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Tweeting for a cause

Tweeting for a cause
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First Published: Wed, Aug 26 2009. 01 41 PM IST

Updated: Wed, Aug 26 2009. 01 41 PM IST
Twestival – and no that’s not a typo – this year, takes place from 10-13 September in cities around the world.
If you’re wondering what a Twestival is, the name should offer up a clue: it’s a Twitter festival. People around the world connect online and then meet up offline to raise money or awareness for a cause.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has been used to raise money for charity. Last year, social media consultant Beth Kanter, raised over $2500 in just 90 minutes by challenging highly connected geeks to tap into their extensive Twitter networks. Her attempt started with a mass tweet from the Seattle Gnomedex 8.0 Conference, where she asking people to help her “send Leng Sopharath, a young Cambodian woman, off to her junior year of college in good health.” Tweets and retweets traveled through the online community, and by the end of the conference, Kanter had collected almost $4000.
Earlier this year, Ashton Kutcher pledged to donate $100,000 to the Malaria No More Fund if he could attract one million viewers live on Twitter. He did, and the Africans sleeping peacefully under mosquito nets have the social media service to thank.
The Twestival concept originated in September last year, when a group of London Twitter users decided to hosted a event called the Harvest Twestival – entirely sponsored by Twitter users (the cool kids or the real nerds, depending on how you look at it, call them tweeters). They raised money and canned food for a London based nonprofit called The Connection.
Earlier this year, in February, another Twestival took place, this time on a global scale. The event brought Twitter communities together to raise a staggering $250,000 for charity:water, a nonprofit organization that works towards bringing clean water to the developing world.
Next month’s festival is taking a more grassroots approach, asking cities around the world to host events in support a local (rather than a global) cause on one day during the weekend of 10-13 September 2009.
Tweeters from five Indian cities are on board: Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and New Delhi, however only those from Bangalore and Mumbai have currently zeroed in on a cause. Bangalore is supporting local charity Dream a Dream, which works with disadvantaged children, while Mumbai is raising funds for Help a Child, which provides financial aid to help children who can’t afford an education.
According to Vaijayanthi KM -- the regional Twestival Local coordinator across India, Bangladesh and the Middle East -- Pune and Kolkata are likely to participate as well.
Hrish Thota, a software professional who has over 1,500 followers on Twitter, is leading the charge for Bangalore. He wants to organize an evening out for the children supported by local charity Dream a Dream. Thota also co-organized the February Twestival in Bangalore to raise money for charity: water, but admits that he was only able to raise Rs. 5000 as his efforts were very last minute.
“This time we are planning to have an event in such a way that people feel involved with the cause. Last time we had an event people just didn’t feel connected with the cause,” he explains. “We want to organize a fun evening with the children using Twestival volunteers. We’ll raise money to pay for the evening but more than raising money, our aim is to get people involved with the cause.”
Thota, and Bangalore Twestival’s other volunteers, decided to adopt Dream a Dream as their charity of choice because the organization is visibly active around the city, and according to Thota has really made its mark. “We have seen them being very active in helping out underprivileged children around Bangalore by fundraising through marathon and cycling expeditions, and by getting people to pledge money,” he says. Their goals are modest – they are attempting to reach out to about 40 Twitter and 10 or 20 non-Twitter users.
Mumbai’s event is being spearheaded by Monik Pamecha, a blogger who is just 13 years old and who already has 16,499 followers on Twitter. Pamecha explains that all the Mumbai Twestival’s volunteers were found on Twitter, and that they will use the tool to publicize an event they plan to hold to support Help a Child.
Although it’s too soon to tell how next month’s Twestival will play out in India, charities should watch the event carefully. While raising money through Twitter may increasingly be becoming de rigueur in New York and London, the big question is whether it will appeal Indian tweeters in the same fashion.
Vaijayanthi seems confident that as India’s Twitter based grows, raising money through the medium will also become easier. “Twitter is a new medium in India but is slowly gaining mass adoption. We are definitely in a much better position compared to 6 months ago,” she says.
She admits that Twestival organizers do have major obstacles to surmount: “Somebody might identify with our cause, but just because they aren’t on Twitter and think they don’t belong to that sort of gang they may not participate.” However, she goes on to stress that even if someone is a non-tweeter, ultimately the goal is to raise funds and awareness about an issue: “Twitter is just another platform or a tool – the idea goes well beyond.”
For more articles on non profits, development and social responsibility, go to the Development Dossier
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First Published: Wed, Aug 26 2009. 01 41 PM IST