Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Few Words About Twitter And Charity

Every day I get between 5 and 15 tweets from people asking me to help publicise their charitable endeavours.

Sometimes they're from organisations and sometimes they're from individuals who are doing a sponsored walk/run/swim/bike ride/all-of-the-above for a cause that's dear to their hearts because of something that has happened to them or to a loved one.

Retweeting their cause to my followers would take next to no effort... so why don't I do so?

Well, if I was to retweet one request the only fair thing would be to retweet them all. To not do so would involve making a value judgement about one cause over another and that would be impossible to do properly without spending a silly amount of time evaluating them all and checking that every link was valid and for a cause I truly supported.

On top of that, I know from experience that when I do tweet a link to a charitable cause I then receive another 20 requests for other causes almost immediately. If I received only 5 requests in a day but retweeted them all I would soon be multiplied to 100 tweets. Tweeting loads and loads of charities isn't loads and loads better than tweeting one. It's worse. It turns them into an impenetrable mush. Nobody would go through them all. Nobody would be able to choose one or more from the pack. It would do none of them any good whatsoever.

I'm not the first person to wrestle with this conundrum - Stephen Fry had this to say and shortly afterwards Graham Linehan tipped his hat in Mr Fry's direction saying the following. It appeared they'd come to a sensible way around the problem but as far as I'm aware neither of them has been able to maintain such a scheme so I can only conclude that it didn't really work.

It seems to me that to be of any value to a charity, tweets of this nature need to be used sparingly. Tweeted occasionally they can have an impact. Tweet all of them all the time and they just become wallpaper. So, with apologies to everyone who feels let down, I'm afraid I'm only going to tweet good causes that I feel compelled to do so for my own reasons. Anything else would, I'm afraid, be either grossly unfair to some or useless to all.

Now, do go and donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee for the Pakistan floods. In the UK you can donate £5 by texting GIVE to 70707. Or you can donate via their website or by calling 0370 60 90 900.


Neil said...

I think that is an excellent policy!

Have texted them, and also retweeted your DEC appeal and also popped in of Facebook where one of my friends texted to donate, so because of this post the appeal is £10 up!

James Farrier said...

The charity/celebrity retweet is something I greatly dislike. It was a neat initiative at first, but too many people are all over it now.

Worse is the implication that ignoring their appeals makes the most-followed Twitter users look like a collective bunch of arseholes, when they're quite clearly not. There's a resentful emotional blackmail that comes with this use of Twitter and I'm hoping it eventually dies out.

Sorry if that comes across as cold and heartless, I do think some causes are fantastic and I'm all for charity awareness. But there are better was of marketing your cause.

Graham the Funky Aardvark said...

I thought that tweet was from a guy called Dave who feels strongly about it - and not a celeb wanting to look good.

Dave Gorman said...

Thanks Graham. As it goes this wasn't written as a reaction to the exchange you saw on Twitter - that was actually a very jolly, friendly exchange that resolved itself quite nicely.

It's more the requests for retweets of charitable endeavours that are difficult to deal with. They tug at the heartstrings and 140 characters is inadequate for a reply.

When someone tweets you saying "My husband/wife/parent/child suffers from X so I'm doing Y, please RT" what is an adequate response?

Sympathy for their personal situation doesn't make it the right thing to do. I can't value one stranger's husband/wife/parent/child more than (or less than) another...

It's absolutely right that people campaign for causes that affect them personally, in an abstract sense, if you were to dispassionately line up every cause in some kind of order of deservingness, the one at the top wouldn't necessarily have someone directly affected and with a twitter account to champion it. Not necessarily. But then maybe it would.

If you retweet them all you end up achieving nothing for any of them.

If you can't be of use to all of them, you have to reject some.

If you have to reject some, what criteria do you use?

There is no way of evaluating every such request. Choosing some but not others would involve making value judgements that are just too uncomfortable... so I do what we all do. I promote those cause that touch and move me.

Serena said...

hear hear.

cannot agree with you more dave. i work for a charity (Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research) and we make a point of only tweeting the celebs we have a relationship with.

It's such a bad idea to scattergun messages - it's not helpful and it's annoying too.