Social Media Is No Silver Bullet for Fundraising

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, 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

  • Geri Stengel

    You rightly point out that online giving was once cutting edge and is now becoming the norm. Part of that evolution was that nonprofits learned how to make online giving available, easy, secure, and sent that message to their donors. So, too, with social media. Nonprofits themselves must learn to take charge of social media, to use, integrate, and manage it before Facebook or Twitter become mega-funding sources. For example, nonprofits must be able to provide consistent, quality, value-added content in order to attract and engage followers. It

  • Brady Josephson

    Very interesting. Social media and fundraising through it has been the next “gold mine” and while there is huge upside to be sure I am concerned about what it does to funding models. Gift catlogues, shopping style donations and 100% donation language will increase, I’m guessing, as they are “easier” ways to give. The worry is that these mechanisms are not always accurate and can put strain on other more traditional fundraising techniques and put the “overhead” question MORE into focus as opposed to removing it from the equation alltogether.

  • Nell Edgington

    Social media is not just about fundraising, and to evaluate its use simply on the metric of dollars raised ignores the tremendous power of the tool. For nonprofits, social media is about exponentially increasing the size and power of their network to advocate, to volunteer, to change systems, to change minds, and yes, to raise money. Social media helps nonprofits effectively and cheaply do so much more. Looking at it as simply a fundraising tool, dramatically limits the opportunity.

  • Ehren Foss

    Social media fundraising is not yet a full-fledged channel, like events, email lists, direct mail, and the donation form on a nonprofit’s website (which can be linked to from anywhere).

    Multi-channel approaches tend to do better, of course, because more tastes and demographics find the method of giving they are looking for.

    I think that social media fundraising should be an option: Is there a celebrity advocate? Hashtag? Something special going on? Figure out ways to reach out for donations when it makes sense on social media, but otherwise steer donors to your other channels.

    (By the way, HelpAttack! has some handy tools when those situations do arise…and they will)