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.

Mini-Trends in Social Media Use in Advancement


The Third Annual Survey of Social Media in Advancement conducted by The Council for Advancement and  Support of Education (CASE),  Michael Stoner, and Slover Linett Strategies indicates college advancement offices are becoming much more comfortable with social media as a tool for outreach and engagement – and even a little fundraising.  The report presents the results of their most recent survey on social media use by institutions and was conducted electronically with a random sample of members of CASE.

Some findings:

  • The main goal ( in use of social media is alumni engagement (reported by 83 percent of respondents)
  • Facebook is used by nearly every institution surveyed (reported by 96 percent)
  • Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube experienced a reported increase in use, and 50 percent of responding institutions were integrating social media into their campaigns
  • Less than a quarter (just under 22 percent) of respondents consider their social media efforts “very successful”


Additional discussion on notable changes in the role of social media in advancement since their first survey in 2010, and case studies on crowdsourcing, alumni events and a little friendly rivalry among college fundraising campaigns are included in the report –  available online at the Slover Linnett website.

Social Media as a Component of Recovery

Last year, the report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the National Survey of American  Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, suggested a link between regular use of social media and drug and alcohol use among teenagers. Researchers found that teens who used social media as part of their daily routine were more apt to use tobacco (10 percent compared to two percent), alcohol (26 percent compared to nine percent) and marijuana (13 percent compared seven percent).   This data could be used to classify social media itself a risk factor for youth substance use, although a more nuanced view of the correlation may view it as another avenue of media messaging and peer interaction, rife with the potential for positive or negative outcomes.

A paper recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association focused on this duality in reporting preliminary findings on the potential of social media to influence drug and alcohol use in adolescents and teenagers.  Survey data from the small sample of youth in substance abuse treatment showed the majority (66 percent) reporting that social media content regarding drugs stimulated their desire to use them. However, less than ¼ of the sample had accessed or posted content on Facebook or related social networking sites related to recovery or sobriety – a telling gap in the use of social media to promote and facilitate recovery.

Youth drug treatment programs must move to harness the power of social networking and digital media as a part of the recovery process and culture – innovative use of technology in the behavioral health and social service sectors should not be limited to donor cultivation and marketing.