You’ve heard the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of Facebook and social media for fundraising. Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. But perhaps, the greater question is one of expectations. We flirt before we date. We date before we propose. Likewise, maybe the accurate way to view social media is related more to courtship than to marriage. It’s the preamble to commitment.
We are still pretty captivated by the glitz and glamour of social media. However, even with its vast viral landscape of possibilities, it is not a panacea. It’s not replacing anything. It’s simply an additional tool—a way to enhance the impact, sophistication, and power of your organization’s communication plan. Since the beginning of time, nonprofits have recognized the importance of engagement and participation—the foundation of donor cultivation. Use Facebook and focused online social communities to update and turbo-charge those engagement efforts.
Think of it as the “new intimacy” of one-on-one constituent communication—a way to expand the reach and soften the touch of your development officers. Just remember to set reasonable expectations. Is money the only thing you’ll measure? Is there value in word-of-mouth, marketing or growing awareness of your mission? Because there’s no dispute over its popularity.
In a recent NTEN survey, almost 1,000 nonprofit professionals answered questions about their organizations’ use of social media. And they said loud and clear that they’re using it. Some highlights:
• 86% have a presence on commercial social media (74% are on Facebook).
• 81% said their primary purpose is marketing.
• 81% allocate at least one-quarter of a full time employee to social media management.
• The average Facebook community size is 1,369. (If you count the three big organizations the average skews to 5,391).
• The average Twitter following is 291; LinkedIn is 286, and YouTube is 268. And MySpace comes in at 1,905 members— though its popularity is waning.
Your constituents are on Facebook. Your competitors are on Facebook. And the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan said more than forty years ago. Only now, it’s the social medium. And Facebook, Twitter, and social activism sites like YourCause.com are not just about donations. They are very much about marketing your organization and engaging new supporters. It’s “interactive public relations.”
Thanks to this NTEN study, you can measure your organization against industry benchmarks. And, you can prove your success and relevance in social media in other quantifiable ways. Track the numbers of Facebook Fans and their demographics (via improved Insights reporting on Facebook Pages), the number of Followers and @ mentions on Twitter, and the click trends of short URLs in tweets. With donations dwindling in this tough economy, it’s important to keep supporters engaged, even with brief status updates of “what’s on your mind” and tweets about “what you’re doing.”
Ninety-five percent of nonprofits said they are either maintaining or increasing staffing resources given to social networks over the next year.
Everybody’s doing it. Make the commitment to building your community today.