Social Media Is No Silver Bullet for Fundraising

, 2011; Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy | All but 10 percent of nonprofits have a presence on one or more online social networks, according to the newly released 2011 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Survey. But fewer than 3 percent of the survey’s 11,196 nonprofit respondents reporting raising more than $10,000 through the sector’s most popular social network – Facebook – during 2010.

The 2011 survey is the third in an annual series sponsored by nonprofit technology advocates and consultants, Nonprofit Technology Network, Blackbaud, and Common Knowledge.

Marketing, not fundraising, is the most common nonprofit use of commercial social networks. However, 65 percent do use commercial social networks for fund development. Facebook has been the most popular platform for nonprofits to date, with 89 percent of respondents integrating its use into their organization’s overall communications. Second is Twitter, with a 57 percent adoption rate. YouTube is the third most popular nonprofit social networking platform, with a 47 percent adoption rate.

Among the organizations that raised over $100,000 through social networks in 2010, 30 percent have revenues between $1 million and $5 million. This suggests that a nonprofit does not have to be mega-sized to reap such benefits. There is, however, not surprisingly, a correlation between resources devoted to this activity and results.

It may be just a matter of time before internet-based social networks become a potent tool for fundraising. After all, on-line giving was once the new frontier, and now according to a new report by Cygnus Applied Research, most people of all ages prefer to make charitable contributions online.

In contrast, while nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population is aware of the two social networks used most prevalently by nonprofits, less than half of Americans are active users, according to a recent study by Edison Research. Its research via a national phone survey revealed that 44 percent of Americans use Facebook, and just 7 percent use Twitter as of 2010.

Are social networks not all they’re cracked up to be for fundraising? Or has their time not come yet? Tell us what you think.—Kathi Jaworski