Is Your Nonprofit Missing the Point of Being on Social Media?

Don't Use Social Media as a Placeholder

Older woman using social media on a tablet.
Social media cuts across the generations. MoMo Productions/Stone/Getty Images

We are years into the social media revolution and nonprofits still miss the point. 

That is the message from the Nonprofit Social Media Scorecard, by Dunham+Company and the Marketing Support Network.

Despite all the advice available on the Internet, through webinars, books, and the shouting of various consultants, it appears that nonprofits have only gotten part of the message about social media.

Here's what I found shocking about this study:

  • 100 percent of nonprofits surveyed use FB, but only 58 percent link to their FB page from their website homepage.
  • Although 85 percent of nonprofits use Twitter, only 55 percent link to Twitter from their homepages.

The report calls this a "big miss."

Another big miss is that 76 percent of nonprofits do not put social media share buttons on their post donation web pages.

When one huge nonprofit, the American Red Cross, surveyed its donors about social media, 40 percent said they would share or be likely to share about their donation on social media if that option was available and easy

Couple that finding with the fact that 17 percent of respondents to the Red Cross survey said they gave because of a message or post on social media.

Business Social Media Engagement Way Ahead of Nonprofits

The Social Media Scorecard cited other studies of consumer behavior that found customers have high expectations for engagement on social media sites.

When these customers interacted with a brand, they wanted some reaction and quickly.

For instance, 32 percent expected a response within 30 minutes, 42 percent expected a reply within 60 minutes, 67 percent expected a same-day response. 

Almost 100 percent of commercial customers expected a response within a few days, and 57 percent expected the same response time at night and on weekends as during regular business hours.

However, in the Dunham and Company survey, 55 percent of nonprofits said they do not respond at all to questions on Twitter and 49 percent did not reply on Facebook.

Supposedly nonprofits are on those social media channels because they want to engage with their supporters.

So, why aren't they engaging?

Which comments got the worst results from nonprofits? Questions and comments submitted after donating to the organization! Only nine percent of nonprofits in this survey responded to those concerns.

Maybe nonprofits should adopt more business-like attitudes. Most companies do respond to customers, some very quickly. Others take longer. However, most do respond. 

The upshot of this report is that nonprofits are so missing the boat with social media.

There is an enormous difference between being on social media and engaging on it. Social media is not a business card just sitting there. It is a dynamic, living process.

It’s as though nonprofits have gotten one message: we need to be there. However, they have not received the message: we need to be active on our social media.

The authors of the Social Media Scorecard put it this way:

"It is time to rethink why we create content and what the follow-up plan should be on social media channels. The nonprofit sector has plenty of room for improvement in the areas of genuine engagement and response across these platforms."

How Can Nonprofits Get Better at Social Media?

Fortunately, Dunham and Company provided a bunch of best practices in their report, such as: 

  • Don't try to be everywhere. Choose your platforms carefully according to where you supporters are. Less may be more. Scattershot responses achieve nothing. If you have just one or two social media presences, it will be much easier to monitor them and respond.
  • Social media is not just marketing. So make sure your development people and marketing folks work together to keep those media channels humming. Marketing implies a one-way communication. Socials media must be a two-way street.
  • Don't duplicate messages across all platforms. Treat each one differently and post different messages. Don't put social media on automatic. Tailor messages for each social media. Facebook works better for longer posts and has more durability, while Twitter thrives on short, fast moving messages.  
  • Link to your social media from everywhere. Use print, email, website, direct mail, donor events. 
  • Use the 80/20 percent rule. Make 80 percent of your social media content about your donors and other supporters. Only talk about yourself or ask for something 20 percent of the time.
  • Dedicate someone, either full-time or part-time, to social media management. The days are gone when we could just put up an FB page, post something once in a while and let it coast. Social media today has to be a steady drumbeat of activity. That requires a social media manager and even a social media committee.
  • Track and measure. Social media should produce a return on your investment. That takes setting goals and tracking results.

There are lots of benchmark studies these days. You cannot read all of them, but this one is certainly worthwhile. You can download it here.

Read about specific socials media platforms and how nonprofits should use them: