Jay Frost: Philanthropy Twitter Group

GordonJayFrostJay Frost (@GordonJayFrost) is a speaker, consultant and author on wealth, philanthropy and fundraising. He is founder of the Philanthropy Twitter group, and you can read his insights on his blog: Frost on Fundraising. Listen in to our conversation on the role of Twibes in social media for social change.



Jay Frost:

Hello, this is Jay.

Adam Loving:

Hi Jay, this is Adam from Twibes. How are you today?

Jay:

I’m fine, how are you?

Adam:

Besides pulling your hair out and ready to slam your computer to the ground.

Jay:

Yeah, and I’m at the age where pulling your hair out is not a good thing.

Adam:

[laughs] Oh. I feel your pain. I switched to Mac about two years ago and I’ve not looked back since. It has been highly rewarding. Whoops.
[pause]

Jay:

[laughs] Wow, we’re really being kicked by technology.
[laughter]

Adam:

It’s great when it works but yeah, when it doesn’t, boy.

Jay:

Well, if we were pushing a wheelbarrow, the wheel could fall off so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Adam:

Yeah, so I was just looking down the list of popular Twibes. One question I get a lot is what can I do to promote my Twibe? And certainly there are some people like yourself who are really making it work, really killing it, so to speak.
I just wanted to meet you and see how you’re using Twibes and how you’re using Twitter. First off, it would be great to know a little bit about yourself and about your organizations.

Jay:

Oh, sure. I’m wearing multiple hats like a lot of people out there are, I think. I’ve always been involved in world fundraising and philanthropy. We’ve had a succession of tiny companies, almost micro-enterprises, the most recent of which was a screening company.
This is where people help non-profits to identify their donors at the greatest capacity, so you can get to know them better and treat them more intelligently and sensitively.

I sold that company in 2005 to a competitor and then over the last year and a half, two years, I’ve been working with some partners in developing a new application which is for fundraising or for sales, which is a technology tool.

But I do a lot of speaking as well. One of the things I wanted to do was spend more in time in the social media world and more particularly how it relates to, again, fundraising and philanthropy.

I think, again, that non-profits have been both way ahead of the curve in some respects and way behind the curve in others, with respect to social media. So I didn’t get involved in Twitter until very late in the game, just a few months ago, and found it really fascinating. It really appeals to my ADHD mentality, as opposed to Facebook, which I see as ADD. I mean those are very distinct.

People are all over Facebook for fundraising and philanthropy and I think that’s fine, but I think Twitter is far better in so many ways. And so when you launched Twibes – and I haven’t really figured out how you use it… So I’m delighted I’m doing something right. I don’t know what it is.

But I think it’s a great idea to try to develop watering holes for people who have common interests. Because one thing I think that’s keeping people away, at least in the non-profit world, from Twitter, is they cannot see the value.

It’s too hard for them to see the picture at 30, 000 feet. And you’re allowing them to see it by essentially showing them a map by interest and by the people within that interest area.

And it’s very, very hard – it’s a mirage – to people in fundraising, absent what you’re developing here.

Adam:

Right, especially with the short messages like you mentioned. It seems almost senseless when you glance at it and was certainly what motivated me to form something like Twibes. I sensed that there’s value there if you can filter it down to the topics that I’m interested in.
And from the people I’m talking to, Twibes has been a networking tool as much as anything else.

Jay:

Oh, yeah. I mean I haven’t used it that way yet but that’s – yes, absolutely.

Adam:

It’s almost as though that collection of photos at the top is the main point of being there. The Tweets don’t even factor in for some groups, just to find these people that can carry on their conversations in a million other mediums, but just to identify who they are has been valuable.
So, yeah, before we get too far into the Twibes stuff, Frost On Fundraising is your blog.

Jay:

Yes, but I haven’t been very active there, because it’s long form and frankly, I think there’s too much blogging going on. I may be alone in that but a lot of people are talking and not many people are listening.
Maybe that’s happening on Twitter too, but the concentration of information on Twitter when you look in the right places is terrific. And in the blogosphere, there is a lot of verbal diarrhea out there with no editing.

I always thought that was the case and I continue to feel that way, where there are some people who are brilliant and the fact that they’re brilliant without an editor is a testimony to how brilliant they are.

But there are a lot of other people writing and probably nobody should be reading it because it’s just awful and they’re not contributing anything. And that’s OK; that’s free expression and I love it. That’s why I love this country, but it’s not particularly useful if you want to read something of value.

And so I’ve done some blogging there and I’m going to do more, but I view that as so different in character from what is going on in Twitter, which is far more dynamic, where people can learn on the fly from one another, not just from the information that they’re relating but from the way they’re communicating with one another.

There are so many examples of this, especially with really young people on Twitter and Twitter isn’t the demographic for really young people. But there are people like Zach, he’d be one. Do you know about his walk?

Adam:

No, I don’t.

Jay:

Oh, this is an 11-year-old kid who walked from Florida to Washington DC to raise attention to childhood homelessness. He’s an 11-year-old kid. And then there’s some other guy, I don’t know what he is, he’s around 17, I think, who was pushing stoves through Rwanda. Did you hear about this?

Adam:

No, no.

Jay:

Well this is somebody – I don’t even know what their connection is to this organization that is providing sun stoves to people in Rwanda. Rwanda has been through everything Rwanda has been through, but there are also issues with poverty alleviation and basic cooking supplies so that people can eat.
And so he decided to put the force of Twitter behind getting votes for Stove for Rwanda to get $25, 000 from Disney. Now, most of the people in the United States don’t know where Rwanda is or what it is or how to pronounce.

And so there’s a 17-year-old who finds a way through Twitter – I don’t know if he would have done this through Facebook – to get people to focus on this and see, “You know what? All I have to do is click here and it can turn into $25, 000. It’s real.”

And so there’s a lot of that happening and again, not to go right back to Twibes, but I think Twibes fits right into that neatly once people figure out how to make that work. I haven’t seen them doing that yet, certainly not in the little sphere I’m in, but I can see it.

Twitter doesn’t really allow you to really see who your friends are without going through these massive lists. You’re visualizing it and that’s one step in that direction and it’s very different.

I can easily imagine that you can take a group of people who understand that they can take one step together as a group and carry the weight of an elephant, even though you are a bunch of ants. And that will make it instantly powerful.

Right now people are talking all about crowd sourcing. It’s fine; it’s a very fun term. But it really has very little meaning. I mean crowds are great and fun and they’re also terrifying.

But what you’re doing with Twibes is you’re bringing organization to the crowd, and the organizing principle is what brings real value to the individuals there.

If it’s the other way around, nobody really has any power. If something happens, it’s accidental. But you’re creating a venue through which people can actually combine their power. That is power.

Jay:

Wow. Well, thank you. That’s a great way of expressing it. I hadn’t quite put my finger on it, but, yes, you’re right.
Let’s see. Was there anything in particular that you did with the Philanthropy Twibe that made people latch on to it? I noticed you actually had started a couple others as well that hadn’t taken off nearly as much as this one had.

Do you attribute that to anything, or is that the luck of picking a great name and going with it?

Jay:

It’s hard to know without knowing more about the demographics of the people who are on that group. But I suspect it’s because it’s simply broad.
If it were fund-raising, a lot of the fund-raisers are still not there yet. They’re uncertain about social media in general and Twitter specifically. They’re nervous about it. They’re nervous about being there, and they’re nervous about being seen there. The scholars, who are one part of the philanthropic world, I don’t think they’re on Twitter to all.

But philanthropy is enough of a generic term – it sounds good – that I think it’s acceptable, so it’s easy for people to run into it and know what it means. It’s also somewhat of an exclusive term, unlike saying sales. If I said it’s the Sales Twibe, then everybody selling everything could be there. Then it has no value, and so there’s no real reason to join.

You might get a lot of people initially and the next day, but with philanthropy, it’s self-defining. I think that the term is useful, but that was the next step.

I would have that that something that’s more along the lines of fund-raising would have been better, but I don’t think I could get that. It wouldn’t have gone anywhere. I think that’s helpful.

What’s interesting to me though is who’s joining and why. There are a lot of organizations on Twitter, and there are a number of them that are joining something like this, but not in the numbers I would have thought.

Jay:

Yes, you still seem to be mostly individuals.

Jay:

Right. So who are they? This is what I’d really like to know. This guy, Pud, whatever his real name is. Do you know who I’m talking about?

Jay:

No.

Jay:

There’s a guy who has developed an application. I hope it’s not for doing something bad, but anyway, he developed an application…

Jay:

You never quite know until… Right.

Jay:

… to get people to list where they went to school.
Twitter is great, except it has no really good demographic data on individual users. That’s one of the things that makes it comfortable for people to post because it’s somewhat anonymous.

But if you had a sense, for example, that a lot of your people were coming to a particular twibe from either a certain part of the country, or a certain age demographic, or a certain profession, or a certain college, university, that would begin to tell you something really important.

I don’t know a way of doing that with the exception of starting to run – and I’ve done a bit of this on Twitter, and I’m going to start doing more of this on the twibe – things like the Twit Polls, and also cross-pollinating.

I use HootSuite a lot, just by way of an example. What I’ll do is I’ll – and then I’m also on LISTSERVs. I’ll see how many people are hitting different things I post. Some of those I’m hash-tagging as “philanthropy” so they’ll go on the Philanthropy Twibe.

Some of them I won’t, and some of them I will, and I’ll see what goes back and forth. Sometimes I’ll go and I’ll fake one of those little Owly – the shortened URLs. I’ll push something to LISTSERV.

I did that yesterday, and I had something amazing happen. It was just a Forbes article anybody could read about billionaires and billionaire giving. Not particularly amazing information, but the title was catchy, and I put it there with this little link.

I had 1, 200 people click on that link from the LISTSERV. Those people are not on Twitter. So what I did was I used this as an opportunity to do two things, to talk about how this kind of content’s on Twitter and that’s where I’m finding it. In other words, I’m getting it three days in advance of most of you guys. That would be implicit.

Then what I did was I put this thing about the Philanthropy Twibe. I said that this is where everybody who’s finding this kind of information is going. So if you’re really looking for this kind of information, this is where you need to be.

So I’m using the last generation of social media to try and drag some of these people into the newest generation of social media. What they’re doing there in the LISTSERV is they’re writing like blog entries, these long-form questions, which get very little response instead of Twitter-type of questions and responses, which are very easy for people to do.

Here’s a point of information; what do you think about it? Yes, no, that was just a poll response, or PM me. It’s relatively easy. It gets over the ejection phase of dealing with data.

Again, by forming the twibe, I think you’ve really empowered people to have conversations in a way that before they had to do in mash form and couldn’t do very effectively. It’ll be very interesting to see if the 3, 500 people on that one LISTSERV are in fact going to start moving over and joining the twibes.

Are you seeing that with the other twibes?

Jay:

Well, I’m definitely seeing people using a mish-mash of technologies. Twitter and Twibes are just pieces in people’s arsenals of their greater blogs, and Facebook pages, and email LISTSERVs like you’ve mentioned.
The savvy founders are those who recognized early on that this is one more channel to start connecting to people. For better or worse, I’ve tried to keep Twibes fairly small and focused so that it plays its role in an ecosystem.

When you start mentioning demographics and things that gives me some ideas of some features I can add. An area where I haven’t done very much is to let each individual build their Twibes profile as apart from their Twitter profile.

There’s no reason why I couldn’t prompt people for that – they don’t have to enter it in – for their age, or city, or whatever, and then begin to build a better picture of who’s in the twibe.

But, yes, I think that’s a common theme is using all these tools together, and being savvy enough to recognize the value, and then go to the efforts of creating these tiny URLs. That’s a whole other level of sophistication that’s required.

One of the women was saying you’ve got to know your tools in order to build your twibe. That’s exactly it.

Jay:

You know what’s funny? I didn’t know how to, or what I should put in that description. You have, I’m sure, an automated feature encouraging people like me who are slow to do that to go and do that. I wasn’t doing it. I was putting it off for the longest time.
In fact, I had this fear that if I didn’t do it, you’d take the twibe away. [inaudible 16:47] fear.

I finally put a description up there, but I don’t even know is that description like other people’s? Is it not? Having something that was not a template but an example could have been useful for me.

In fact, maybe that could be done on an individual basis where when people set up their – I know they just go from Twitter into the twibe, but if they could have a thing that was specific to Twibes – maybe that’s too much engineering – where they could say here’s my…

Adam:

My role in relation to Twibe has been one thing.

Jay:

Or in this field. Why am I in this Twibe? And they might end up saying, or you might be able to tuck in optional things, like where, the state, city or country, favorite color, super hero. Whatever, it is can be serious or silly, but that might enable people to start answering questions because the survey seems relevant.
If twitter were to do that, I could see that people would say en masse, “I’m not going to reveal that information to you.” But if it’s specific to a group, then they might well become like colleagues.

In effect, to go back to your point about networking, they’d see it immediately. Because they do it already on the Ning, for example, and stuff like that where they are listing lots of details.

In fact, it takes so long to manage all that, it would be much easier in this context. Could you imagine now seeing over the picture, you see the little thing pop up and say, ”is a graduate of, is a fund raiser at…”

Adam:

Attorney from Philadelphia or who yeah… that’s great. Cool. Has there been anything else about Twibe that to you were waiting for?
Back to back up, one more point about the description actually. There are two reasons why we’ve got that motivation on my part; one is so people can find it and understand what it’s about and why they should join.

The second is, that is there for Google. It’s in both of our interest that when people search on Twitter Philanthropy, or Twitter Philanthropy Group, that we would have enough description on this page to give hints to Google that this is the place, page that it should recommend.

Jay:

OK.

Adam:

So any little extra description, and in fact the category plays a small part in that as well. That’s my motivation for prompting or nagging Twibe founders to enter a description.

Jay:

I think it’s a good idea. I really didn’t know what to do, so that’s why I was not doing it.

Adam:

Right. A sample would be a good thing for me to do, very easy for me to do as well. Anything else that sticks out, that you’ve been waiting for or wanting?

Jay:

I know that this sounds like more marketing but, in fact, as soon as you told me that I was in one of the top 150 twibes, I made a point of listing our LinkedIn. And putting the church tweets group. And then putting it on my facebook page, putting it out in this little note, these 3, 500 people on this list serve.
So, I think if you had something that essentially said, some kind of ranking for these groups that would be very useful. Not only behind them but to promote the groups. It’s going to be hard for me to get researches to come, fundraising researchers, to come into this till they see somebody’s seal of approval.

Adam:

You mean Twibe seal of approval for you or an external approval for your Twibe?

Jay:

Twibe seal of approval for the Twibe on the basis of rank or number of something. I mean whatever it is. Of course as Twibe itself gains more notoriety, that’s going to be useful. But it might be nice to see some kind of ranking.
You know all those rankings for Twitter are interesting and they get people’s attention, even when they’re silly. I would think that they could be more meaningful here. It won’t be Ashton kutcher, whatever his name is, or one of those people. It would be really about what are the types of ideas which are capturing people, what kind of professions are moving things.

Let me ask you, what is the top Twibe? I mean are there thousands of people on one of these things?

Adam:

Yeah, the photography Twibe, I believe is the top. Let me go look here-with about 4, 000 members. That was a very interesting one. Obviously I didn’t predict any of this. I think that was largely people moving over from Fllickr, where they want to share their photos, they’re photographers. And there’s no good way to do that and find each other on Twitter.
And I think Edsee is another hand craft website, which is a similar type of thing where these other websites exist without community, everyone is on Twitter anyway, so Twibe is the intersection where they can find each other.

Jay:

Interesting.

Adam:

Yeah it is. It’s a special interest that the group identifies with, they have a desire to find each other and, the founder doesn’t have too much control, or too much of their own agenda.
The ones that work they form very organically. The founders are often working furiously behind the scenes, but they’re not pushing their own agenda. They’re just facilitating, communicating and networking, which is pretty interesting.

Jay:

Have the political circles found Twibes yet? Do you have a big Republican or a big Democratic thing, or big health care discussion going on?

Adam:

Yeah, amazingly we’ve got two Sarah Palin Twibes, which are warring in a friendly way. [laughs] The liberals have been slower on the uptake. But there’s a few of those. They’re slightly more niche. I think those are in the two to 500 member range. They’re not the giant ones but they’re definitely a vocal group.
I rely on the founders to keep me in check when I’ve got bugs. It’s whatever you guys ask for that I prioritize at the top of the list. Because, obviously if I make you successful then I’m the more successful I am.

Jay:

Oh right. That brings up another thing; are you thinking about or have you already made movements toward being able to deploy the content of a Twibe? So, for example, on a person’s blog, in the same way they can have twitter posts, they can have the whole twibe, start appearing on a blog, on a website, or within a group on LinkedIn?

Adam:

Yeah, not LinkedIn yet. I’m going to look at that after some of the conversations I’ve had in the last couple of hours. But I’m working on script you can include in a blog or website. Then I’ve already done a custom implementation for a Twitter conference that’s coming up in L.A. next month.

Jay:

Oh no kidding. I wrote to them. I wrote a little note to them saying, “Hey do you have anybody talking about the nonprofit world”. They said, “Well no we don’t, so we’ll put you on our list of maybes.” And then I haven’t heard anything again so.

Adam:

Alright. I’ll ask them about that. For them, a company called Parnassus Group, a group of guys. So I set up 140 Twibe.Parnassusgroup.com. Which is completely on their domain. The main benefits of doing it that way is that all the Tweets to join the Twibe, actually point to their domain. So you get all this sort of link love as you promote the Twibe.
So that’s something I’d be interested in setting up for other people, but it does take a bit of work on my part at this point still. But yeah I’m actively working on all that. Hopefully there will be an easy version, where you can just cut and paste a few lines of code. And then the more complex version like running on its own domain.

Jay:

Hopefully somebody pays you for that.

Adam:

Yeah. At some point yeah.

Jay:

Oh that’s great. Sounds like you got some fun things going on. I figure you’re talking to 100 people, so I don’t want to eat up too much of your time. I like to keep in contact and find out what you do with this, what your next project is. It’s good stuff.

Adam:

This has been fantastic. I really appreciate your time and shoot me an email at adam@twibes if anything crosses your mind. I’ve got some good notes here from our conversations. Thank you very much.

Jay:

Great, OK. Are you on LinkedIn? You are aren’t you?

Adam:

Yes.

Jay:

OK, Monday I’ll send you something there too. That’s where I keep most of my contacts.

Adam:

Great.

Jay:

Thanks so much.

Adam:

Thanks a lot Jay.

Jay:

OK, take care.

Adam:

Talk to you soon, bye.

Jay:

Bye.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>