May 20, 2019
Nonprofits Continue to Outpace Business in Use of Social Media

July 27, 2010 — Social media have become “an incredibly important part of the communication strategy for U.S. charities,” according to a recently completed study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, with the largest nonprofits continuing to outpace businesses and academic institutions in their familiarity, use, and monitoring activity.

“These top organizations have found a new and exciting way to engage employees, volunteers and donors. They are connected and react quickly, as evidenced by responses to recent disasters,” according to the report from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research (CMR). “They have truly embraced social media tools in a way no other sector has.”

According to CMR, charitable organizations are still outpacing the business world and academia in their use of social media. The latest study (2009) found that:
  • 97% of charitable organizations are using some form of social media, including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging, wikis,and Twitter.
  • 65% of the organizations are blogging.
  • 42% say social media is very important to their fundraising strategy.
”While these organizations are best known for their nonprofit status and their fundraising campaigns, they demonstrate an acute, and still growing, awareness of the importance of Web 2.0 strategies in meeting their objectives,” according to CMR.

“The adoption of social media by charities is being driven by familiarity and their recognition of the increasingly important role of social media in today’s world. It is worth noting that 79% of those charities responding feel that social media is at least “somewhat important” to their future strategy,” according to CMR.

The new study, the third conducted in as many years, compares organizational adoption of social media in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by the 200 largest U.S. charities, based on a list compiled annually by Forbes Magazine. Seventy-six participated in each year of the study, making the research statistically valid, according to CMR.

The analysis that follows is based on detailed interviews with executives of the 76 charities that responded. Those that participated are diverse in mission, average gifts, and total revenue. They include some of the best-known charities in the country such as the Salvation Army, American Heart Association, Catholic Relief Services, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and American Lung Association. The participating nonprofits are geographically diverse with headquarters in most major US cities including New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco.

Nearly All Use Social Media

Seventy-five percent of the respondents in 2007 reported using at least one form of social media. One year later in 2008, 89% of them were using at least one form of social media. From 2007 to 2008, usage increased for every tool studied.

According to the latest study in 2009, 97% report using some social media tool. Social networking (96%) and Twitter (90%) are now the most common tools used. Sixty-five percent of responding nonprofits are blogging, making this group the most prolific bloggers of any type of organization studied by CMR.

Forty-seven percent of those with blogs use WordPress software as a platform.

Podcasting is up 10% to 36% and 30% are using wikis (up from 16% last year). Virtually all of those with a blog are using other forms of social media as well.

The use of video blogging was the fastest-growing social media tool between 2007 and 2008 among these successful charities. This year, the use of video dropped while social networking and Twitter increasingly dominated their social media activity. Charities also report a higher presence on Facebook (93%) and MySpace (30%) than other sectors.

Social Networking Has Overtaken Blogging

The social media that was most familiar to the Forbes 200 charities in the 2007 study was blogging with 62% of respondents claiming to be very familiar with it. One year later (2008) however, it was social networking that enjoyed the most familiarity with 70% saying they were very familiar with this channel, an increase of 21%.

In the latest study (2009), social networking continues to be the tool most well known with 88% of charity executives reporting high familiarity with it. Blogging also continued to be a tool they are very familiar with. Seventy-two percent described themselves as very familiar with blogging. Charity executives were asked if they were familiar with Twitter, the micro-blogging platform launched in 2006. A remarkable 87% reported being very familiar with Twitter.

The study was conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes, a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite Inc., a Seattle-based boutique research firm focusing on technology innovation in finance and banking.

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