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Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Using Twitter for fundraising: Lessons learned from Beers for Canada

in: Case studies, Communicate, Standing out

[Update: Beth Kanter has re-posted this piece over on her blog; she’s had some great guest posters keeping things moving over there while she makes the move from Boston to San Francisco. If you’re looking for other resources on social networking and nonprofits, there’s no place better than Beth’s.]

Visible GovernmentLast week, we helped out our friends at Visible Government with their Beers for Canada campaign. In the end, the campaign raised just over $1,000 in two days; donations will help open government data to citizens and promote transparency in public offices.  We learned a lot about what did and didn’t work, and in the interests of transparency, we thought we’d share some of the lessons we learned along the way (and see if we can collect some ideas for next time.)

How it worked

Beers for Canada donation pageA week before Canada Day (July 1) we built and tested a simple site that encouraged donors to “buy their country a beer” — basically making a donation. We told a few key bloggers and Twitter personalities about it beforehand; then, on June 30, we started talking about it online. We continued to mention it, and amplified what others were saying, until midday on July 2.

From the outset, this was a short-term campaign built around a single day. We did this to give it urgency and purpose. We chose to start talking on June 30 because so many people were out the office (and away from their computers) on the holiday itself. But it’s important to realize the differences between a short-term campaign (minimal upfront work, strong word of mouth, modest goals, and real-time virality through Twitter) and a longer one. The timeframe also meant that most blog coverage only hit on July 1st (and thanks to all the bloggers who covered us!)

What worked? What didn’t? What would we have changed? Here’s a quick list.

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