I got sidetracked by a conversation about a great Twitter fundraising effort called 12for12K – raise $12,000 in 12 hours for a specific charity.

A non-profit fundraising consulting criticized 12for12K, and in so doing, inspired great outrage and anger on the part of those who are its fans. [full disclosure: I am a fan and have donated to many of the causes.] The founder, @DannyBrown, responded in a measured way, and the consultant has now apologized for her tone and errors of fact.

Now having read the original “rant” and subsequent “conversation,” I’m heartened by the passion inspired by the idea of raising money for charities. I’m delighted to see such a maelstrom of feeling, and now a plethora of ideas for how to use social media for the benefit of non-profits.

Non-profits do some of our world’s most important work: feeding, clothing, housing, educating, healing. And they (we) do it largely with our money – whether through donations from individuals, tax dollars (again, our money), or grants from private sources. In most cases, charities don’t “sell” goods or services; they “sell” a mission, an impact, a vision, a result. Most of all, charities and non-profit organizations offer all of us the opportunity to participate in this incredibly important work. By donating funds, we all get to help heal people or feed or protect them – whatever vital service means most to us.

Long ago, someone told me that if people criticized me, I was doing something right. So Danny Brown and @unmarketing and @sarahrobinson and the other folks who’ve done 12for12K tweeting are clearly doing something right!

The results of 12for12K are wonderful for a couple of reasons. One, it shows that social media can be used to raise awareness of and funds for causes. Two, it shows that social media fundraising is at its beginning, and can improve.

Here’s my 2 cents contribution to the conversation:

  • I love the consultant’s ideas about helping charities develop a bigger and more effective social media presence. I noticed that Share Our Strength welcomed 12for12K donors when they clicked through to donate and clearly articulated what the fund would accomplish. Other charities can emulate that strategy.
  • Some causes may resonate more with the Twitterverse than others. Feeding people is so fundamental and tangible, it may have been easier for people to understand in 140 characters. (Of course, I’m biased – I used to run City Harvest, a prominent NYC hunger-relief organization.) This is only a challenge to the Twitterverse’s marketing mavens and the charities themselves – how can we tell a compelling story in 140 characters? I know we can.
  • Charities raise money every day. Internet mavens raise money every day. Maybe there can be a meeting of the minds, a sharing of the techniques, a respect for each other’s expertise and experience. By joining together with good spirit and humility, I believe we can accomplish an amazing amount of good via digital and social media.