Social Media & Grantmaking VI: A Member’s Perspective On Twitter
For this third post on Twitter, I thought it would be helpful to hear how NCG member Quixote Foundation is using Twitter.
As the old adage goes, “Don’t take my word for it.”
To take a bit of a break from the technical what and how posts in this social media series, I thought I’d ask an NCG member who is using Twitter to participate in a short interview.
I decided to contact someone who I’ve interacted with on Twitter: Quixote Foundation’s strategic consultant, Keneta Anderson. Keneta has advised the foundation since 2003 on a wide range of topics including program, governance, outreach, brand and communication strategy. As Quixote Foundation’s copywriter and the voice of its muse, “Don,” she is responsible for the QuixoteTilts Twitter presence.
Side note: I did consider conducting the interview in tweet-fashion, that is 140 characters or less…then I thought better of it. Following is the interview I conducted via e-mail with Keneta Anderson of Quixote Foundation.
NCG: Keneta, thank you so much for accepting my invitation for a quick interview on how Quixote Foundation is using Twitter. First, please tell us how many people are on staff at Quixote? And, are all of you using the Twitter account?
Thanks for asking. Quixote Foundation has four staff members, and I write the Twitter feed as part of my consulting work. I scan the news, blogs, grantee sites and other content sources every morning, and everyone on the team helps by feeding me additional ideas, links, thoughts from their own reading, or real-time notes from events they attend. I translate that information into 140 characters and the QuixoteTilts’ voice.
NCG: Why and when did Quixote decide to join Twitter? And how do you use it?
We started in May, 2009, just before the Council on Foundations annual meeting. I Tweeted from sessions by repeating interesting quotes, commenting on concepts, sometimes challenging what speakers said, and giving an overall feel for the event.
We really found our purpose for Twitter by experimenting. Between events we use it to help move strategic messages, amplify our grantees’ and colleagues’ voices, engage in conversations relevant to our interest areas and values, build relationships, spark awareness where action is needed, and have a little fun.
When Quixote Foundation announced its decision to spend the entire endowment, we used Twitter as one part of our outreach plan. It only took a couple of Tweets about spending up to get people interested in the topic, and Twitter relationships led to several articles, blog posts, and opportunities that ranged from guest blogging to conducting a webinar. Most importantly, it’s a resource for us to hear what the people we “follow” have to say—what has their attention, why we should care, how we might be able to respond quickly.
NCG: As a grantmaker, what benefits or drawbacks have you found to using Twitter? Anything unexpected come out of being on Twitter?
Twitter has allowed a little foundation to establish a relatively big voice with targeted audiences, and also to move progressive ideas among new audiences we’d be highly unlikely to reach through other venues.
It helped us draw so much fresh attention to the notion of spending up that other donors are still getting in touch, saying they may consider doing the same and they want to know more. In some cases we’ve been able to raise awareness of important grantee or interest area issues, and people have taken time to respond. Those are huge, mission-centered benefits for the small investment.
Unexpectedly, our Twitter presence has introduced us to many real-life, ongoing relationships. Using a topical or event hashtag (#) and monitoring all the relevant Tweets is a great way to identify who in particular you might want to seek out in person. With Twitter breaking the ice, collaboration can start much faster than attempting 20 random conversations at a conference cocktail party (although we’d advocate for doing that too).
The only drawback is it’s hard to maintain a steady presence, and we’re still wrestling with what to do about that difficulty. Our Twitter outreach has been effective because we’ve been strategic about selecting content, exercising brand control and maintaining a consistent voice by using just one writer; but that means QuixoteTilts goes silent if I’m away, which isn’t especially effective. The good news is most organizations on Twitter face the same conundrum. I really believe expectations will sort themselves out as users find a realistic pace for the tool.
NCG: Any advice for a grantmaker who is considering joining Twitter?
The blogosphere is full of “Top Twitter Tips” and the like, so you can hit Google for the basics.
I’d just add: Start by following grantees and leaders in areas that interest you, and read their Tweets for a while. Don’t force yourself to chime in if you don’t have anything to say—Twitter is an available tool, not something that’s mandatory to use. If you like or dislike particular Twitter personalities, try to figure out why and apply that insight when crafting yours. Incorporate the purpose and voice into your overall brand and communication strategy. Understand it’s an evolving tool in the hands of imperfect humans, like any other communication method we use; so if you have an occasional disruptive encounter that may reveal more about one individual than about Twitter itself.
NCG: Do you have any favorite Tweeters that you recommend others follow?
NorCalGrant, of course. Off the top of my head: Joe_Brown, tactphil, drgrist, mrdaveyd, celiaalario, motherjones, sightline, nwf, Rosetta Thurman, bsttrach, meddemfund…it’s a good start, but I’m sure I’m leaving out many spectacularly cool people.
NCG: Thanks so much for sharing your perspective on Twitter and for offering other grantmakers an example of how to use this social media tool.
You can follow Quixote Foundation on Twitter at
The Social Media & Grantmaking blog post series will cover a wide range of topics. Check out the introduction post outlining the series.
To see all the posts in this series, simply type “social media series” into the search box located upper right of this web page.
Tags: COF, council on foundations, interview, Keneta Anderson, Media Democracy Fund, Mother Jones, NCG member, Quixote Foundation, Rosetta Thurman, social media, social media series, spend down, spend up, spending down, spending out, spending up, tactical philanthropy, Technology, twitter