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Survey: How NonProfit Organisations use Social Media

Posted on May 6th, 2011 by

Most popular social networks for nonprofits

Earlier this year NTEN, Common Knowledge and Blackbaud surveyed 11,000 nonprofit professionals on their use of social media. Their findings are summarized in a free downloadable report.

Here are some nice-to-know snippets which caught my eye, followed by my own observations:

Who uses what?

  • Most nonprofits (92%) use at least one social media network.
  • 89% of the nonprofits have a presence on Facebook (a 16% increase from 2009 to 2010 but just 3% growth 2010 to 2011). The average Facebook member community size is up 161% in 2011 to 6,376 members.
  • 57% of the nonprofits have a presence on Twitter (down from 60% in 2010). The average Twitter follower base is up just 2% in 2011 to 1,822
  • LinkedIn usage by nonprofits remains at 30%, with an average of 1,196 members in their network
  • 47% of the charities have a presence on YouTube.
  • [much to my surprise] Flickr‘s adoption by nonprofits is low (19% – down from 25% in 2010). Photo sharing seems to be more popularly done on Facebook, cutting into Flickr usage.

How do nonprofits manage their social media efforts?

  • Most of the social network efforts are “owned” by the communications department (17%), followed by Marketing (13%), Fundraising (13%), Programs (12%) and Executive Management (10%). It seems the department that most directly benefits from the social networking program owns the effort.
  • More than half (52%) of nonprofits have no formal budgets for commercial social networks. 36% reports an annual social media budget between $1,000 to $10,000. 17% uses a $10,000+ budget.
  • The vast majority of nonprofits (61%) has the equivalent of  1/4th of a staff member allocated to social networks, often a combination of several staffers’ time. 14% has none.

Why do nonprofits use social media?

  • “Marketing” (promotion, advocacy,..) is the primary role for social networks within nonprofits. About 75% of the nonprofits use social networks to “engage supporters” or “grow membership”.
  • “Fundraising” is a secondary goal: 65% of the nonprofits raise money via social media.

Are the social media efforts worth it?

  • 4 out of 5 (82%) nonprofits value their social networking efforts as “valuable”.
  • 58% of nonprofits report “soft benefits” (e.g. increased awareness, education, participation,…) of their social network efforts.
  • Only 9% saw a “hard return” on investment (such as increased donations or income).
  • Facebook is the most popular social medium to raise funds: Of the nonprofits on Facebook, 48% use it to raise funds.
  • But even so, large-scale fundraising on Facebook is still a minority effort: Only 29 organisations reportedly raised more than $100,000 on Facebook over the last year. These organisations have a much higher-than-average Facebook membership (almost 100,000 members), and allocate more staff to social media than others.
  • 73% of the nonprofits use “site visitors” as the most popular metric for evaluating the success of their social media efforts.

My own observations:

While social media are now widely adopted within nonprofits, it seems hardly any staff or budget is allocated to it. Add to this fact that, apart from fundraising, hardly anyone measures their real return on investment, then I can conclude that social media is still “a hobby” for many nonprofits. In other words, social media in the nonprofit sector is still in its infant stage: it is adopted as “useful”, but not adapted to the “business”.

This can now go in two directions: either nonprofits continue to see social media as a “nice to have”, but hardly well organised, OR nonprofits start to invest to make social media a core service for their advocacy, fundraising and community building.

As such, I predict that in the coming years you will see a clear distinction between the social media “hobbyists” and “professionals”. Only the latter will start reaping the true benefits of social media, but will have to allocate a hard budget and dedicated people to their efforts. They will have to adopt a strong strategy, and measure hard-returns, other than “merely an increase of followers or visitors to their website”.




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