How to make the new Twitter profile work for your charity

The new Twitter layout brings new opportunities for using images. But the size and shape of images required, especially for the header, is tricky to get right. Should you stretch your logo (er, no), use a generic photo library background or search for a single picture which tells your story? There are still lots of organisations and people who haven’t made the switch yet, let’s look at some who have.

Using the profile for an appeal or campaign

This example from @OxfamGB uses one very powerful image (of a person looking directly at us) alongside a red banner about the appeal and JustText Giving details underneath. As Twitter is not traditionally used for fundraising (see previous post on donating in 140 characters), the header presents a brilliant opportunity. Oxfam could reinforce the header by pinning a tweet about the appeal so it appears at the top of the page. This would drive more traffic as nothing in the profile space is clickable.

Oxfam GB: powerful image of a face to support their South Sudan appeal

Child’s i Foundation are using their profile to promote their latest fundraising campaign. The pinned tweet works well here especially as it uses a different but similar picture.

Child's i Foundation - profile promotes their fundraising campaign. Strong picture.

Alzheimer’s Society are using their header to promote their latest campaign, Don’t bottle it up. They have included their #hashtag and link.

Alzheimer's Society: Don't bottle it up campaign text and image

Other examples organisations using the header for fundraising or to give information:

One strong image

It can be difficult to find one strong image, especially one which tells a story, is easy for everyone to understand and works in the letterbox shape (1500 x 500 pixels).

Mencap use one strong positive image of a man and boy, both smiling. This complements their friendly bio (‘Hi, we are Mencap. Everything we do is about valuing & supporting people with a learning disability, their family and carers’).

Mencap: strong image of boy and man smiling

What does your picture say about you? A photo of a single person works well as a fundraising persuasion tool but this is social media so maybe your image should be a reflection of your inclusion? There are a few examples of this such as this one from Parkinson’s UK and The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Parkinson's UK: big happy group wearing branded t-shirts

Play to your strengths. What images do you have which you know work well? For example Guide Dogs use puppies.

Guide Dogs: three black labrador puppies

Other examples of one strong image:

But what if you don’t have a stock of strong pictures or your cause doesn’t lend itself to a photo? A graphic can work. Refuge here uses a repeated image from their logo. Lighthouse, a suicide prevention charity in Belfast use a google map showing their location. Headway East London use a painting.

Refuge : tiled graphic

Your strong image doesn’t have to be serious, it can be cheeky like Beating Bowel Cancer‘s.

Beating Bowel Cancer: group posing with plastic bottoms

Finally, museums, galleries and heritage organisations have an amazing opportunity to showcase their collections as this example from the Imperial War Museum shows.

IWM - using a painting of WW1

If you are using one strong picture, think about how often you will change it and where else it appears. Will people get tired of it after a while? How many other places it is appearing? It may be useful to use one image across your social media channels and change them to something else all at the same time. Or have one strong image per channel and use this permanently.


  • Check that your header image works well at 1500×500 pixels. Does it tell a story? Is it cropped in the right way and uncluttered?
  • Make sure that the image and / or text is not blurry or pixelated. Start with a big picture and reduce. You can’t make small pictures bigger – you’ll lose definition.
  • Check that your logo / profile photo doesn’t obscure anything important in the header. (For example in the Guide Dogs example above, the logo slightly obscures a puppy’s nose.)
  • Is your logo / avatar clear at 400 x 400? Does it still work when reduced to tweet size?
  • Check how your image appears using different browsers / devices etc. You don’t want to do a Good Morning Britain. Images can look subtly different but enough to stop them making sense / working as well. For example, look at Samaritans’ profile – in the web version, the woman’s eyes are oddly cropped out but in a list of profiles, they appear!

Samaritan's - image cropped too close

List view - Samaritans picture is bigger revealing the woman's face

Useful links

Share your favourite examples

What examples have you come across which have inspired you (in a good or bad way?) What have you learnt about using the new-look Twitter? Please share your comments here.

Can I help you?

Please also get in touch if you’d like me to help you with social media. I am a freelance web editor and trainer and can help give your digital communications a healthcheck and ideas injection.




‘Please donate’ in 140chars?

Does your charity ever tweet general donations asks? Should your organisation capitalise on it’s healthy social community by reminding them to donate or would formally asking this way alienate them? Here’s some food for thought to help you work out whether tweeting asks is right for you.

Strategically not asking?

This morning’s Social Brands 100 report listed Dog’s Trust as top charity. This tweet appeared as part of the launch event (text: From the beginning @dogstrust decided not to fundraise through social media but to build their community).

Dogs Trust don't fundraise through social media

Dog’s Trust are masters of using the right content on their social media to grow and engage their community. To date, they have 82,400 followers on Twitter and 517,000 Facebook likes. They generally tweet / post about events, pictures of cute dogs as well as passing on messages from people fundraising for Dog’s Trust.  But no direct appeals for donations.

A very quick straw poll of five random charities on Twitter found that in the last four days, none sent a please donate tweet. The only fundraising-related tweets were one justgiving request and one promo for a raffle. These were charities with significant numbers of followers (from 6000 – 719,000).

Asking as part of appeals

Generally, direct asks tend to relate to an appeal and invite a donation via text such as these two examples (from the British Heart Foundation and Epilepsy Action).

BHF ask - Mending Broken Hearts Appel

Epilepsy Action - text giving tweet

General asks

The only general, out of the blue ask I found was from Providence Row (again for text giving). Lovely language: “If you’re feeling generous today, please consider donating…. Sending good vibes your way”

Providence Row - text donation ask

Reasons for not tweeting asks

So, tweeting an ask is not common practice, but why? I asked this question on UKFundraising’s LinkedIn group recently and got some interesting thoughts about why it wasn’t done:

  • Organisations don’t have a large donor following on Twitter so they believe it wouldn’t generate much income or response.
  • They ask their donors/supporters so much by other channels that they don’t want to over ask and ‘switch’ them off
  • Other departments other than fundraising control the charities tweets and prefer to use them only for non fundraising uses
  • Twitter feels more like a friendly chat over the garden fence and not really the place to make a direct ask. However, it’s a great place to let people know about charities or even a particular appeal (with a link) and they can then decide for themselves if they want to get more involved.

One person said “its important to firstly build up and engage with followers by tweeting on issues of interest to them rather than using it solely for fundraising requests. A constant stream of straight donation requests is likely to lead to people un-following.”

So other than practical internal control of social media, concerns were about turning people off. Is this realistic? Surely people who follow charities through social media know that they rely on donations to survive and will tolerate and could even act on the odd request for money? Are we just being embarrassed about asking? Are we missing a trick by not tapping into this warm audience?

How do YOU feel as a follower?

As a consumer of charity tweets, do you ever see general ‘Please make a donation’ tweets amongst all the others? How do you feel about these? Do they make you want to give? Would you un-follow?


Think about your twitter / social media strategy (if you have one):

  • Is your policy based on when you were growing the community rather than now it is established?
  • How do you know what your followers want and don’t want?
  • Have you asked them what they want? (See this twitter survey from English Heritage)
  • Have you tried asking for a donation? (See what happens and use tracking to count donations / page hits / unfollows etc)
  • What does success or failure look like? If 1% of your followers donated £5 and 1% un-followed would this be ok?

I wrote this KnowHow NonProfit guide: How to use Twitter for fundraising which has some tips about writing, timing and technical giving ideas.

What do you do?

Do you tweet asks? Does it just not work? What frequency is ok (once a month / once a week?) Please share your views and experiences here.