingstone of Hebrew University’s Public Relations and Development Department,  “we wanted to take the academic institution and make it a more personal place. We want to engage and have a community.  We decided that a live chat is a great way to reach out to people. We wanted our first live chat to be with Maya Sigal because the terrorist bombing was personal attack on the University itself.”  According to Livingstone, the live chat resulted in many new followers, and more direct messages to the University. Livingstone views direct messages from followers to mean that the University has created a  more intimate relationship with a follower.


2. Ask people to sign a petition

Several online platforms enable people to create and start petitions on Twitter. and tiny petition are among the most popular of the platforms. Greenpeace USA has started a petition to get Trader Joe’s to adopt a sustainable seafood policy.

Here is a screen shot of the petition on


3. Integrate Tweeting Into Your Organization’s Programs

The National Wildlife Foundation’s Wildlife Watch program is “a citizen monitoring program where the public reports animal, plants and natural phenomena sightings online to NWF.” These tweets help the scientists that study wildlife track animals around the US and monitor their activity and health.  The NWF asks people to send a tweet to @wildlife_watch with the hashtag #NWF whenever a person sees wildlife. According to Danielle Brigida, the program gets about six tweets a day. Now that’s engagement. Here is a sample of recent Wildlife Watch tweets:


4. Involve Followers in Program and Organizational Improvements

The Peery Foundation has invited its funded organizations, partners, and enthusiasts to participate in their strategic planning process on Twitter. Anyone can tweet ideas, at any time, or participate in a Twitter dialogue about the Foundation’s future using the hashtag #PFWhiteboard.  Here is a screen shot of tweets from a recent online strategic planning session of the Peery Foundation, run by @davepeery and @jessamynlau:


For more examples of philanthropies that crowdsource, check out this article from Modern Giving.

5. Find and Interact with Volunteers

ActionAid Australia is seeking volunteer bloggers to travel to a remote area of an ActionAid country and train locals to use social media (blogging, Twitter) to end poverty. Better yet, they’ve set up a challenge, the Toto Challenge (The Overseas Training Operation) and tweeted the heck out of it. They’ve asked people to nominate bloggers via Twitter, they’ve asked the nominated bloggers to interact with them on Twitter, they’ve asked people to vote, and they keep asking. They have taken this idea from the blog to twitter and back. It’s a great concept of how to promote your program on Twitter, and also use Twitter for engaging people in the program. Here is the list of volunteer bloggers that have been nominated to take the challenge.  Action Aid Australia has used the challenge to find and interact with volunteers on Twitter, as shown here:


These are but five ways that organizations have used Twitter to meaningfully connect with followers. Twitter offers so many possibilties for conversations and engagement. How has your organization used it for real engagement?



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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