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Seriously, don’t give

Stuart Glen, Director of Fundraising at OneKind, has written an exclusive guest blog post on using Twitter to broadcast rather than connect with your supporters…

This #CharityTuesday, I tried something different. I asked followers on Twitter not to give.


I remembered the Oakwood School Don’t Give video from the US (see below) and wondered could the messaging be repeated in the UK? Could it be replicated on Twitter? No strategy. No masterplan. Just curious.


Well, after 28 tweets later [great name for a film], what did I learn? Was it successful? Ultimately, no. I didn’t receive one additional donation in support of my fundraising efforts. I lost three followers on the day; goodness knows how many others I annoyed and/or muted my stream.

Reverse psychology is nothing new, so why didn’t it work? Other than the obvious fact I’m not Steve Carell or J.K. Simmons. My view is that somewhere between the medium and the execution it fell down.

Twitter succeeds when users establish relationships and enter into two-way conversations. This exercise highlighted for me the failings of users (many of them charities) that do nothing but broadcast. Throughout the day I didn’t engage with loyal followers that commented on my different approach to Twitter that morning. Even when the negative bombardment abated, the inevitable switch to a more positive ask felt clumsy, cold and corporate – preachy even. Someone with a lot more finesse than I may make this work, and I’d love to know if any UK charities have tried this approach already.

My Don’t Give #CharityTuesday has passed and normal service has resumed. Oh look, dancing cartoon badgers. 


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  1. Really interesting read. I was really surprised when the multiple tweets started popping up; it seemed very unlike you and I have to say that I didn’t notice at first what it was that you were doing – I just saw that you were repeatedly tweeting the link, and only really figured it out when I went direct to you profile page and saw them all in order – mixed in with everything else it looked… odd. totally goes to show i think that twitter esp is an engagement medium primarily, and broadcast second. I’m noticing more and more that on both the work’s twitter, and my personal account, how disappointed I am when I follow a new account, and all they post is banal advertising rubbish…

  2. Interesting stuff from Stuart. I watched with interest on Tuesday and I am sad it did not work on this occasion. I reckon even though this heralded no donations, I was valuable. It superbly highlighted the need to engage on Twitter, the need to be interactive and not broadcast. Broadcasting on Twitter is lazy…it is most definitely a two way street.Well done fella 😀

  3. I really hope that even just one or two orgs who are currently treating social media as a glorified flyer read Stu’s post.I think broadcast is fine where that’s your stated purpose from the start, so things like train times, sports scores and other updates. But signing up for twitter and simply punting out internal ‘news’ is not you ‘doing’ social media. As Martin says it is lazy and it will end up having a detrimental effect on how people perceive your organisation – do you want to be known as the shouty charity that doesn’t listen to its users or supporters?

  4. Martin, you are right Broadcasting on Twitter is lazy. I wondered what Stuart was up to yesterday. To be honest i just shut it out or forgot about it. Sorry Stuart.I’ve tweeted recently asking if someone chapped on your door 5 times a day trying to sell you something, would you buy? the answer has been a resounding NO. So why then do people, be they companies or charities or anything, tweet things at you (yes i meant at you) more than a few times a day. There is one person/company who is tweeting the same thing at least 4 times a day, every day. The link changes with each day but the wording is the same. It’s very annoying and I doubt that anyone, apart form their friends, read that god damn post. I have no problem with people tweeting blog links or anything, I do it myself, but they could at least have the gumption to change the wording a wee bit or something.When will people learn. Twitter is a two way thing. And broadcasting only generally won’t work.

  5. Hi Stu,As an ordinary Twitter/Facebook user I really found the Don’t Give experiment negative and off putting – it felt like emotional blackmail and it was as annoying as the Facebook "please post this status if you care" spam which frequently goes around. It wouldn’t have made me donate whereas One Kind’s viral message would because it’s intriguing and clever. There’s nothing clever about negative campaigning.I agree with others about the medium of the message being important. Many people view Twitter as a conversation and expect some feedback – the video you based it on allows time to think about the message and why it is being done in a certain way. From a linguistics point of view (which as you know I have a particular interest in at the moment) Twitter works at a different level and charity bods need to have an awareness of the different effects a written message has over a spoken one. With the spoken/visual message the viewer is taking into account lots of other factors – the expressions of the actors etc. A Twitter message can be more open to interpretation as it depends very much on where you are when you receive it and what mood you are in. Twitter is very much an ‘on the go’ method of communication and anything which is annoying or irritating I imagine most people filter out and put to the bottom of their priority list. A video on You Tube involves an investment of time so you might watch it on the train and then think about it.All very interesting thought Stuart … I await your next experiment with interest … maybe that is an achievement in itself? :-)Linda

  6. Interesting experiment:) I did notice it a couple of times during the day, but didn’t pay much attention to it, other than queitly mumbling to my self "what on earth is Stu up to now..?". I have a theory of my own as to why it didn’t work, and it has less to do with the way you asked or the medium than it has to do with who you are. I think that being a fundraiser by occupation makes it that much harder to personally fundraise (meaning you as a person asking your network to support your personal fundraiser). I think that because we fundraisers are invariably always asking for something from our personal networks, be it money, attention or help to spread a message, we need to work that much harder to actually get results when we do these things ourselves. Oddly, I think people find our enthusiasm less credible because we work for the cause for which we are personally fundraising. Which is really wrong, since fundraisers are the most engaged people I know. I think an ask from someone who doesn’t fundraise as an occupation is much more "believeable" to people than an ask from someone who gets their paycheck from the organisation. Your network doesn’t distinguish between you personally asking and you asking on behalf of the organisation. Perhaps someone completely unrelated to the cause could have succeded with the same approach? Hm. Does that make any sense at all?

  7. Thank you for all the comments. There definitely is something different about the medium of Twitter. It has two be genuine. It has to be two-way, mutually benefiting both parties. But my fear is broadcast streams may kill Twitter. Whether a charity or a celebrity, I tire of of those accounts that do not engage. How long before corporates and businesses throttle Twitter, just as they did with email?Beate’s theory is fascinating; and one, on reflection, I completely agree with. Every week I ask my Facebook network to watch this or read that…sign this or support that. My extended network on Twitter have excelled and been extremely generous in support of my personal fundraising challenge, but it is interesting that not one of my work colleagues has donated to the cause. Perhaps, they see walking on fire as part of my day-to-day job? Beate, there might be another blog in this?P.S. Linda, you are far from being an ordinary Twitter user.

  8. This has been such an interesting experiment – but I’d also posit that the responses themselves up above make it even more interesting!! All potential experiments and blogs themselves. For me, it’s really shown up how people consume/engage etc with information in different formats within different contexts etc – fascinating.Like others, I didn’t pay this much attention at first, and I now find myself questioning why. I’ll admit a bit "Oh, that’s Stuart doing some more fundraising stuff. Can guess what that is. I’m busy. I’ll check out later." Lots of your subsequent tweets got lost in my stream – I only really check in 2/3 times a day. It was later than I finally twigged something was happening – in fact, it might have been after you had called it a day.I agree with lots of the above, but I do also agree some of us on twitter might be too much of a "contaminated" audience – in a good way. We know you. We know you fundraise. Therefore, tweets with those titles are you fundraising. Carry on the good work… But there is also possibly a wee hidden nugget relating to the titles you called your tweets. Not sure I can articulate this clearly this late on a Friday, but something about them suggested you were querying a video or approach by someone else. So, I did think at one stage you were seeking to engage people’s thoughts about whatever was in the link. I don’t always have time during the day to watch viideos etc – I’ll tend to save those for being crashed out on the couch with the iPhone in one hand and the TV remote in the other. So it might have been one I’d have come back to later to see what you were talking about. But that depends on how hooked in I felt, as I’d need to search your tweetstream for it. Which has made me think about what is it about the tweets that make me do that?All in all a really interesting experiment though Stuart – with lots of discussion. It might make a brilliant workshop – present it as a case study and then get folks to discuss…Louise

  9. I noticed it. And wondered if you were having a bad day!As I mentioned previously, it moved me to promote your fundraising page via my Facebook. More because I’ve come to know and respect you from your day to day tweeting than in response to the broadcast experiment!!Which is how I think twitter can be used by charities and campaigning organisations – put in the hard work getting to know your followers. Interact with them and inspire them and maybe, just like in real life they will become positive advocates for what you do/want in their own social circles (on and offline).Hope the event goes well 😉

  10. What a valuable stream of comments! I have very little to add, beyond suggesting that it can be very hard to change one’s style on Twitter, or at least for followers to spot that is what you’re doing and recognise you’re trying something different.It was absolutely worth trying Stuart, so well done. I bet Twitter could be used to support such a campaign, but only if there was other content to link to – video, as in the Don’t Give campaign, being the most obvious.I like Beate’s view on fundraisers finding it harder than others successfully to fundraise from their personal networks. I’ve certainly experienced that on the few occasions I’ve tried it.