If you’re a fundraiser and you use Twitter, you’re probably like me – you really, really want to combine the two but it’s just never succeeded quite like you’ve hoped. Chances are, if pressed to justify the use of Twitter within a multi-channel fundraising strategy, you’ll fall back to hackneyed phrases like “it’s about relationships”, “we need to start a conversation”, “we need to widen our circle”, etc. The answer is never “because it will raise more money”.
What doesn’t help is a lack of comprehensive published research, which I believe stems from differing opinions on how to qualify and track these donations.
A group of researchers in the Netherlands took on the challenge using one of the most successful online fundraising campaigns this decade – Movember. [Read the full study here, as a pdf] They tested three straightforward hypotheses:
1. The more well-known Twitter users support a Movember campaign, the more funds the campaign will raise.
2. Movember campaigns that emphasize the social and fun aspect of the campaign will engage users better, and thus will raise more funds.
3. Movember campaigns that focus on health topics raise more awareness to the campaign, and thus will raise more funds.
The study included data from Australia, UK, Canada and the US, and they defined a “Twitter donation” as a completed gift that originated from a Twitter link. For the first hypothesis, they normalized the definition of a “well-known” user by region. For individuals in the US it was 100,000+ followers, UK was 20,000+, Canada was 11,000+, and Australia was 7,000+. They collected and combed through 406,000 tweets, and compared those with the $357,000 Australian dollars via Twitter from 21 unique national Movember campaigns, originating from 127 different countries.
And in case you’re wondering, they found that 2.9% of all Movember donations in 2013 can be attributed to Twitter.
Across all countries the team “did not find significant correlations between donations and Twitter activities”.
There were significant correlations between Movember website visitors and the Movember-related activities of well-known Twitter users, and ultimately these are potential donors. An increase in online donations requires an increase in traffic from new sources, so this finding is not insignificant. The team found in Australia and the UK that tweets emphasizing the social aspect of Movember drew in significantly more visitors than health topics, while in Canada and the US this same correlation was weak or non-significant.
What I take away from this is an affirmation of what myself and others have long suspected – Twitter is best used as the beginning of what will likely be a long, involved donor journey. If Twitter were a nightclub, a tweet is a glance across the dancefloor with a hope that you’ll make brief eye contact and not come off as creepy. Every relationship has to start somewhere.
Again, all credit here to the researchers. You can read the much more detailed methodology and additional findings in their paper “What Makes or Breaks a Health Fundraising Campaign on Twitter [PDF]” published in October 2015.
UPDATE: If you liked this, you’ll also like Part 2.