Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Trying To Donate Through Twitter

I recently cancelled one of my €21 per month charity direct debits as I had been doing it for about 6 years and fancied a change. I decided to run an experiment on Twitter, telling my followers that I wanted to set up four €5 per month direct debits to four different charities. I asked who they should be and why.

This was from my company Twitter account with nearly 700 followers, primarily made up of charities and people working in the sector. Easy money. But surprisingly...

Nobody replied.

I understand Twitter's a busy place and so over the next few weeks I kept asking and reposting the question. Slowly but surely I found my four charities. I don't think it would be fair to criticise the charities that didn't see the offer or didn't respond, but it's interesting to see how the four charities each responded differently and the lessons we can learn...

Day 6: Charity working with vulnerable young people
I was tweeted at by an employee of this charity, rather than the official account, and it was someone that I already knew through work. It was a very clear and very concise summary of what they do. Fantastic.

I e-mailed her saying I'd be delighted to set up a direct debit, and when I mentioned that I hadn't received any other replies she said, "I thought you would've been inundated with tweets." The other interesting thing was that the link on their website to their direct debit form didn't work. It was a broken link, and at the time of writing this it still is.

Lessons learned: Never assume someone won't donate to you and make sure your donation links work.

Day 8: Health-related Charity
Again I was tweeted at by an employee, rather than the official account (maybe you guys should start paying commission?). She sent me a picture of a thank-you letter one of their young service users had written them - really sweet.

Unfortunately, the charity didn't have a direct debit facility so they needed to post me out a standing order form. I hate standing orders and I know that results suffer if you're relying on someone to physically fill out a form and post it back.

They also took the opportunity to send me posters for the office, a magazine and a sponsorship card for a run I had mentioned I was going to be taking part in just case I "haven't chosen a charity to fundraise for..." Brilliant.

Lessons learned: Get a Direct Debit facility. Or outsource it. It's important that people can become regular donors without having to physically fill in and return a form.

Day 11: Guide dog charity
This was an interesting one: I received a lovely hand-written card responding to my post along with a DD form. I received details of a great case-study and I received a standard 'ask' letter (Addressed "Dear Friend"...nooooooo!!!).

Overall, it was a great pack...but there was no interaction at all on Twitter. It seemed strange to me that the charity had chosen to change the medium with which I had chosen to communicate. I'm not necessarily saying the pack shouldn't have been posted, but I felt there should have also been some sort of engagement on Twitter.

Lessons learned: Engage your audience through the medium they choose (where possible). And if you have DD Plus facility...use it. Don't risk a potential donor not getting round to signing and returning a form when you don't have to.

Day 12: Animal Sanctuary
Gaining a good bit of momentum by now!

The fourth and final charity was one that I have a bit of a Twitter relationship with! They're one of my favourites because they post interesting, sometimes controversial, tweets. We sometimes get in to little twonversations and I've met the person who runs the account once in real life. I like them a lot, but I've never been asked for a donation and actually never seen them publicly ask for money (beyond one-off donations).

The interesting thing was that they responded to my original Day 1 tweet. Anyone on Twitter knows that a post that old should be well lost in your timeline. This leads me to believe that as a result of the banter we were having they actually went in to my own list of tweets and looked over everything I had posted in the last couple of weeks.

Also, as a result of our banter and the e-relationship we have I was delighted to become a donor...when they finally got round to asking! If they had of asked me a few weeks ago I probably would have said sorry, no, but sometimes you catch people at just the right time. That's fundraising.

Lessons learned: Ask. Ask everyone. Ask often.

I'd look to run a similar experiment again some time in the future. Until next time...

Update 16th August:
I got a call today from someone at one of my new charities. They wanted to check if my €5 was for anything in particular? I informed them no, it was a donation. 

They asked if it was a once off. I said no, it's a standing order so it's monthly.

They very nicely explained that it didn't say anything about monthly on the form so they weren't sure (Remember, this was their own donation form that they had sent me). I very nicely responded that I was pretty sure it said monthly on it, to which they replied, "Oh yes, you're right. There it is."

Still, nice to get a phone call.

Update 7th September:
I got a letter from my bank today:

The same charity that had called me to check if it was a one-off donation had sent the form to my bank to process without including their own account details. Obviously my bank couldn't process it and are now relying on me getting back to them with the charity's details.

Bear in mind this is the monthly standing order form that the charity sent me. It was all glossy and pretty. But it's not functional.

The timing is bad. We're getting work done on the house and this week we had to pack up everything we own and move out for 8 - 10 weeks. I have no idea where this letter has gone. It's safe to say the majority of the public would not keep working this hard to make a donation. Most would have given up by this point.


  1. Hi Simon,

    A very interesting piece. I experienced some similar difficulties when trying to sign up for the one per cent difference campaign. Having selected my charity on the site I assumed I would just input my bank details and they would take 1% of my income for the rest of my life but this was not to be. Instead I was re-directed to the charity website where I couldn't find the donate button so I gave up! While there are lots of people welling to donate to charities they need to make sure it's easy to do it online as we have such high expectations for websites these days!

    Kind regards,

    1. Oooh I'd love to hear which charity that was? Please e-mail me if you get a chance!

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