The energies of advertisers, politicians, and fundraisers have been focussed on social media for the last five to seven years. And largely for good reason. According to ComScore.com, computer users have doubled their time on social media sites since the summer of 2007, now spending some 16% of their online time in social media. Facebook unique visitations can be measured in the millions, while unique visitors to Twitter, Flickr, etc., are in the hundreds of thousands (and growing).
But do growing looks and extended times on social-media sites translate into fundraising? Can social media eventually replace not only traditional media but such must-haves (ca.2005) as websites and real offices to meet people? A number of SM thinkers have pored over the statistics and mostly argue ‘No’.
Social media must be a integral part of your organization’s outreach – but only a part.To be sure, even an energetic presence on Facebook can not replace a dedicated website. Your organization has only so much control over how your information is presented, and – tough though this may be to believe at this moment – Facebook might not last forever. Saving and transferring your Facebook site to the next new thing (Google+ anyone?) will surely be somewhere between difficult and impossible
Social Media as means to raise funds is a wonderful ingredient, but the numbers suggest social media are the salt-and-pepper in the stew, not the beef. Blackbaud), “nine out of ten nonprofits (89%) have a presence on Facebook – up from 74% in 2009. By comparison only 70% of small businesses use Facebook as part of their online strategy.” Nevertheless, only 2.4% of non-profits were able to raise over 10k through Facebook in 2010.(itself a blog at
What social media has done well, is to get the word out of specific projects and fundraising needs, and to draw people toward the more ‘traditional’ media of websites, mail appeals, and community gatherings/events. And in this dynamic, social media serves up an excellent way to make people aware of your organization’s work, and to get them to click through to more information and calls to action.
A final myth – one thatbefore – is to envision ‘free’ social media as, well, free. Staff time and/or investment in a communications/marketing bureau cost money, and the whole dynamic of social media requires ongoing participation of your organization.
But these myths tend toward the unaware. Social media are the growing expectation for clients, donors, volunteers, and nonprofit staffs. Just don’t use them naively. Have reasonable expectations, invest in longer-term plans for your outreach, and work with those best able to bring success to your efforts.