Alyssa Sweetman Talks Fundraising on Twitch

Since COVID hit, we’ve all been looking for new and exciting ways to engage our donors online. One of the latest forms of fundraising is Twitch streaming, where nonprofits partner with influencers to launch third-party fundraising campaigns through live-streaming. Alyssa Sweetman, the Charity Program Manager at Twitch, joins us on the show to discuss live streaming and how nonprofits can work with influencers for digital third-party, peer to peer fundraisers. 

Alyssa explains that there is something for everyone on Twitch, and if you feel that your donor base is too old for the platform, think again. By partnering with an influencer on any platform, you are engaging with a whole new audience and introducing your cause to people who may have never heard of you before. 

Today on the podcast you’ll learn: 

  • What is Twitch, and what types of content are popular on the platform? 
  • How do you fundraise on Twitch? 
  • How do you find and approach influencers on Twitch? 
For answers to these questions and more listen to the full interview above or access the transcript below. 

Official Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Fundraising Superheroes podcast, a podcast celebrating non-for-profit organizations and all the people who are working to make the world a better place. As always, I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente and today's podcast, and every other podcast in our series is brought to you by Donor Engine. A true all-in-one nonprofit software built to help you save tons of time managing your nonprofit, managing your donor database, managing your volunteers.

Their software has a ton of different applications that will help you keep your donor database organized in the least amount of work possible. It's really easy to use, and you can get a free demo on their website at, so make sure you check that out. 

Video games and philanthropy, an unlikely duo that is currently taking the fundraising world by storm. Influencer fundraising is quickly becoming a hot topic in the digital fundraising space because it's fun, creative and works so well together.

Alyssa Sweetman joins us today to talk about one of the biggest streaming platforms, Twitch, and how your organization can start fundraising on that platform. Alison Sweetman specializes in strategy and execution of influencer and live stream charity fundraising targeting millennials and Gen Z. Many charities still rely on mailers or cold calls to engage their audience, but organizations must evolve their strategy to target new generations of digital consumers. Alyssa acts as a liaison to unite nonprofits and live streaming content creators. So thank you so much for joining us.

Thanks for having me. 

For those listening and who aren't familiar, can you explain what twitch is, how did you get into that platform in the fundraising space?

So Twitch is, and if you don't know what Twitch is, I highly recommend creating an account and spending 10 minutes on the site and interacting. But Twitch is a user-generated content platform for live video streaming. It started originally only allowing live streaming video games so you're seeing yourself as a camera and video games. So when people think of Twitch, they think of video games only primarily because that's what Twitch launched as. They really nailed it. It's much easier to moderate one type of content and over time they have opened it up to a wide variety of content.

So aside from video games, I've seen woodworkers. There's a woodworker in Australia or New Zealand if I'm certain, I think, Australia. And he's this really wholesome dude. He went viral from someone's gift. Somebody gifted subs in his channel and he was very, just "oh, man, you didn't need to do that. I just love hanging out with you all". And it was just this moment of sweet wholesomeness and he's woodworking like these huge logs.

And that clip kind of went viral. And it was just like, I want this person to be my best friend because he's so sweet. And so he's kind of blown up. But he woodworks and occasionally plays video games on Twitch. And then I've also seen, I discovered a blacksmith one time where they had like, a camera set up in their garage and a full blacksmith set up. There's fitness and cooking and vlogging and live ASMAR. So Twitch is really just a user platform or a service that allows folks to live streamed themselves doing activities. 

How I ended up working for Twitch's a little bit of an interesting thing where people are like, if you work at your hobby hard enough, maybe it'll be your job. Essentially, that's what happened. I discovered Twitch my last semester of college, started fundraising after discovering a group whose whole sole focus was on a stream and fundraise for nonprofits. And it's like, oh, this is really cool.

Didn't know I could do this. I could play video games, live stream myself talking and get people to give money to good causes, I'm in! Graduated college, started teaching second grade and continued my hobby through teaching very actively and left that gaming organization, you know, there's an ebb and flow to groups online. So when that kind of petered off,  I founded my own with some friends, and that's kind of how I met my boss is reaching out to Twitter saying "hey, can we get front page support?"

And when my boss is looking to expand his team, he reached out to everyone because it's such a niche thing, yet he reached out to everyone who was actively doing this in the space. And, you know, he inquired if I'd be interested in applying. And when I first saw this, I was like, "LOL" twitch. I'm a teacher. But I was like, you know what? I'll check it out. So I went through the process and I remember saying, like, I was just going through the interview process for curiosity I wanted to see the offices, but at the end of it, I was really excited by the idea. And then when I got the job offer, I accepted it within an hour. And it's been a wild ride.

It's something that I've never heard of before until I came across your website and what you do. So it's cool that you're now going around and spreading awareness for organizations like nonprofits to use that platform as a way to connect with their audience and also raise money.

Yeah, and I think what's really great is I spend a lot of time formulating this information and in a way that can be used on any platform, any platform with influencers, you can take this information and apply it. 

Do you think that Twitch is different from the other streaming platforms, like a Facebook live or Instagram live? Because even that story you showed the beginning of the carpenter, it sounds like it's very intimate and it's almost like you have a small family with your subscriber base.

Yeah. So I would say, you know, there's Facebook live, Instagram live, TikTok live, YouTube live. So I would say that every platform is different in the culture, each subculture. Facebook is so much more broad in the sense that it started as only a way to connect with people in social media and now, it's kind of expanded into this thing. This beast of some people get their news from Facebook, some people plan their events, have full communication through groups.

And now with the live streaming, it's not everyone on Facebook came to Facebook to watch live streaming. So I think it's different because you never know the people that are encountering, did they scroll by it really fast and then go back because they thought it was cool or maybe they wanted to just make a comment. But since Facebook is a hodgepodge of so many things, the people necessarily joining your stream maybe weren't intending. And so I think that creates a little bit of a high traffic situation but like less dedicated following base. 

Instagram is I feel a little more intimate in the sense that people, you're either watching someone's creativity or watching their life through a series of photos and the stories. And then when you do Instagram, live,  the part of you that you're sharing. You're continuing to share like a live format, but it's not long-form. Like you don't live stream on Instagram for hours at a time. It's usually fairly short, you know, an hour or less. 

And so I think it's different in the sense that when you live stream on Twitch , you typically go for four hours is usually the minimum when you do a live stream. So I think that's kind of the difference there. And with Instagram, discovery is a little bit different. And reading chat on Instagram live is extremely hard. It goes away very quickly. So if it's someone with a large following base, it can be really hard and it's all on your phone.

So there's no additional tools. And to be honest, I do not use the TikTok app. So I actually haven't gone and experienced TikTok live streaming. But my understanding is it's somewhat similar in the way that Instagram live is. So I think they’re all different based on the purpose for why people came to that platform to begin with, when you come to Twitch specifically, it's to look for a community or you're wanting to ask questions, whereas a YouTube tutorials say you're playing a video game and you get stuck in a part.

You can watch a tutorial, but maybe you've watched a bunch of videos and you're struggling to really grasp it. So you can go to a chat and say, I really don't understand how to do this, you know, and maybe they're able to show you, which is how some of my friends ended up on Twitch, they wanted to understand how to do something in a game, and they went and found a stream that was playing that game and asked them about it.

That's so cool. How do nonprofits get onto the platform and how do they fundraise on there? Because it sounds like it's very gaming heavy. So how do they create that community for themselves in that space?

So it depends. If I tell nonprofits that if they're nonprofit isn't about gaming, you're not going to create a gaming channel. Like, I'm not going to watch the American Cancer Society play Fortnight because they're not entertainers and they're not fortnight pro-players. They're nonprofit, and if I'm watching the American Cancer Society, I want their content to align with who they are. Also, rather than replicating what you think is popular, do something that's unique, but nonprofits don't actually need to even make an account on Twitch to raise funds.

It's all about working with the influencers and creating authentic relationships. So the average fundraiser is between 500 and 3000 dollars on Twitch. So it's not a huge amount. So your goal is to work with as many influencers as you can and it's not about having a Twitch channel. It's about being on a fundraising platform that's innovative. The one I talk about the most is Tiltify and I talk about justified because they don't have any sign-up fees.

It's zero to sign up as a nonprofit. And you if no one ever fundraisers for you, you never pay any dollars. So there's a zero cost to try it out and if it's unsuccessful you lost zero dollars. And that's why I talk about that platform the most. Their tools are also probably one of the better that I've encountered for live video. They also have an integration with TikTok and their tools are just really great. And so the one thing that I tell nonprofits is get on a fundraising platform where influencers are.

If you're using a really outdated fundraising platform or you have your own, if I go to the Wayback Machine and I look at a fundraising page from your nonprofit 10 years ago and I look at one today and they look identical, that's a problem. There's no innovation. There's no change. And we're constantly changing. We're constantly moving. The Internet is looking for the next best thing. And so a nonprofit should be nimble and sure be dedicated to the base that's used to that, but also start capturing people at a much younger age by making more innovative tools for them.

Or if you can't afford like you don't have the tech, tech is costly because it costs a lot of money to hire good tech people join a platform that is. And add that to your repertoire of fundraising tools that are available for folks. 

Definitely. So how do organizations find these influencers, how do they decide if an influencer is the right pair for them? 

So in the same kind of way that Birthday fundraisers, people who run 5k's. You don't look for this person like, you know, go to a shopping mall or wherever you might try to encounter to get people to sign up and say this person is buying running shoes, I'm going to ask them now. You ask everybody that walks by, "Hey, would you like to sign up for this 5K? Birthday Facebook fundraisers, all nonprofits did was Facebook said, hey let's create this tool and nonprofits signed up on it. They didn't even have to decide, and so I think when people hear influencer, they think of an influencer fundraises for them, it's a direct endorsement.

So my recommendation is always Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, whatever their platform that they're on is, look for their email address. Send them a short email. And when I say short, I mean, no scrolling needs to happen to read this email. And just be like, my name is, I work at here's how you can fundraise for us if you would like to have a chat or you have questions this is how you can get in touch with me.

They may not respond, but influencers don't want to send an email that says, sorry, I don't care about sick kids. It doesn't feel good to say no to a cause, iIt's the most uncomfortable thing in the world. That's why they have at the register. Would you like to donate or round up to support nonprofit? Because it puts you in a situation, in a public situation where you're like, yeah, OK, I'm not going to give a dollar to sick puppies or cancer research.

And so it's the same kind of thing where folks may not respond and that's OK. And if they don't respond the first time, you know, wait a couple of months and feel free to email them again, maybe the timing wasn't right. 

OK, yeah, because I think if I was in the nonprofit's shoes, that would be the most intimidating process is actually finding the influencers that you want to collaborate with. Do you think it's good for nonprofits to also be familiar with the Twitch space, you know, maybe view a couple of time streams to get familiar and reach out to people who they've seen work with other nonprofits or maybe have the same interests and values that they do?

Maybe hard to find someone with the same interest and values simply for the reason that there's no directory of I care about these important issues. And if they didn't talk about it on their social media or even if they did, you might miss it. So it's always email every influencer. I do absolutely caution going to any nonprofit's leader, board or fundraising page and saying and then create a list of people to hit up. It's very obvious. 

For example, St.Jude has a huge fundraising push in May every year and in June, all of those people get an email from several nonprofits saying, hey, I just saw you do the St. Jude fundraiser. And I had one specific influencer tell me when I get these emails, I feel like an ATM, like they're not taking into consideration that I lifestream, it's my job. And when I do a charity fundraiser, live streaming, I'm asking people not to give me money, to not pay me.

I'm going to work and asking not to be paid, doing extra work with the incentives, spending money on these incentives, and then also saying, all right, I will do these silly things. Please donate to this nonprofit. So there's a recovery period when folks do fundraisers. I think the really good goal is one per quarter, it gives you time to let your community recover financially, you should be able to recover financially. So nonprofits just keeping in mind that it's less about, hey, do a fundraiser on this date in this specific time.

I think that's one pitfall is when they work with influencers, they feel like they need to lock in the influencer to a date and time rather than saying, hey, do you think you'd be open to fundraising for us at some point in time? I'd love to stay connected with you in building that relationship. It doesn't have to be super in-depth. But that's also why I recommend that nonprofits hire a like a community manager. But because community manager is pretty specific to the gaming games industry.

I call it an influencer fundraising program manager because that's what they are, their program manager and they're focused on influencer fundraising. Letting them build those relationships and when a nonprofit is a faceless organization, it becomes a lot harder to connect with a person. We want people to be successful, and the most successful nonprofits in this space all have community managers or influencer fundraising managers and folks can name them. They know how to get in contact with them,  and when they go to conventions are the same people that have a beer with.

Yeah, so they're building a personal relationship with somebody from the nonprofit instead of getting just like a random email signed by the nonprofit and no specific person.

Yeah, absolutely. 

Do you feel that influencer marketing is going to become huge in the future of fundraising in the nonprofit space? Do you think that this is the future of fundraising in the sense that after COVID and in a few years time this is a direction that nonprofits are going to start to head into. 

I do absolutely, I think the number of people that are interested in going to overpriced galas or these auctions is going to get smaller. I've been to a few of those being in the space, and it always just felt like a bunch of people with a lot of money in a room usually much older than anyone interested in having a conversation with someone in their 30s.

And it's kind of like about waving their chequebook around, like they get excited to outbid their friends and things like that. I think those types of events will dwindle down, which I think is good because the amount of money it costs to put on a Gala, it's a little ridiculous. So I think online, the internet is super accessible, even more remote countries have the Internet now that I believe that influence fundraising and influencer marketing is really going to take shape because there's this level of even if it's not always authentic, there's a level of authenticity that influencers give off. 

They talk about their lives, they share a piece of them, they may cry, and it's a lot easier to be connected to someone who shares parts of themselves versus, say, yelling at Nicolas Cage in a movie theatre because he's going into the scary room where the killer is like there's no connection to Nicolas Cage. Like he's not talking on Twitter about the struggles in his life and opening up.

And so if traditional celebrity is like, hey, you donate to this organization, I'm doing this thing. Yeah. If some people can get something signed or something unique out of it they still work, but influencer fundraising is there's so much more connected. That connection is really what drives people to give money. 

Do you feel like it's a specific audience on Twitch? Is it more younger Gen Zers or is it a good mix of millennials?

Should nonprofits seek out the platform even if their donor base isn't just people under the age of like 30, let's say?

I think what's really fascinating is that, that's the first thing nonprofits say is "my donor base isn't on Twitch" and it's like I don't know about that. There's some grandmas and grandpas on Twitch that stream. There's surely the gaming grandma on YouTube who play Skyrim. So I think they want to believe that their donor base isn't there. So it in my mind, it's like putting up barriers, like there's no reason to do this because this type of situation, however, if none of your donor base is on twitch, great.

That's a whole new donor base to go after and it's tailored towards Millennials, Gen Z,  Generation Alpha is in middle school, not far off from high school. And the amount of media they consume, the amount of people they interact with, you know, work with them now. Don't wait until they're over 30 because who knows what the Internet's going to look like then. Who knows what nonprofits will look like then and who knows what will be important to them.

Right now if you can get a younger individual to be on board for a nonprofit and they really care about the cause and the nonprofits good about showing their impact, they have that person probably for the rest of their life. And if you can do that when they're younger versus when they're in their 40s, that's a lot more dollars. 

It's all about that long term investment and connecting with people on new platforms. 

Yeah, absolutely.

Well, thank you so much for joining us today. But unfortunately, that's all the time we have. For those listening, you can learn more about influencer marketing, Twitch and contact Alyssa on her website Elyssa also has our own podcast called The Influencer Fundraising Podcast, and it's linked in our podcast description box so you can access her website and podcast there. 

Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes.

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Podcast Jul 30, 2020, 12:00 AM

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