Last night, I was happily catching up on my favorite TV show via the internet and the phone rang. 

The call caught me by surprise. 

It turned out to be a live "virtual town hall" hosted by one of the local candidates and callers were invited to "press 3" to ask a question.

Maybe this is a technique that others are more familiar with, but it was new to me and it was engaging enough to win airtime for a candidate I wasn't planning on voting for.

The call pool managed to get 6,100 participants on the line all at once and keep their attention for nearly an hour (during prime time). In Kingston, that's a big number!

This experience got me thinking...

I came across this blog post today from GoodWorksCo. on what fundraisers can learn from election campaigns. 

I wonder, what could fundraisers learn from the virtual town hall approach? 

What if the Director of your international aid non-profit set up something similar to talk to supporters and community members about a natural disaster - think Japan? 

What if the President of your hospital or university could answer questions about the upcoming capital campaign or the desperate funding needs of the institution?

How about when things go wrong at your organization? Would there be more public forgiveness in bringing the leader out from behind the press releases and into a conversation with concerned supporters?

There is no script here, there are sticky questions, it's not easy to be on the line, but the human connection here can be incredible. It created the feeling that my opinion and vote both matter in this election and to this candidate. It brought the party platform onto my phone line; into an intimate space in my home.

What I would have done differently? 

No surprises. I would have loved to know the call was coming and to be somewhat prepared with a good question. 

Controlling the medium means you get a say in controlling the messages. Harness the power of social media. Send out a hashtag and post live tweets from the speaker's account. This didn't happen and people were online looking for that conversation.

I created my own hashtag and sent out live tweets on request for those who didn't pick up the phone on time - that means I got to filter the information. 

Do you think we can use this in fundraising / have you ever given it a try or does it only apply to an election scenario?

It seems that all the twitter these days is about Twitter!

I get about 10 info-tweets a day about harnessing digital media and social networking and it's all the rage in my professional circles. 

No one is a social media expert yet - we're all learning and adapting as a society. If you're like me and just starting out, here's a great Twitter primer posted by Socially Good.

The question: Is Twitter a value-added forum or simply too much information? 

To me, Twitter is the ultimate narrowcasting medium. You know exactly who your audience is, they select you and most profiles I've seen have between 50 and 500 followers, which is a small group. So, unless you can create buzz and spread your profile virally through re-tweets, this is not wide-cast marketing. That means this is a chance to have a fairly personalized, value-added conversation with the people who have chosen you.

The hardest part for me so far is that this medium literally moves at the speed of thought! I spend most of my day in information overload unable to go down all the 'rabbit holes' of valuable links that are provided to me. The other part is that because I follow such a large variety of people, I receive a completely random mish-mash of information often at times when it's not where my head is at.

The quest, can I keep up a conversation with the minds of 132 brilliant people and counting? We'll see...

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