Why social media isn’t just a megaphone for nonprofit news

Nonprofit management leaders need to make better use of social networks to create a dialog.
Date Published
04/23/2014

Fundraising is an interactive experience between nonprofits and donors. Individuals from both parties communicate to get information and come to an understanding why their relationship is mutually beneficial. Shouldn’t organizations’ social networking sites follow the same lead? A recent study conducted by the Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits took stock of roughly 500 professionals responsible for managing their nonprofits’ social networks. The results of the survey demonstrates a continued dependence on email and organizational websites to communicate with donors. In fact, 88 percent of respondents explained these two channels were the most important resources to create a dialog with their donors. However, social media provides a unique opportunity for nonprofits to reach out to donors.

Focus on fundraising
The survey¬†also found 47 percent of participants in the Case Foundation study believe the highest point of donor engagement is the act of contributing to a fundraising campaign or project. Without question, donations are the lifeblood of any philanthropic enterprise, and a contribution is a sure signal they are invested in a charitable group’s cause or program. However, it’s also important to create a connection with individuals throughout their relationship with a nonprofit organization.

Socially connected
For the 97 percent of nonprofits in the study that have a Facebook page, the majority aren’t socializing with their donors or other interested individuals as much as they potentially could. In fact,¬†74 percent use social networks as a mouthpiece for their organization. In other words, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages act more as community posting boards instead of forums to foster engaging conversations. Just 53 percent use these social outlets to post information about issues that are near and dear to donors, which puts nonprofits in a better position to strike up a dialog and establish themselves as thought leaders, according to Nonprofit Quarterly.

Step by step
Similarly, Impatient Optimists, the blog for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote that putting a single person in charge of a social media site, such as Twitter, is a good first step. Conceivably, this can be difficult, as nearly 50 percent of respondents in the Case Foundation’s survey have just one or fewer people in charge of their social media. Still, even just one person can accomplish a lot. For instance, the Gates Foundation blog recommended posting content to Twitter five days per week. Increasingly, this social network is a quick resource that donors can depend on for news updates regarding impactful issues or community events. With a dedicated staff member answering donors and developing a strong following on Twitter, nonprofit groups have a better chance of raising awareness and engaging individuals.

At the same time, being committed to social network communications is important to reassure donors and prospects that the organization is actually listening to them and interested in what they have to contribute – besides their donations. Nonprofit management professionals can also get a better understanding of how their contributors prefer to communicate with charitable groups, which helps them manage outreach efforts more effectively in the future.

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