Erika Gessin
Erika Gessin
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It’s no secret that over the past few years, social media has been a huge driver of offline activism and grassroots organizing. Campaigns like Pepsi Refresh and Kohl’s Cares have proved that social media can be used to empower ordinary citizens to become passionate supporters and advocates for social change.

At Ning, we’re proud to be the platform that powers thousands of cause-related social websites including Keep A Child Alive, GetUrGoodOn, Autism Speaks, and Music For Relief to name just a few. Ning Creators like these have been true innovators when it comes to using social to foster good will and further worthy causes. There’s a lot we can learn from them and I encourage you to check out their sites.

Another program that’s pushing the boundaries of social philanthropy is going on today across the globe, and it’s called A Twestival.

Twestival (or Twitter-Festival) is a single day, global movement which uses the power of social media to organize offline events that mobilize communities in support of a local cause. Twestival was born out of the idea that if communities were able to collaborate on an international scale, but working from a local level, it could have a spectacular impact.

Since 2009, over 200 cities have participated in Twestival, raising close to $1.2 million for important causes like clean water and education. Twestival Local events are coordinated 100% by volunteers and 100% of the funds raised through ticket sales and donations go directly to support charitable projects.

I had the chance to sit down with Twestival’s local San Francisco organizer, Krystyl Baldwin, to discuss how she and the founders are using social media channels, particularly Twitter, to mobilize around causes that matter to their communities.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 1 What proof have you seen that social media has made it easier for organizations and individuals to fuel social change?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 2 In the previous years of doing Twestival, we’ve used the power of one social media tool, Twitter. By reaching out to friends and influencers, we’ve been able to create viral buzz that has brought awareness not only the event but to the charity that we support.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 3 How do you tap into the communities online who are most apt to get involved?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 4 The hardest part is finding the right person to talk to. You can talk to anyone within an online community, but what you need to aim for is finding the person with the biggest voice and speaking with them.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 5 Given the limitation of 140 characters, what is the art behind crafting a tweet compelling enough to inspire real action?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 6 This is a craft that is hard for even the biggest corporations to deliver. I have found that its better to make it sound like its coming from a person and not a company or ‘brand’. The more personal you make the tweet, the more engagement you’re likely to receive.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 7 How did Twestival SF decide to Support Juma Ventures, a youth program designed to help young adults get into college and ensure they can achieve a college degree?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 8 We researched several charities surrounding San Francisco and reached out to those that we thought would benefit from this event. And we also opened an online poll for the community to vote on the charity they thought should be this years beneficiary. Each charity was asked to fill out the form, and then have their community vote for them. The community voted the most for Juma Ventures.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 9 Beyond Twitter, how else are people using social media to do good and help charities?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 10Some organizations have chosen to use retweets and hashtags as a means to raise money for charity. Or even something as simple as a ‘like’ on Facebook or Ning.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 11 What’s the most important thing you’re hearing from people about Twestival local and how it’s helping?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 14The most important thing is that they are now becoming aware of Juma Ventures, our  beneficiary. And are welcoming donations and awareness towards the organization and their efforts.

A New Generation of Philanthropists 13 When and where will the San Francisco event be held?

A New Generation of Philanthropists 14 March 24, 2011 at 6 p.m. at Atomosphere, 47 Broadway Street in San Francisco.
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Thanks for the interview Krystal and good luck tonight!