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.


The Non-Predictive, Un-Trend Post for 2014

What will 2014 mean for nonprofits?


A perfect tweet to read today. It captures the exact reason why my post on nonprofit trends for 2014 has languished in USB limbo for over 2 weeks: there’s nothing new there.

So, rather than bore us all with a rehash of nonprofit issues and their related buzzwords, I’d rather share a few areas I’ll still be watching in 2014 from the experts who write about them:

Mobile. Yes, again.  Again and always. And by now nonprofits should have integrated mobile technology (or at least seriously discussed the logistics of doing so) into their daily operations/service delivery.

Take care of your Boomers. They are still the largest and most varied group of givers. According to Blackbaud, Boomers prioritize local social service organizations and places of worship for their donations and give through multiple channels.  Carolyn Appleton sees this group as continuing to lead in their philanthropic roles in2014, including in the area of planned giving. Hint hint, planned giving has seen an increase in mobile activity.

Data, Privacy and Transparency. Nearly anything Lucy Bernholz writes is among the best you will find on the topic.   Interested in predictions for 2014? Start here.

Although not exclusively a nonprofit issue, Hack your (Professional) Lack. Sitting in a few of the sessions at Pittsburgh Podcamp 8, I realized that I had been so busy connecting with potential  clients and starting new projects in 2012 – 2013 that I had neglected to keep up with the new apps, products, and basic shortcuts that might make running my own shop easier.  I’ll be sure to make the time for my own professional development going forward, absent my go-to responses that it’s “a full-time staff of me, myself and I” *grimace* or “blah, blah, work-family boundarieeees” and every other excuse in the bucket.

What are your predictions for nonprofits in 2014?  What lack might you hack this year? 



Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)

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.

Bullying Research Taps into Technology

The popularity of social media as an outlet for communication is central to new research out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison that may lead to a deeper understanding of bullying behaviors.  The study uses algorithms and a language-analyzing computer to scan millions of posts from the social media platform Twitter, looking for certain words and language patterns that indicate discussion of, or actual, bullying situations.  This method has advantages over traditional surveying of school-age youth as it expands upon the number of data collection points (typically survey data is a one-shot deal) and may limit self reporting bias on such a sensitive topic.

To date, the study has found that posts about or conversations relating to bullying are not at all uncommon, with comments ranging from the general to the event-specific adding up to approximately 15,000 Tweets a day. The ability to analyze ongoing interactions , even at the group level,  has led to the identification of a new role in bullying besides victim and victimizer – the reporter.  The researchers hope to expand their work to include additional social network platforms in the near future.

This kind of research is exactly what is needed to inform innovative early intervention strategies for adolescents and promote resilience factors against social and familial stressors that may lead to high-risk behaviors.  Social media has only begun to influence the nonprofit sector, albeit mostly  through marketing and fundraising, but targeted outreach and intervention are not far behind.