How Much Is Your Organization Like Twitter?

Fire sale.  That’s how Twitter is touting their latest ad offer.  It’s a familiar fire sale to Agitator readers and every fundraiser who’s been in the field for more than five minutes.  And it’s uber familiar to every donor on the planet.

A match.  Spend $250k, get $250k of free ads.   I often hear consultants describe the end of year as the Charity Super Bowl.  It’s cringe worthy.  Well, this matching offer is literally the Super Bowl for Twitter, it’s most important night of the year.

There are a ton of sports conversations happening on Twitter and never more than around the Super Bowl.  It’s the world’s water cooler.   And, Twitter is touting an increase in Super Bowl conversation on its platform.

You’d think the natural order of things would create demand. Why subsidize that demand with the match offer?   Some portion of advertising is getting credit for sales that would have happened anyway.  Paid search is notorious for this.  It didn’t create donations or lift, it subsidized them.

Matches are the King Kong of subsidies.  Premiums being Kong’s second cousin.  I get it, there are a lot of macro factors with Twitter, not least of which having lost a bunch of advertisers.

But DraftKings never left and they’ll be dipping into the subsidy pool and getting $250k of ads for free that they otherwise would have paid for.

Humans (our donors), didn’t come out of the womb looking for 2 for 1 deals.

I enter in my “loyalty” card at the grocery store not because I’m loyal but because I don’t want to be the stooge paying extra.  The loyalty card doesn’t work, at least not to create or foster real loyalty.

Why is that?

  • There is nothing proprietary about a loyalty card, anyone can offer one and so everyone does.  Sounds like the matching gift offers in our world. They proliferate and spawn like rabbits.
  • They’re 100% transactional.  I buy, enter in digits, I get discount.  It’s pavlovian, I’m conditioned to do it.  This is matching gift to a tee.   We collect tens of thousands of feedback from donors, the number saying they won’t give until the match campaign is striking.  It’s the same reason nobody goes to Bed, Bath and Beyond without the giant, mailed flyer discount.  (turns out nobody goes there period anymore but I digress)

Twitter isn’t going to foster loyalty to the platform, it’s discounting on it’s biggest day of the year and is going to condition advertisers to only buy when the discount offer is made.  Twitter is going to gradually do what many loyalty program companies do, raise prices to wipe out any real discount and simply market the appearance of one.

So what’s a charity to do?

We’ve covered matching gifts many times.  There are lots of medium and long-term reasons to not use them, not least of which is creating low quality, external motivation to give, which supplants any intrinsic, high-quality reason to do it.  But we’re pragmatic and realize the one short term reason always wins out.

So, what should you and Twitter do instead?

  • Don’t go over 1 to 1, Twitter at least got this right.
  • Make the reward a convex structure, where higher donation amounts get higher match.
  • Make the match conditional to a sustainer gift from non-sustainers.  This is your share of wallet play.  Cover the first 3 months or six months at full or half freight with the match.

But the best advice is run a match as an A/B test and make the performance window longer than the immediate campaign.  Chances are good you’re lowering total value per donor through a combination of lower average gifts and conditioning donors to only give when they have a “coupon”.


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