Aug 20

Bowing Out of Twestival Local (Sorry, Folks)

I had a big evil plan put in place for Twestival. I had Stephen from SureFire Promotions plotting music with with the awesome people from I had Drupal developers EmpoweredBy who built a sweet fundraising leaderboard for me and a logo by Dieter Erik von Schramm. After some issues coordinating with non-profits and volunteers, I’m going to have to bow out of this Twestival.

Why would you do that, Michelle? You crushed our dreams.
1.) I had a blast coordinating the last one, but I do think it took it out of me and I wasn’t able to deliver to my clients. Supporting non-profits is a good thing, but so is delivering to your customers. So is making a ton of money so you can pay lots of taxes and generate jobs. If there is anything I want more in the world right now, it’s a client or a full-time gig that lets me do what I do best, which is leveraging the online space to take care of and empower customers so they remain forever loyal to a company. I am tired of good companies not making it and tired of seeing people being laid off. I have a good amount of experience in both hardware and software marketing, and believe this is the best place for my energies to go.

I also found that volunteers were a bit stressed as they had full-time gigs too.

2.) I was unable to hand this to a non-profit who could see it through. Apparently that is against the nature of Twestival. I do not understand this, as the biggest shareholder in a Twestival Local taking off is the non-profit itself. I would think they could make it the most successful.

3.) I found that the non-profits I pursued had their own events coordinated, so I did not want to detract from their efforts by contributing to “cause fatigue”. People only have a finite amount of time and energy. The more events we have, the less time we can spend working, supporting non-profits’ ongoing efforts, or just chilling out.

If you are bummed about this, I’ll gladly pass the torch and give you my blessing if I feel that you are doing it for the right reasons. I genuinely don’t care how big or small you make it, so long as you are doing it because you are compelled to make a difference.

  • Amanda Rose

    The ethics related to why we can’t hand over the organization of a Twestival to a cause is pretty straightforward. This is about volunteers doing something independent because they feel passionate about the cause. I have turned away many causes who want to lead a Twestival because they would use it to leverage their own interests – I know it may be slightly different here, but ultimately it isn’t the format of these events and we have to do the right thing. If a cause ran the event, then they’d also miss out on half of the benefit – having the talented people of Austin coming in to work with them on their social media strategy, helping with their website or other areas the network can give input on.

    Michelle, you have done an incredible job with Twestival in Austin and until we get a team in place with the same calibre and passion, we’ll hold off until February for Twestival Global. But by the sounds of it, we may have a good team in place to lead the way next month. If you are interested in volunteering, then apply via and I’ll connect you!

  • David J.Neff

    You are making the right call. I think the people of Charity:Water have really dropped the ball on the way they treated you as their star volunteer in Austin.

    I see this as an important lesson for all non profits as well. I know I helped last year and it drove me crazy to see they stuff/hoops they made you do. This is a good call and we all support you on it.

  • David J.Neff

    Well at least they are reading your blog and responding. I will give them that. : )

  • Jim

    I think it’s easy to forget that there are precious few individuals like Michelle who can step-up to the plate for a cause and execute well. But directing your energies Michelle to keeping clients happy is a noble goal in business if there ever was one.

    However, am I to understand from Amanda’s comment that Twestival is content to stand by supposed ethics rules that will keep Austin Twestival-free due to sponsors possibly injecting their own agenda?

    I wonder if such strict adherance to rules is not a a classic case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and therefore the equivalent of discharging a large calibre firearm upon ones foot?

  • Michelle


    Charity:water wasn’t in charge of Twestival. It was all volunteer run, and for being volunteer-run, I can’t complain. The people at charity:water are completely amazing. Seriously.

    I can ask you to tell non-profits this: MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO VOLUNTEER AND SPREAD THE WORD FOR YOU. IF THAT MEANS INVESTING MONEY IN INFRASTRUCTURE, DO IT. The term non-profit should be eradicated from our vocabularies. It should be non-government organization.

    @jim. I have no issues with NGOs injecting their own agenda. If they are a good NGO, their agenda should be “raise as much money and awareness for my cause as humanly possible.” What’s wrong with that agenda?

  • Jason Stoddard

    I am disappointed, but I can’t say I blame you. Your position is/was a double-edged sword. Your visibility, credibility, leadership was supported by your direction and management of Twestival; it definitely opened some doors and some eyes, but at what cost?

    Looking back over the last 9-12 months… you managed to lead out on an event with no budget and raise more money than most of the communities involved; you’ve lost a sister and a best friend to cancer; you’ve turned 30; you’ve broken new ground in the social media space, especially in promotions (within industries often dominated by men, that for most is uncharted and unprecedented); you’ve run your own business with zero external support (and still managed to drive ROI for your self and your clients); and you managed not to get pigeon-holed. I’d say that is a remarkable year of transition and discovery. You’ve earned the right to say No and make hard decisions that serve your purpose.

    Now, don’t get me wrong… you’re still one of the most hard-headed, insufferable human beings I have ever met, but… :-)

    I let you down with Twestival. I set the commercial sponsorship expectation far too high and, in retrospect, probably should not have made that commitment.

    That said, I learned some things.

    1) People and businesses want credit for gifting and donations that goes far beyond their name or logo on a banner. One of the biggest choke points in corporate fundraising and sponsorship is non-deductible gifting. Especially last February.

    2) People want a direct, often, one-to-one connection/association with the cause they’re supporting. People are empirical– they want to see the proof of change they helped create, directly. Whereas no one would dismiss charity: water as a worthy cause, there are a number of worthy causes in our own back-yard that desperately need the awareness and network-effect to conversions that charity:water now enjoys. Especially last February.

    3) Reacting to this early feedback, I talked to Greta across my desk and asked if he would reach out to Glimmer of Hope via Glimmer’s Founder, Philip Berber–a friend of Greta’s. Philip was happy to help. My thinking was with Glimmer’s inclusion, those that supported Glimmer would support Twestival. Though this was not necessarily a false assumption, I realized that corporate donors and the more affluent ilk in Austin commit their support about a year in advance of an actual donation. And we were short on time to begin with. Especially last February.

    All in all, a year of transition. This decision and subsequent transition will not be the last and it is certainly not the first. Your intuition and judgment has propelled you this far, so don’t second guess it even when people tell you what you should be doing and who you should be supporting.

    Towards creative fidelity,

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