Progressive political organization MoveOn has become known for its massive database of supporters who back the group's stances on issues such as gay marriage and wealth inequality. Historically, it has communicated with its more than 8 million active members primarily via email, often asking for monetary donations. Now the group, which was influential in its endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton during his first Democratic presidential primary run, is testing a way for people to give by "donating" their social-media accounts.
So far, only 235 members have agreed to allow MoveOn to commandeer their Twitter accounts to post messages using the "Donate Your Account" tool MoveOn has asked active supporters to sign up for.
MoveOn's members already serve as virtual megaphones trumpeting the organization's messages to their friends and followers.
But the tool it's turned to essentially removes a layer in the social sharing process, allowing MoveOn to speak directly to its supporters' followers. The initiative was launched about two months ago and employs DonateYourAccount.com, a free, open-source software application.
"This is a different way for people to donate in a way that really matters," said Benjamin O'Keefe, social and cultural producer for MoveOn, who said the group originally intended to build something similar to DonateYourAccount in-house until they learned a tool already existed.
"It's great when people can chip in and donate money, but not everyone can," he said.
The tool has been used in the past by some state affiliates of post-Obama 2012 campaign group Organizing for Action. Among the largest users of the technology is Strike Debt, an organization that encourages people to resist debt collection. That group has attracted 621 Twitter account donations and 13 Facebook donations, perhaps reflecting the fact that Facebook is considered the more personal of the two social platform giants. Unlike the OFA accounts, Strike Debt still uses the DonateYourAccount platform regularly.
The system does not give the groups using it any social-media login or password data. Rather, it serves as a platform for people to opt-in to let an organization post using their Twitter or Facebook accounts. They can choose to allow account access once per day, week or month. The technology was originally designed to help left-leaning radio show and podcast The Majority Report get the word out about its shows, according to Kyle Shank, who built the application in 2010.
So far, MoveOn has used the tool to disseminate posts opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and related fast-track authority. The group is still testing how best to use the donation system on a broader scale, he said, though Mr. O'Keefe said they'll probably use it for issues requiring a more immediate reaction from supporters.
"We will probably focus on using it for rapid-response campaigns," he said. One recent example of an issue well-suited to rapid response tactics is MoveOn's push to sever ties between Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and his former business partners Macy's and NBC following his derogatory remarks against Mexican immigrants. A MoveOn petition calling for Macy's to end its relationship with Mr. Trump garnered more than 733,000 signatures. Macy's said last week it will phase out sales of the Trump Menswear collection.
"That was an amazing representation of how social media can create some really rapid response moments that are really powerful," said Mr. O'Keefe, speaking via phone from South Carolina, where the group will hold an event fighting for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol.
Though the DonateYourAccount tool is not new, its potential adoption by MoveOn's millions of members could help the group propel its issues and hashtag to prominence on Twitter and Facebook, and eventually help the group's presidential candidate of choice. MoveOn has yet to endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary.