Case Study: Twestival

Twestival EuroRush | #n86tour

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.

Case Study: Miriam’s Kitchen

@DCTwestival Crew Does a Shift @MiriamsKitchen

The above photo was taken during a shift last summer at Miriam’s Kitchen.

I first encountered the Miriam’s Kitchen team during the summer of 2009 when the DC organizing committee selected the Kitchen as its charity of choice for the second Twestival. At the time, we felt they would make the most from the exposure, and I think we sold them short. Their ability to grasp online social relationships and extend them to real life actions has been outstanding. It’s an honor to feature Miriam’s Kitchen as a case study.

Miriam’s Kitchen decided to participate in online media because many of their supporters were using social media. It’s important that we meet our supporters where they are, and social media helps us accomplish this. Many of the Washington, DC residents that donate and volunteer fall within the 25-40 age range, and are social media/web savvy.

We also connect with some of our homeless guest”s through social media,” said Jennifer Roccanti, Development Associate and Miriam Kitchen’s primary voice on the web. “While interactions online are rare, a few of our guests have posted messages to us on our Facebook page, and some of them have started using Twitter. We recently heard from our Case Managers that a few guests check our Facebook page for the daily menu before they decide whether or not to make the couple-mile trek to Miriam’s Kitchen each day. That’s a lot of pressure on our social media team.”


Like many nonprofits, Miriam’s Kitchen doesn’t have many resources and most people partake in multiple jobs. The 501c3 uses Twitter and Facebook primarily (with a dash of YouTube) as part of a larger communications strategy. The Kitchen provides daily updates on these sites, specifically what it is serving that day, while encouraging local community members to participate via recognition and interaction.

The organization has successfully engaged many of DC’s most influential digital voices. From the AARP social media team to Chris Abraham, these voices celebrate being a part of the extended Miriams Kitchen family with public declarations of support.

The Kitchen also receives tremendous support from people across the country who have found us through online channels, an unintended benefit of its social communications. “We’ve connected with people we wouldn’t have otherwise, and amazing things have happened because of those connections,” says Roccanti.


“The measurable outcome we are most concerned with right now is deepening relationships with our supporters,” Roccanti added. “It’s been a challenge to measure that outcome, but some indicators of our success include raising more money than ever in 2009, raising more money online than ever before in 2009, and raising $10,000 through the Washington, DC Twestival in 2009.”

The Kitchen also points towards anecdotal evidence of deepened relationships through the use of social media. Whether it be through volunteers becoming more engaged, donors seeing the impact of their donations and then increasing their gift, or guests feeling part of our online community–social media has brought Miriam’s Kitchen countless benefits in the past two years.

Attend or Contribute to Twestival on Thursday


The third Twestival will be held this Thursday in cities all over the world. A great event created by my friend Amanda Rose, Twestival has already benefit Charity: Water and hundreds of local charities with its global movement. This Spring’s effort will benefit Concern (on Twitter), an organization that seeks to provide education aid to some of the world’s most impoverished communities.

By partnering with Concern, the 2010 Twestival is aiming to highlight eight areas which are preventing some of our poorest youth around the world from going to school and getting the education they need. With the event just around the corner, Twestival has already raised more than $130,000 for this worthy charity. It is on track to surpass more than $1 million in combined charitable donations to date for all of three Twestivals.

“The power of Twestival is not just in the amount of money it raises for inspiring nonprofits like Concern, an organization whose mission it is to end extreme poverty,” said Allyson Kapin, editor of the Care2 FrogLoop blog. “It’s in Twestival’s incredible reach across communications channels, and how they help to raise awareness about nonprofits and social justice issues through earned media and word of mouth.”

There are several ways to participate, including changing your Twitter avatar. You can also donate directly or participate in the online auction.

And of course, the most obvious and best way is to attend one of your local Twestival events on Thursday. I’d like to highlight two in particular as the East Coast Zoetican:

As a former Washington DC Twestival committee member, I want to wish my colleague Nakeva Corothers good luck on Thursday. The Washington Twestival will be held from 6-9 at the Shadow Room. Sign up today! C’mon DC people, get on board!

And of course, all of my NYC nonprofit tech friends — including organizer Damien Basile — are getting ready their Thursday Twestival, too. The NYC event is extra cool with the Good Units under the Hudson Hotel experience from 6-10pm. The NYC Twestival could surpass $10k with your help!

Wherever, make sure to do your part for Thursday’s Twestival.