Nonprofit Benchmarks – Social Media Continues to Grow but Email is Still on Top

M+R, in partnership with the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), recently released the 2014 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study  a look at data from a sample of nonprofits on email lists and messaging,  fundraising, web traffic,  social media activity and following, and online advocacy and/or programs.  The study can be downloaded from M+R or at the NTEN website and offers the opportunity to create your own infographic. Some highlights from the 2014 data,

  • Email list size for study participants grew by 11 percent, although growth slowed for all nonprofits except environmental groups.
  • Open rates increased across all types of emails – a 4 percent increase overall (an average of 14% in 2014). However, response rates for both fundraising and advocacy email declined.
  • Cultural groups had the highest open rate of any nonprofit sector at 20 percent, as well as the highest fundraising click-through rate at 0.70 percent and the highest fundraising response rate at 0.10 percent.
  • Website visitors per month increased 11 percent over 2013. However, the amount nonprofits raised per website visitor dropped 12 percent to $0.61 from 2013.
  • 76 percent of nonprofits surveyed utilized paid web marketing, with text and display ads the most popular methods.
  • Nonprofits continue to grow their social media audience (Facebook followers were up 37 percent, Twitter followers, 46 percent) but both pale in comparison to the numbers of email subscribers.


Nonprofits Report More Social Media Activity than Small Businesses

VerticalResponse conducted a survey of nonprofits and small businesses on their use of social media as part of their marketing and outreach efforts.   The responses indicate that more investment, in both time and resources, is being spent on social media than in prior years, but that there are challenges to keeping pace with the immediacy of mobile communications.   Findings include,

  • 40 percent of respondents spend 6 or more hours a week on social media tasks, with 61 percent reporting that they are spending more time on it than they did last year
  • 80 percent of nonprofits surveyed reported posting on Facebook more than once a week
  • 2.5 percent of respondents reported a decrease in their social media budgets, while 10 percent reported an increase
  • Content curation was the top challenge for both nonprofits and small businesses


Survey results are displayed and discussed at the VerticalReponse blog.

Still Scared of Social Media?



From Noise to Signal   (embed code wasn’t taking – here is the link to the original)


What is it about transparency that sounds so great in theory and gets all the heads nodding in strategy sessions but can make a nonprofit executive break out into a cold sweat as the launch or go-live date nears?  Is your social media presence suffering because of fear – fear of challenge,  of embarrassment, of attracting your very own internet troll?

Colleen Dilenschneider at the Know Your Own Bone blog soothes some of the anxiety felt by nonprofits around fully engaging in social media and adopting an open communications style with data and real-life examples in her post Trust your Audience: Data Debunks Nonprofit Social Media Fears.  When you hide your organization from online interactions you lose the ability to receive and discuss feedback,  build a reputation as an expert in your service area, and connect with those for whom social media is a primary source of information.

How did your organization face its fear of transparency, or has it?




Most Tweets Judged Unreadable. Do You Care?

If you are attune to the social media blogs I am sure you have read the findings from the Carnegie Mellon study that state only about 36 percent of tweets are worthy of being read. According to data gathered via their website, researchers from the aforementioned Pittsburgh university as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology, suggest that use of this social media outlet for blanket statements, personal details or to reply to another user diminishes the tweet’s (and the tweeter’s?) worth in the eyes of other users. In fact, data show that one quarter of all tweets are outright unreadable.

I don’t mean to sound snarkish but in the end, all of those supposedly unreadable tweets were read, right?

The plainly meant-to-drain-the-blood-from-the-faces-of-communications-professionals-everywhere bottom line of the study is that most tweets are lacking, somehow. Well, I can only speak for my simple Twitter-using self but thank goodness for that! If the majority of tweets were highly rated my stream might read, “refinance Youtube hotel consolidation fares Facebook student loans kittens porn” because apparently that is what a good chunk of internet users are interested in of late (or perhaps for always, SEO is not my forte).

The authors of the report recommend that Tweeters improve their worth by never revisiting old information, keeping “pedestrian details” to themselves, adding facts to tweets and ending the whines while engaging in lots of teasing. I am hardly a social media guru but I find myself sighing heavily when reading this advice. Luckily, there has already been some decent push-back on the study from people who are social media experts, Kelvin (KC) Claveria and Miranda Miller, who state their cases (here and here) rather eloquently. Personally, I am interested in hearing from nonprofit communication and marketing folk — what are your thoughts on this study?

Will you take these suggested improvements to heart? Do you have specific criteria for what makes a tweet worthy or unworthy? What, in your view, makes a (legitimate, not spambot) tweet unreadable?