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And now, Twitter philanthropy

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“There’s a huge surge going on here,” says Allison Fine, author of “Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age,” and a senior fellow at Demos, a public policy think-tank in New York. “On one hand, as large numbers of people come to social networks, from Facebook to MySpace, causes will come into the conversation. It’s part of the genetic makeup of Americans to share their passion for causes.”

On the other hand, Ms. Fine continues, “You’ve got the technological ease of creating social networks. It’s not difficult anymore to create that networking function. The only difficulty is in creating the critical mass.”

The Twestival, which wrapped on Feb. 12, had little trouble generating buzz. Only hours after founder Amanda Rose made public her plans for the campaign in January, the news went viral, spiraling out across hundreds of blogs and Twitter feeds. Soon, Ms. Rose had secured a small army of volunteers and a team of corporate partners including TipJoy, which allowed users to contribute directly online.

“There’s an older mentality when it comes to fundraising, which is, ‘give it to me now,’ ” says Beth Kanter, a new-media consultant and blogger who has written extensively on the Twestival. “But that’s not good fundraising. When you leverage a social network, you can launch smaller, employ the best practices, and gain trust.”

Ms. Kanter has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity using her blog and a range of social networks, including Twitter. She says that many traditional nonprofits have been slow to adapt to the realities of the Digital Age. They hold out their coffers, and wait for the money to arrive, without realizing that an effective campaign is built carefully and incrementally using preexisting online groups.

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