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Allyson Kapin 6 min read

How Useful is Social Media to Nonprofits?

No matter where you look, social media is on everyone’s radar. The big question nonprofits ask is, how useful is social media? In an attempt to help nonprofits answer that question, Idealware, in partnership with NOI, recently released "The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide."

 According to Idealware’s survey of over 750 nonprofit staffers:

  • Almost 80% "think" that they reach new supporters using Facebook, Twitter, video sharing sites like YouTube, and blogging. However, only between 25% and 35% said that they could confirm that they are truly reaching new supporters via these social networks.
  • About 55% think that LinkedIn is a good source to reach new supporters.
  • Less then 40% think using MySpace to reach new supporters is helpful.

While many nonprofit staff were optimistic in hopes of reaching constituents and building better relationships with them via social networks, nonprofit staff clearly don’t think they are raising money through these channels.

  • Approximately, 40% said that they “think” that they are raising some money via Facebook and blogging. But only about 10% to 20% could confirm it.
  • About 30% said that they “think” they are raising money via Twitter, video sharing sites and LinkedIn.

"Most who have successfully used Facebook as a fundraising technique either use it as just one of many communication methods (like supplementing a direct mail and email campaign), or do very personal campaigns - for example, the [Causes] “birthday” campaign, where users ask folks to donate to a cause in support of their own birthdays," said the report.

Other tangible results include:


What else did the research say about Facebook and Twitter?

Facebook and Twitter are the most widely used social media channels among nonprofits. Here's some recent Facebook demographic information from July 2010.

Also noteworthy, of the 271 Facebook users and survey respondents, (38 percent) said they would probably look for a Facebook page for an organization with which they were considering volunteering. 43 percent of these respondents said they use Facebook daily.

Why are Nonprofits Using Twitter?

According to Idealware's small sample of about 69 nonprofit staffers, Twitter is used to learn about
new resources or keep up with specific issues, to post about what they’re doing, or to market themselves,
and often, all of the above.


Idealware asked respondents who were also active twitter users, how often they found information or took action about nonprofit causes via Twitter. The data revealed that while people may be hearing about nonprofits and clicking through to their websites to learn more, these people are also less likely to get involved by volunteering, taking action or donating.

As nonprofit campaigners have suspected and Frogloop has reported on, just because you have millions of followers, does not mean you are saving the world. The report concluded lots of followers "doesn’t mean they’re actually paying attention to what you’re saying. The only way to measure that is to look at how many people click on links, retweet your posts, or take action."

Photo and Video Sharing

36 percent of respondents said they use photo sharing sites and 49 percent of nonprofit social media users said they use video sharing websites. But only between 8 percent and 16 percent said they were using photo sharing and video sites as part of their social media strategy. Does this imply that only a small number of respondents think of these sites as an important social media channel? Are nonprofit staff primarily using photo sharing and video sites such as Flickr and YouTube to post photos and video online rather then to foster community?

How do Idealware's stats measure up to your own nonprofits social media statistics?



Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.