District-based Tweenate Brings Social Giving to Twitter

Ra | 4/7/2011, 3:19 p.m.

A new organization based in the District is using social media to make donations to charitable organizations easier.

Tweenate, an amalgam of Tweet and donate, allows donors to support the charities of their choice while encouraging friends to do likewise.

"We make it very easy for people to give to great non-profits with just one retweet," said Garlin Gilchrist II, the co-founder of Tweenate. He and his partners launched their philanthropic endeavor on Feb. 24 at Local 16, a restaurant in Northwest.

"We wanted to take the fun people have on-line -- all the ease with which they can communicate and make it that easy to support really important causes," he said.

Often referred to as a micro-blogging site, Twitter allows users to broadcast 140 character text messages along with links. Friends can also view photos and send messages on their computers and mobile phones. The social media network debuted in 2006 and today boasts more than 200 million users.

Gilchrist said that the Tweenate concept was bolstered by the public's ability to donate via text message in response to the Haitian earthquake disaster.

"That was proof of the concept," he said. "If donations were easy enough and you had the right level of familiarity with a project, people would probably take advantage of it," Gilchrist, 28, said.

Tweenate founders envision a future in which the public can tweet their support, rather than writing a check.

"In terms of an emergency something like Tweenate can be amazing. As Twitter and social media become more and more useful in emergency situations, it makes sense to want to be able to try and handle as many types of communications or as many types of transactions as possible," Gilchrist said.

Tweenate founders also said that the service has advantages over text-based donations in terms of speed. Cell phone companies can wait up until 90 days before processing the money transfer. Unlike cell phone companies, Tweenate users have previously purchased a gift card from Global Giving that allows the transaction to take place immediately.

"With SMS [text-based] donations it's a very individual act, it's one person on their phone doing it, but the beauty of Tweenate is that if you send a tweet, that's a donation and by definition all of your followers will see it," Gilchrist said. "That very public act can go a long way towards helping inspire others to act."

Currently, Tweenate founders said that they are still developing the service, however donors can support projects hosted by Global Giving, a non-profit foundation that verifies the legitimacy of small non-profits, worldwide.

"I really think that with the evolving nature of how people perform acts of charity, it's important that we as service providers, we as people that work on the advocacy stage, and people that just want to see the world get better--our tools have to evolve with the way people evolve," Gilchrist said.

"And so as more and more people take advantage of new tools and new technology, charity and philanthropy have to meet people where they are. They always have."

To learn more about Tweenate and Global Giving, visit tweenate.org and globalgiving.org.