[Mama Lucy Kampton. Photo by Tim Llewellyn]
In several Twitterville chapters, I discuss that much of twitter is built on a culture of generosity. For Chapter 13, Goodwill Fundraising, my cup overfloweth with good and remarkable stories. Stacey Monk,
who you may have heard about when she launched TweetsGiving is one of those people who make Twitterville fundraising stories so incredible. She tells he story quite well in this Q&A I conducted with her.
1. What did you do prior to starting Epic Change?
Immediately before founding Epic Change, I ran my own small consulting firm that focused on leading organizational change. Prior to that, I worked in management consulting and project management for Deloitte, Genentech and a social services agency in the Silicon Valley. My graduate degree is in performing arts management from the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon, and prior to that I worked in arts administration at a theater in Texas.
2. I understand you were in Africa when you decided to start Epic Change. What happened to inspire starting a nonprofit organization? Why a school in Tanazania?
During a 2007 trip from Cape Town to Cairo, I volunteered at a school run by Mama Lucy Kampton, a local woman who used to sell chickens and used her income to build a school on land she rented next door to her home. To say I was impressed with what she'd created would be a vast understatement. At the time, there were over 100 children at the school, and most paid tuition; the income covered the costs of other children who could not afford to pay. Teachers were paid, meals were served daily and, most importantly, the children were getting a much better education than other local alternatives offered. Lucy & I kept in touch after I returned home and a few months after my initial visit, she informed me that a developer had purchased the land she was renting. At that point, Epic Change and our unique approach to creating social change was born.
Epic Change was born as a way to ensure that effective changemakers like Mama Lucy could get access to the capital they needed to expand their successful community improvement programs.
3. How did Twitter get baked into your strategy? How important is Twitter to Epic Change?
Twitter was originally suggested to me by a former IT colleague as a way to cultivate a community of support for Epic Change. At first, though, I must admit I had no idea how to use it effectively. Then, in May of last year, I saw Sam Lawrence, outgoing CMO at Jive Software, tweet that he didn't feel like writing his blog post for the following day. Because his blog Go Big Always, aligned with my personal philosophy and had a few thousand viewers, I thought it might be an opportunity to expose Epic Change to a wider audience. When I tweeted that I'd write it for him, he playfully responded "go for it!" I stayed up all night writing a guest post and, after polling twitter, he posted it to his blog, resulting in many new followers for me, some new donors, a few YouTube video submissions, new blog subscribers, and blog coverage in places like ZDNet, TriplePundit and What Gives. At that point, I realized that Twitter offered countless opportunities for the creation of serendipity and mutual benefit. It's been part of our strategy since then.
4. Tell me about Tweetsgiving. How did it get started? Why did you cut the start so close to the American Thanksgiving? How much did you raise? What role did Twitter play in the effort? Could you have done Tweetsgiving without Twitter?
TweetsGiving was imagined 6 days before it was launched in response to a very kind thank you post by Avi Kaplan, a volunteer I'd met on Twitter as a result of my post on Go Big Always. When I read his blog post, I was moved by his kindness, and wondered what it might be like if, for 2 days, the entire Twitterverse unanimously celebrated gratitude. We started so close to Thanksgiving because of its timeliness during the holiday, because we thought we could sustain momentum for 48 hours, and because we needed the full 6 days from idea to launch to prepare the site and strategy.
TweetsGiving raised over $11,000 in 48 hours, almost entirely from the Twitterverse; I did not publicize the effort to previous donors, and only 6 out of 372 contributors had previously donated to Epic Change. TweetsGiving simply wouldn't have been possible without Twitter.
5. What other fundraising projects are you involved in? What role does Twitter have in them?
To minimize overhead expenses often associated with event-based fundraising, Epic Change has been built primarily through online peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. To date, we have raised over $70K using email, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Since I started using Twitter, it's been some part of all of our campaigns, whether using it to reach out for volunteers, advice or donors. That said, most of our donors/supporters do not use Twitter at all, so it's only one aspect of our overall approach.
6. How does Twitter change the business of fundraising for causes?
Twitter gives us a new tool for cultivating and sustaining support for social causes. Especially for social innovators, for whom early-stage and seed funding and support is limited, the Twitter community can be an invaluable source of funds, ideas, advice and volunteers. In addition, Twitter lowers the cost of fundraising; the TweetsGiving campaign was entirely volunteer-supported and cost zero. Finally, as we saw with Twestival, Twitter can put fundraising in the hands of supporters, without causes even getting involved. While this involves some loss of control for nonprofit brands, the end result is that a great many more people can organize to invest themselves in causes they support.
7. What advice do you have for others who want to use Twitter for cause fundraising/awareness-
Cultivate a community before starting to raise funds. Create a community of support for an idea or cause. Actually, even before that, the first step is simply connecting as an individual, with other like-minded people. After that, you can attempt to build a brand presence or cultivate support for a cause. For additional insights into what made TweetsGiving successful, check out my summary of critical success factors.
8. What percentage of the money you raise actually goes to the people and the causes?
About 95% of the funds we've raised to date have gone directly to programs, as Epic Change currently has no salaried employees. The vast majority of overhead is spent on PayPal transaction fees and other technology tools that improve our ability to fundraise online.
9. How can people on Twitter be sure they are being approached by an authentic cause?
Twitter is a community in which trust is earned through reputation, so the first thing to do may be to check with followers of a cause to learn more about it. Tools like Guidestar make it possible to find background information on any nonprofit too.
10. Additional comments?
The TweetsGiving classroom, built from sheer gratitude, is now complete and pictures are available of donors' Twitter handles painted on the walls.