Nonprofits: Yes to Facebook & Twitter, Blogging…Not so Much

The latest snapshot of nonprofit social media use and strategy comes from a recently released report from Sage, a company specializing in software solutions for business and nonprofits.  According to first quarter data from their Nonprofit Insights 2012 survey, the majority of nonprofit organizations used social media (84 percent) and reported that that it was important to their organization’s overall mission (75 percent), with 46 percent indicating satisfaction with their social media outcomes.

Other key findings include,

  • The top 3 social media sites among those surveyed were Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
  • Just over 1/3 (35 percent) of survey participants used a tool  to manage their multiple social media accounts
  • 71 percent of the nonprofits surveyed indicated that public relations or creating “buzz” was their primary reason for using social media
  • Determination  of social media “success” was often through the number of  social media clicks, friends or followers (reported by 61 percent of participating nonprofits), although 17 percent link it to the amount of  dollars raised
  • Less than 1/3 (29 percent) of nonprofits blog

Download the report Sage Nonprofit Insights, Q1 2012 Social Media Study for additional survey data as well as social media tips for nonprofits.

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?


Well Done is Better than Well Tweeted (or you know social media but do you know your nonprofit?)

When I’m chatting with nonprofit professionals and the topic of social media comes up – which is inevitable given the nature of my work – I tend to respond to their concerns about if it is really “right for us” by waving the strategy banner. We rely on a sound strategy to provide the foundation for every other operational issue, why wouldn’t it be used to guide agency outreach, messaging and marketing via social media (or any other medium)? I mean, giving your social media activities a clearly defined purpose, measurable goals and parameters to guide usage just makes good business sense and lays the foundation for some very exciting exploration and expansion of how you communicate with stakeholders, donors, clients and potential supporters. Right? Rah-rah – let’s hear it for strategy!

But maybe I’m wrong.

While I pontificate on the need for organizations (nonprofit or otherwise) to have a well-formed strategy driving their social media, I may be missing a bigger issue. Actually, I am now convinced that I have been stepping over a rather large one in my eagerness to preach all that is holy about strategy and data and planning and feedback loops, and it is more critical than any strategy or metric. It is the question – do you know your nonprofit?

A post by Steve Olenski at Social Media Today captures the fantasy world that many businesses, and yes, nonprofits, are living in regarding social media and their bottom lines. If you have ever wondered why your tweets and Facebook posts have not led a steady stream of contracts, collaborators or donors to your door after six whole months, you may be falling into the same trap.  No tweet, no post, nor strategy, nor social media expert can make up for a product, an event, or a fundraiser that, for whatever reason,  misses the mark. Are you certain that you are hitting yours ?

So, do you know your nonprofit? Not the mission statement, or the goals set for 3 years from now or the buzz words from the branding session held at that board retreat a decade ago – do you know the here and now of your organization?

  • What sets your organization apart?
  • How are your services different from,  and a level above, what is offered elsewhere?
  • How have you changed the lives of clients and families and what might have happened if you were no longer providing those services?
  • How has that impacted upon your community/city/region?
  • What does your presence and your “product” mean to the community?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is important to them?
  • Why should they care about what you do?

Services, advocacy and education are the products of nonprofits, particularly those in the human and social services field. Their quality and effectiveness are, and always should be, priority one. Social media comes second. Before you revise your communication and marketing strategies because of disappointing numbers, revisit the heart and soul of your nonprofit – those you serve, how you serve, those who support you and why (or why not!).  Take time to reflect on what is happening in that intersection.  Discuss this reflection (and any tweaks you think are advisable) with other leaders in the organization rather than plan how quickly you can hit the 5,000 followers/likes/+1  mark. The better you know yourself (your organization) the better you will use social media to communicate and connect based on who you are, as well as what you do.