June, 2011; Source: Idealware (free with registration) | For nonprofit staff members working with limited time and money, the lure of Facebook’s 500 million users and the possibility of what even a fraction of that total number could do for their organizations is hard to resist. Last February, Idealware, a nonprofit that conducts research and evaluation on software, surveyed 505 nonprofit staff members about their organization’s Facebook strategies. The study reveals that the majority of the respondents had success with Facebook in attracting new event attendees, driving traffic to petitions and websites and building general awareness about organizations.

In a finding that is in keeping with Idealware’s past work in this same area, the survey also reveals that only 29 percent of respondents saw an increase in donations to their organizations as a result of Facebook.

In structuring the survey, Idealware focused on how much time organization staff members were spending on Facebook and whether these individuals had set goals or were measuring outcomes. According to results, 36 percent of respondents had set goals for their Facebook strategy and of those, 40 percent had success. On average, respondents who reported success spent about 2.6 hours per week on site maintenance.

The study also shows that only 40 percent of respondents indicated that they’d had success converting their organization’s Facebook “fans” into actual donors or volunteers. Many of the respondents who had success with fundraising indicated that they’d used the Causes.com application, but some reported being frustrated with recent changes to the interface.

While Idealware found that “a slim majority of organizations found success encouraging people to take advantage of their services,” they also found that only “40 percent felt that Facebook helped them to understand their constituents better – implying that their organizations may be doing most of the talking on their Facebook pages.”

Idealware also includes six qualitative case studies from nonprofit organizations that have experienced success as a result of Facebook. As one example, Canada’s Pathways to Education/Mosaic Counseling and Family Services, which works to keep at-risk high school students in school, recently set up a targeted Facebook group to communicate with students directly “which led to an enormous time savings.”—Anne Eigeman