A Beneficial Way for Nonprofits to Network

a guest post by Cassandra M. Chiamis, The Jenn Lee Group
Most companies and organizations want as much marketing coverage for as little money as possible.  Well, who wouldn’t?  Social media allows businesses to easily access huge numbers of potential and existing constituents at little or no-cost.

Social media is driven by word-of-mouth, one of marketing’s most powerful tools, so why aren’t more nonprofits getting involved in this spanning media outlet?  There are several major nonprofits engaging in social media such as the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, and City Year. However, smaller and more localized nonprofits have yet to understand the benefits and effects of using social media and therefore are in disconnect from this growing market.

There are three major benefits for the nonprofits that use social media:

1.   Growth in online revenue:  Online revenue has grown about 50% since 2008

2.   The target market prefers to contribute via the web:  70% of the “Wired Wealthy” has claimed they would rather submit donations online

3.   More effective form of communication:  This market doesn’t want to be advertised to, they want to be connected with

Online Revenue Growth

A recent report, released in March 2010 by Blackbaud, a software and service provider for nonprofit organizations, has shown that online revenue has grown 46% from the year before.  Accordingly, nonprofits have reported a 65% increase in online revenue compared to 2008.  These nonprofits also had a 21% year-over-year median growth rate in online revenue.(6) That is a considerable amount of available and possible donations that any nonprofit not using social media is missing out on.

In 2009, Epic Change created “Tweetsgiving,” which used Twitter to raise over $11,000 in just 48 hours to help build a classroom in Arusha, Tanzania.  Over 98% of the donors had never donated to Epic Change before. (7) Another example of a successful campaign using social media was “Dollars for Darfur” which raised almost $150,000 in 2007 to help stop genocide in Sudan.  The Facebook group currently has over 5,000 student members and over 22,000 “likes”. (3)


Target Market Expectations

A research study administered in March 2008 by Convio, a fundraising software and research company for nonprofits, revealed background information about nonprofits’ broad target market that’s already using and donating to nonprofits online.  The study surveyed more than 3,000 donors from 23 major nonprofit organizations who donate a minimum of $1,000 annually to a single cause.  These donors are considered the “Wired Wealthy”.  The surveys revealed the demographics of this Wired Wealthy market: 25% of those surveyed were found to have household incomes above $200,000 per year, were predominantly baby boomers, have been using the Internet an average of 12 years, and were online an average of 18 hours per week.  This market pays bills, banks, gets their news, and makes purchases all online.

The Wired Wealthy, for the most part, want their contributions to be instant and efficient.  51% of those Wired Wealthy surveyed said that they would rather make their charitable contributions online versus through the U.S. Postal Service.  Their reasons are speed, efficiency, and instant gratification.  70% of Wired Wealthy explained they would rather contribute online because it allows gift giving to be immediate and when it is on their mind, which otherwise, they might forget.(1)

Effective Communication

The Wired Wealthy, like most consumers today, want to be communicated with, not just spoken to.  They are tired of constantly being advertised to, they want to be engaged with; they want the companies to understand and connect with them.  Social media allows organizations to engage with their viewers by reading what their target market is talking about and responding as a company.

Nonprofits, similar to other businesses and organizations, can reach their market using social media simply by joining in on the right conversations and engaging in what’s important to them.  “Communications is about reach.  Communication is about relational dynamics between people.  Social media provides the means to effectively communicate with [the target] market.”(2)

If nonprofits engaged with their target market through social media they would be connecting with them in a way that this market wants to be connected with, therefore making them more aware and active with the organization.

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  1. Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research (May 13, 2010).  The Wired Wealtlhy: Using the Internet to Connect with Your Middle and Major Donors.  http://my.convio.com/?elqPURLPage=104.
  2. Deragon, Jay. “Why Use Social Media.” Web log post. The Relationship Economy: Technology and the Human Network. 04 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 May 2010. {http://www.relationship-economy.com/?p=6617}.
  3. “Dollars for Darfur.” Save Darfur. Web. 13 May 2010. http://www.savedarfur.org/pages/sitemap.
  4. Horrigan, John. Cities Online: Urban Development and the Internet. Rep. Pew Internet: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 1 Nov. 2001. Web. 14 May 2010. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2001/Cities-Online-Urban-Development-….
  5. Lenhart, Amanda, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr. Social Media and Young Adults. Rep. Pew Internet: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 3 Feb. 2010. Web. 14 May 2010. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx.
  6. MacLaughlin, Steve. “2009 Online Giving Trends.” Web log post. Blackbaud: Connections. 4 Jan. 2010. Web. 14 May 2010. http://forums.blackbaud.com/blogs/connections/archive/2010/01/04/2009-on….
  7. Monk, Stacey. “Twitterville Notebook: Stacey Monk, Epic Change.” Interview. Global Neighbourhoods: Following Social Media Wherever It Leads. 25 Mar. 2009. Web. 13 May 2010. http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2009/03/twitterville-notebook-stacey-….
  8. Wilkins, Donna, and Mark C. Davis, comps. Making Event Participants More Successful with Social Media Tools: White Paper. White Paper. Blackbaud, Feb. 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. {http://www.blackbaud.com/files/resources/downloads/WhitePaper_EventParticipantsSocialMedia.pdf}