Mashable Outtake: Twestival’s Amanda Rose (@amanda)


My most recent column on Mashable tied together overarching themes from mega charity events like Twestival, 12for12k, Tweetsgiving and CrisisCamps. To get the information, I interviewed the four organizers cited in the article. Each interview was fantastic and informative in its own right. So with my editor’s blessing I am publishing the unedited interview source material over the next couple of weeks for general consumption.

The following is Amanda Rose‘s Twestival interview. Amanda founded Twestival, and has used the event concept three times to raise more than $1.2 million for Charity:Water, Concern Worldwide and dozens of local charities throughout the world.

GL: What makes Twestival unique as compared to other large-scale social media events?

Amanda: Twestival is unique because it is a truly a global movement.  The cause and the opportunity to volunteer and be apart of something bigger by hosting an event locally is a powerful experience.  What I’ve tried to do with Twestival is be quite strict with the brand and basic guidelines, but then let cities get creative with their events.  

Twitter allows a platform for organizers to shout out requests that normally might have taken weeks or months to arrange.  Thanks to a sea of people who pass it along, a tweet might appear a few minutes later that reads ‘I can help with that.’  It is extremely motivating for a local volunteer team to see the way their community pulls together to make this event a success.  I think because Twestival happens on one day for one cause and under short timescales it really lights a fire of excitement around what is achievable.  

This year we have tried to bring another level of transparency to our donations by having the WhatGives!? widgets powered by PayPal linked to cities and real-time leaderboards which show the impact their fundraising has on a potential education project for Concern Worldwide. There was no clear model to follow as Twestival works internationally; so we just built it ourselves.  I do not want Twestival to become stagnant, so it will only continue if we have a fresh perspective and are pushing the boundaries as a collective global community to elevate a good cause.  

GL: How does Twestival attract the long tail (large amounts of people) so successfully?

Amanda: Tough question. Twestival is able to attract a large number of people because we make it a special event and different from your average meetup.  For those attending events I think it is really satisfying to know that every single dollar of your event is going directly to support projects – it is something people can feel good about.  

What we are asking of people with Twestival isn’t just donations; it is their time, talent and resources if they want to give it.  The way in which we self-organize on Twitter and other social media platforms gives us an opportunity to engage people, before and after the event, in a way that is diverse and layered.  People aren’t just participating in an event, they are having an impact.  

GL: In spite of its size, people seem to feel a relationship with you and local Twestival organizers.  How did you achieve that?

Amanda:It isn’t complicated – you need to communicate, be honest and enthusiastic. I respond quickly to emails and tweets.  I think people are surprized to get a response from me directly and I can tell by they feel instantly grounded or reassured which is important because organizing an event can feel like an overwhelming challenge.  

I know Tim Ferriss is going to sit me down when I see him and lecture me on how I keep breaking one of the cardinal rules of the ‘Four Hour Work-Week’ by answering emails right away, but it is what keeps the momentum of Twestival going.  It is important to really listen to what local organizers are saying and give them feedback on why we have made the decisions we have made.  

Probably the biggest challenge I faced last year with charity: water and continued to face with Twestival Global this year with Concern Worldwide is getting people from different countries to rally around the same non-profit and really trust the vision.  Through clear communication and explaining to volunteers why this is important so they could answer back to their community’s questions, we were able to cross cultural lines to have one clear message.  

GL: What can a cause learn from your effort?

Amanda: I believe causes can learn that social media is social.  Twestival is focused on relationships first; connecting communities through contribution and having a great cause to focus on is the tie that binds.  We do collectively raise a lot of money from our events, but perhaps the most valuable thing an organization like Concern Worldwide takes away are local supporters.  People globally who really care, have a vested interest in the work they do and actively want to be involved in seeing them succeed.  

Causes can also learn to be transparent about where donations go.  We have a very unique 100% donation model for Twestival and this is important for us to really cut through as an awareness campaign to show people exactly where their money is going.  This year, Twestival will once again be visiting projects and follow up videos for our donors and contributors.

GL: What’s your favorite social media tool that you used for Twestival?

Amanda:For Twestival, social media *is* the tool.  As a communications platform, there is obviously one which always plays the largest role for Twestival and that is Twitter.  I use it to generate buzz, crowdsource, communicate news or valuable information, connect people and I am also able to interact with people talking about Twestival even if they don’t think I’m listening.  

We use a whole host of tools for organizing like GoToMeeting where organizers have used it to host meetings and presentations without being in the same room and Huddle has been great for online collaboration and sharing of documents.  It’s been fun to bring in Tumblr and Posterous this year to share our international artwork or stories from around the world…. too many to mention here.