Nonprofits and Social Media – No End in Sight

Backlash and second-guessing aside, social media use among nonprofits shows no signs of trailing off. In fact, some organizations are taking it to the next level by building their own online communities.

In early 2011, over 11,000 nonprofits participated in a social network usage survey sponsored by NTEN, Common Knowledge and Blackbaud. The respondents were asked about their use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, etc, as well as their own “house” social networks.

Results of the 2011 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Survey indicate that social media use by nonprofits continues to grow, with 92 percent using at least one public social network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). Nearly 90 percent of nonprofits reported having a presence on Facebook, with 57 percent of agencies on Twitter and 47 percent on YouTube. Over half (58 percent) of the nonprofits using social media are measuring their reach and engagement levels, while 9 percent calculate the financial impact.

Nonprofits without a presence on any social network claim a lack of strategy (60 percent), lack of budget (57 percent) and lack of expertise (36 percent) as the top three reasons why they have not yet adopted this marketing/fundraising approach.

The study has loads of interesting data, especially on the use of private social networks – communities hosted on a nonprofit’s own website – with 13 percent of respondents running these “house” networks. Are they the next step in nonprofit online engagement? Copies of the report are available for download at the survey website.

One Take on the Big Trends for Nonprofit Communications/Marketing in 2012

In the video above,  Vinay Bhagat, the founder of and chief strategy officer at Convio, discusses his 2012 predictions for nonprofits, specifically around marketing, communication and technology. He sees an increase in the overall influence of new (online) media and the rise of integrated marketing. In addition, peer to peer information sharing (you made it easy to share your message via various platforms in 2011, right?) will become a primary method of engaging supporters. It isn’t enough to merely have a good ask anymore, you have to affect, inspire and mobilize. Countering donor fatigue in a time of constant media messaging and management of the donor experience are also trends he sees as being key to nonprofits in the upcoming year.

His predictions are also posted at the Convio blog, The Connection Cafe.

What trend do you see playing a substantial role in nonprofit communications and marketing in 2012?


Nonprofits Realize Need to Mobilize to “Grow” Giving

A newly released report from Blackbaud, Growing Philanthropy in the United States: A Report on the June 2011 Washington, D.C. Growing Philanthropy Summit by Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shan, Ph.D., addresses the unpleasant fact that charitable giving in the United States has remained stagnant for the past 40 years. While methods of outreach, marketing strategies, and mobile communications have increased exponentially the level of giving remains the same.

The paper draws from the thoughts and research of over 30 nonprofit leaders who participated in the Growing Philanthropy Summit in June of 2011 . Their ideas on how the nonprofit sector can facilitate, if not outright cultivate, a higher level of philanthropic activity were classified into 4 categories,  including,

  • Enhancing the Quality of Donor Relationships: end separate departments and require much collaboration among teams, take a long-term view of fundraising, redefine relationships between nonprofits and donors, and integrate fundraising strategies; and
  • Identifying New Audiences, Channels, and Forms of Giving with Strong Potential for Growth: embrace monthly giving, define and adopt best practices in social media, connect with a younger demographic, and encourage for profit companies and their employees to drive their own philanthropy.

Analysis of the above themes and 2 others, plus over 40 recommendations on what the nonprofit sector can do to grow charitable giving are available in the report Growing Philanthropy in the United States at the Blackbaud website.

Maintaining Older Donors While Wooing the Young – The Grand Experiment?

Technological advances in communication have presented charities and not-for-profit organizations with both the golden opportunity and the daunting challenge of myriad methods to woo supporters and request and receive donations. There is not a finite set of rules for how to be successful at this, rather, it is a combination of having a well-crafted message, knowing your donor community, having the capacity to utilize more than one method at one time, and then trying, testing and tweaking your strategy. In short, it is a cycle of experimentation as you theorize and test what will work best for your nonprofit.

Much has been made of the divide between generations in the workplace, in politics and even in philanthropy (although some are not buying into it all). As far as internal motivation, there may be little difference it what inspires a 25-year-old to send your organization money versus his or her parent. However, recent data indicate that how they learned about your cause and the method of the gift is where the variations are more apparent (and telling).

The study The Next Generation of American Giving: A Study on the Contrasting Charitable Habits of Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Matures by Vinay Bhagat, Pan Loeb and Mark Rovner, examines how four generations learn of, engage with and give to their charities of choice. Highlights from the study:

  • Generations X and Y tend to be more random in their giving patterns while older generations follow a pre-determined, budgeted giving plan.
  • Generations X and Y are more likely to engage with a charity through their website than Boomers or Matures.
  • Responsiveness to direct mail declines steadily by generation (the younger the generation, the lower the response rate).
  • Peer to peer fundraising is increasingly accepted across all generations, especially with the rise of social media.

The complete report is available for download at the Convio or the Edge Research websites and includes statistical breakdowns of the responses and action steps to help integrate this information into your giving/marketing/communications plans.

How do you plan to keep your older donors while, at the same time, building a younger donor base? Have you begun this grand experiment?