twestival:seattle report

I hopped the ferry last night and attended the Seattle Twestival! The event was at the Spirtfire Grill in the Belltown neighborhood. The organizers were estimating that there were about 150 there. It was a young crowd and wired crowd. Nearly everyone had their device of choice in hand—my very rough estimate was that iPhones were outnumbered about 2 to 1. And I counted 6 people who didn’t have a laptop or a handheld device.

Live video and chat were streaming on a laptop near the front door. I made my way to a booth near the entrance to enjoy the evening. Wifi was open so I could logon and watch the video and chat. Even tweeted on what was happening.

I met Doug, the event organizer. Doug learned about the event from his friend Mike, did some research and next thing he knew he was putting the Seattle on the tweet-map. Doug was passionate about the charity:water and about tweet-technology.

I found Mike, who started all of this in Seattle. He’s a great guy whose day job is in PR. Like Doug, he believes in the tweet and in helping a good cause. When he heard about it, he knew that Doug had some free time and convinced him to jump in.

I roamed around a bit chatting with my fellow Twestival goers. A found a few who were there with no idea of what charity:water was about. I found a few who are devoted to environmental issues. Not a scientific survey, just visiting with nice people.

Here are some thoughts about the Seattle event:

1. The crowd wasn’t that much different than a dinner or party your organization might pull together. Like other fundraising events, some people were there because their friends were coming, others were there because it was an important cause to them.

2. About $10 per person and around 150 people is about $1,500. We all paid for our own food so there were few expenses for charity:water. I suspect that most of us who have organized events have had times where a $1,500 net income would be great. But (see #6 below) most events like this are relationship builders for the organization. The follow-up from a night like this is where the magic happens.

3. Not unlike other traditional fundraising events, we had the opportunity to learn more about the cause—charity:water and the great need in the world for clean water.

4. The entertainment was good but I was clearly on the upper end of their target demographic’s age range.

5. The chorizo stuffed mushrooms sprinkled with goat cheese were incredible.

6. And as I’ve tried to say from the beginning about these kind of events, “now what?” Is there a conversion strategy in place to move my fellow twestival-goers and me into a closer relationship with charity:water? What was the cost in volunteer time? A year from now, how many of us at the Spirtfire Grill last night will have given a 2nd gift to charity:water? And what is the Long-Term Value on me as a donor to charity:water. Here’s something very, very cool: This is a screen grab from the seattle twestival update page. Notice my name tag—genius personalization. This kind of personalization—”I know you”—technique is powerful.

Twestival is an exciting use of social media. I continue to believe that social media will be a vital tool in the future of fundraising. But most of us—particularly those of us in the Christian nonprofit niche— do not have this figured out. We’re all working on it and experimenting.

Kudos to Doug and Mike: Great party guys and a great cause.
Good for charity:water for being part of such a forward thinking tool.

For the rest of us, we have to sort out how to use new media in ways that make sense for our organizations. Bottomline, we can’t sit on the sidelines and wonder. Neither can we use as boilerplate what the other guys are doing. We have to learn, test, evaluate, strategize and test some more.

So what do you think?

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credits: Steve Thomas)

Picture of Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

4 thoughts on “twestival:seattle report”

  1. @mashable just posted a link to this “review” of Twestival:London. http://tinyurl.com/c8fg5k

    From the photos and the comments, it looks like it was a fabulous party. But…was it a donor acquisition source?

    Read the review. Without intending to, I think they confirm your points about Twestival as a less than viable acquisition source for charity:water.

  2. Hi Steve,

    This is a great analysis of the Seattle Twestival event from someone who is clearly knowledgeable and passionate about humanitarian causes and charitable giving. It would be the height of Web 2.0 cluelessness and hubris to assume that an event like Twestival can provide all of the answers for Charity 2.0(and I don’t think that’s the case. Twestival needs to look at the traditional world of philanthropy and build upon the tough lessons that have been learned over the last twelve decades of modern charity. I think the most important of those lessons is the need to build strong, authentic relationships between donors and causes. Something that’s tough to do with just three weeks of frenzied effort.

    I’m not part of the Twestival global management group, but I assume the current vision is to periodically spotlight a different, basic humanitarian need each time. The first events were for a British food pantry called Harvest. This initial global Twestival was for charity:water. I hope that both of those organizations will experience long-term upticks in giving, not just onetime bumps. I also hope that Twestival in the future picks groups that can cope with the additional attention while it’s happening, and continue with their great efforts once the spotlight moves on.

    Finally, I hope that Twestival looks to experienced folks like you and the community generated by these Twitter-centric, social media events to consider the best ways to turn one-time campaigns into sustainable streams of support.

    I think efforts like Twestival can be an excellent introduction to charitable giving for people aren’t normally into “causes”, but can we keep them drinking the Kool-Aid once we’ve taken them to the clean water?

    Thanks again,

    Doug Winfield
    Twestival Seattle Organizer

  3. Pingback: Digital Bubble | Does charity begin (and end) on Twitter?

  4. @Doug — Thanks man! It was a blast to be there. You’re out there on the cutting edge! Now help us figure out how to extend these kind of social media concepts to smaller niches and into different kinds of spaces. That’s when there’ll be even more amazing moments.

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