Image by Phil Campbell.
An example of the Fifth Estate and the Long Tail theories at work is Twestival, an online fundraising event run by the enterprising Amanda Rose. The organized group of meet-ups uses a wide variety of social media tools to organize and promote simultaneous events in hundreds of cities across the globe, all to fundraise for charity. People throughout the world were empowered to set up their own event, show up and act on behalf of causes.
With three Twestivals in 2009 and 2010, Twestival has seen tens of thousands of people partake in charitable fundraising. Two of the fundraisers were for specific charities, charity: water and Concern, with the middle Twestival benefited local charity in each host city. At the time of writing a fourth Twestival for 2011 was being planned, again to benefit local charity.
Twestival provides people a means to benefit a cause and the opportunity to volunteer and be apart of something bigger. They can participate in event organization, or simply show up and network. Organizer Amando Rose enforces brand and basic event guidelines, and lets cities get creative with their events.
Twitter plays a primary role in outreach for the fundraising series of events. “Twitter allows a platform for organizers to shout out requests that normally might have taken weeks or months to arrange,” said Amanda Rose. “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.”
Additional tools have included WhatGives!? widgets powered by PayPal linked to cities and real-time leaderboards. WordPress, Tumblr and Posterous blogs are used for local city events. GoToMeeting is used for global organizers for meetings and presentations without being in the same room, and Huddle was used great for online collaboration and sharing of documents.
The tools are used to foster relationships on a local level. Rose and organizers do connect on the national level, too. Finally, the two global charities found that they developed grassroots networks on a local level as a result of Twestival.
The three Twestivals have raised more than $1.2 million via micro donations in the form of a small $25 cover charge, individual sponsorships and small corporate sponsorships. In addition to the $1.2 million, tens of thousands of people across the globe have attended a Twestival.
“Twestival is able to attract a large number of people because we make it a special event and different from your average meetup,” said Amanda Rose. “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.”
Case study based on interview published on 4/19.
The above is draft material for my next book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate (the follow up to Now Is Gone, which is almost out of print). Comments may be used in the final edition. You can download the first drafted chapter of the new edition — Welcome to the Fifth Estate — for free.