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Mott Uses Twitter to Grant People More Access to Its Work

Nothing goes staler faster on the internet than yesterday’s news.  In our age of “immediacy,” people want the latest information — and as it happens.

So, in an effort both to feed that appetite for the latest news and to learn how to use new forms of digital communications to broaden awareness of its work, the C.S. Mott Foundation is experimenting with using Twitter to provide people the latest information about grants it is making. As a result, anyone following “@mottfoundation” on Twitter these days will see announcements of grants almost as soon as they are made.

Because Twitter limits the size of messages — or “tweets ” — to 140 characters, the grant announcements also provide a link to the foundation’s website for more detailed information.

The idea for the Twitter feed grew out of a brainstorming discussion between Mott’s communications and IT teams about ways in which Mott could make better and effective use of new communications technology.  Gavin Clabaugh, Mott’s Vice President-Information Services mentioned that a Twitter feed of Mott grants might be an interesting way for the Foundation to explore online social networking.

Having a grants feed on Twitter grows out of Mott’s long history of providing information about its work and grantmaking to the general public.  Mott’s communications efforts stretch back nearly four decades, including publication of comprehensive annual reports.  It first published comprehensive information on individual grants beginning in the late 1970s, and Mott was one of the first foundations to offer a searchable grants database on its Web site.

“We have been giving a great deal of thought about how to use social networking sites to further the Foundation’s and its grantees’ work.  Twitter was a logical first step—if you will, a toe in the water,” explained Marilyn Stein LeFeber, Mott’s Vice President-Communications.

Here’s how the feed works:

Once a grant is approved, information about the award is uploaded to the Foundation’s Web site. After that, a brief description of the grant – more like a headline: Mott grants Southern Echo, Inc. $258,000 for the Intermediary Support for Organizing Communities – is sent to Feedburner, an internet service that distributes web content through a variety of channels. Then, using another service called Twitterfeed, the grant description, including a url linked to the foundation’s website, is sent out to anyone following Mott on Twitter.

The Foundation plans to assess the value of using Twitter to distribute news about its grants by tracking the number of people who receive Mott tweets along with how many times they click through to the website for more information.  In addition, the Foundation shortly will be adding tweets about other content posted to its Web site via its Twitter page.


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