A study by Cone, a communications agency well-known for its work with cause-related marketing, has just released a study about customers, business, and the "new media."
Within that report are some very interesting insights about new media tools, nonprofits, and donors.
- Nearly eight-in-10 Americans who use new media think that companies and nonprofits should use it to raise money and awareness for causes.
- Sixty percent report that they have used online media to support a cause in some way.
- Eighty-five percent say they learn about new issues and think that the new media provides a way to support their favorite causes. These users forward messages to friends, make personal behavior changes, and purchase cause-related merchandise.
On the other hand, fewer than 18% of users have actually made a donation through new media, while 72% say that these channels raise their awareness of causes, but do not motivate them to do more.
The question is why doesn't the use of new media translate into actual monetary support for causes? The Cone researchers say the reason might be lack of trust. Respondents cited these reasons for not giving:
- I'd rather spend my time and/or money supporting causes offline (31%)
- I didn't see any existing results or impacts (27%)
- I felt overwhelmed by the number of causes on new media (22%)
- My favorite issue, cause or organization doesn't use new media (19%)
- I didn't understand the tool/application (17%)
So, it's about trust, ease-of-use, not getting lost in the noise, having a presence in the first place, and being able to point to real results.
Most people are not early adopters of new ideas, so it makes sense that trust in new media, when it comes to causes, is more like a stream that will eventually turn into a river, and finally into an ocean. Certainly, online giving is the fastest growing segment of giving, although it is still a small slice of the funding pie overall.
Cone's survey may be measuring the wrong thing. It's been said at least a thousand times by experts in social media for nonprofits: it's about making friends, not getting donations. If nonprofits focus on engagement first, the donations will come, just as they are starting to do.
Nevertheless, the Cone study does show that nonprofits must keep working on their online skills. Everything matters, from message to the technical means we use to ease supporters through the stages of commitment to our cause. Building trust is no small challenge.
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