Is Twestival Lost on the Pony Express?
Posted by Allison Fine on February 17, 2009
@amanda: Twestival cities organizers. Still missing about 25% of the reports. Fundraising continues post event. So please submit what you know now.
This followed a tweet that she posted earlier that read, in part, “I think everyone knows that Twestival was about more than just raising money.” Uh-oh. These are bad signs from a fundraiser. So, what’s going on with Twestival since it’s worldwide party last week?
I want to be clear that I loved the fact that Twestival was organized by volunteers through Twitter. I loved the fact that it scaled organically and spread to 202 cities around the world with no marketing or development costs. I loved that I could “watch” the day unfold on Twitter from Asia to Europe and Africa to the US throughout February 12th.
But since February 13th, I haven’t loved Twestival as much. It has been very difficult to find out the results from Twestival. I assumed that there would be some press release or blog post or tweet or something the morning after giving a broad brush stroke accounting of what happened. Something to the affect of, the first count is that we raised $250k through TipJar alone last night but that more time will be needed to add up the rest. When that didn’t happen, I assumed that it may have been because the organizers didn’t want to put out numbers that are disappointing, because once first numbers go out, no matter what percentage of the total they may be, that will be what most reporters and bloggers latch onto.
Now, I’m not so sure that that was a deliberate strategic decision. Rather, I’m leaning towards the “campaign exhaustion” theory. OK, it’s not really a theory, I just made that term up, but it happens at the end of all intense campaigns. That is that the people doing the heavy lifting during the campaigns are so exhausted by election night, in this case Twestival night, that they don’t have the time and capacity to think beyond that. It appears, and it’s just a supposition on my part but there isn’t any other information to go on at this point as neither the Twestival or charity:water websites have any substantive information on the results, that the organizers simply ran out of gas to develop a clear, comprehensive and safe process for gathering up donations and reporting on results.
I am NOT suggesting that there are accounting or financial problems with Twestival. I am suggesting, rather, that reporting is a significant challenge for global events organized by volunteers and that we need to know more about what’s happening here to inform future events. We have terrific lessons learned about how to scale a global fundraising event using Twitter, we should also be developing lessons on how to complete the process in a timely, transparent and accountable way.
The Twestival fundraising goal was raised from $500k when the event had fewer than 200 cities. Reports late last week were that New York and London raised about $22,500 and $28,000 respectively. Smaller cities, like Boston and Detroit raised less than $5k each. It’s hard to figure what’s taking so long to count if most cities are like Boston and have less than $5k to count. Even if it’s in cash in one dollar bills, you can count that in a day, can’t you?
Here’s my guess as to what’s going on based on the little data coming out right now:
- There has been a huge capacity shortage on the part of the organizers who have been trying to ensure that media coverage of Twestival continues while answering many questions from local organizers;
- There was no clear reporting format or process established before Twestival and the organizers have been scrambling to do so since;
- Much of the money was raised in cash and collected by multiple people locally making it difficult to get accurate numbers from local organizers;
- Tipjar may be having accounting problems or reporting;
- Local organizers, volunteers all, have simply disappeared. Again, this is not to infer nefarious intent. Rather the local organizers may have been so exhausted that they needed downtime, or went back to their everyday activities and have been ignoring, and are simply slow to report.
It may be one or all of some combination of these factors. And, as Amanda mentioned in her tweet this morning, fundraising continues in many cities, so maybe folks are still adding up their accounts locally. It’s hard to know, but we need to know before too much more time goes by.
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