How Non-Profits Use Social Media to Engage with their Communities (via nonprofit quarterly)


A new study from the Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits, based on a survey of almost 500 nonprofits, helps advance the conversation around how nonprofits use social media to engage their communities. What is working and why?

To better understand how nonprofit practitioners integrate social media and online communications into their strategies, the Case Foundation in collaboration with Social Media for Nonprofits, created an informal survey to help advance the conversation around how nonprofits use social media to engage their communities. Close to 500 nonprofit professionals, who are involved with running their organization’s social media and online communications efforts, responded to the survey detailing their own methodologies and practices.

The answers proved to be insightful and revealing. From these responses, we’ve aggregated key takeaways, tips and tools that have proven most effective for them and shared them below. (See full results here, n=480.)

Email & Websites Still Rule: Nonprofits overwhelmingly (88%) said their most important communication tools were email and their websites, even though fully 97% of them are on Facebook. This may have to do with the fact that in their mind, the pinnacle of engagement is a donation (47%). Clearly, simply getting folks to retweet or comment (18% each) is helpful only to the extent it culminates in financial support, which still typically happens through a donate page.


More Focus on Social: Just about half our respondents had one or less staffers overseeing their social media efforts, and the remaining half was split between teams using a social media policy to guide their efforts, and those winging it. This is actually more upscale than Social Media Benchmark Study’s finding that most nonprofits only allocate ¼ of one full-timer, so it seems nonprofits are starting to allocate more personnel to their efforts. Yet lack of manpower is still the biggest challenge facing nonprofits, followed by moving beyond the “like” and transcending cute kitty photos.

It’s All About MoiWhen asked how nonprofits engage their communities with social media, most (74%) use social networks as a megaphone, announcing events and activities and sharing organization-centric info. Only 53% actually follow the best practice of posting issue-centric content to establish thought leadership in their nonprofit’s area(s) of focus. Clearly, the sector still has a long way to go on this front.


Managing What You Measure: Although Facebook Insights topped our list of the most popular social measurement tools/metric (70%), followed by number of Twitter followers (43%), fully 60% of our audience still believe that there is no benchmark for what an average engagement rate is on Facebook. 22% said 2-4%, but from our personal experience, only the most engaging posts from nonprofits with highly active communities can hope to attract those numbers.

So what does that mean for you and what can you do learn from your peers in the nonprofit space? Check out these four tips aggregated from survey responses:


That does it for some of the big takeaways from our first-ever social media engagement survey. Be sure tocheck out the companion piece on looking at survey results on engagement through social media and online channels.

View the full post on the Nonprofit Quarterly’s website>>

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