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How Nonprofits Use Social Networking

Facebook Is #1 Social Site for NPOs

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Facebook is more popular than ever among nonprofits, says a report by NTEN and Common Knowledge.

The survey covered more than 1,000 nonprofits and asked about how the organizations use online social networks. The survey asked about the use of commercial social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for example, and about building their own "house social networks."

Nonprofits use commercial networks the most, with only about 22% of nonprofits reporting that they operated a house network. That represented a 28% drop from 2009 when 31% of surveyed nonprofits said they had a house network. The report suggests the drop is due to the recession since house networks require considerable capital investment. In contrast, it is fairly easy and inexpensive to set up shop on a commercial site.

Facebook holds the lead among those using commercial sites, with 86% of the surveyed organizations using it (this was an increase of 6% over 2009); while Twitter claimed the loyalty of 60% of nonprofits (an increase of 38%). YouTube, while only increasing a fraction, is used by 48.1% of organizations, and LinkedIn stayed relatively steady at 33.1% this year.

MySpace took a big hit, decreasing in popularity from 26.1% to 14.4%.

What do nonprofits use their social networks for?

Marketing is used by 92% of the organizations; while fundraising is done by 46%. Interestingly, there is a 104% increase in fundraising departments that "own" their nonprofit's commercial social networks, from 10% in 2009 to 20% this year. This represents a significant trend although marketing teams and communications teams continue to be the first and second most likely "owners" of the social space for nonprofits.

Some 40% of surveyed organizations reported that they are getting donations from Facebook, but 78% of those raised $1,000 or less in the past year. Facebook is the only commercial social networking platform through which nonprofits raised $10,000 or more, but only 3.5% of nonprofits were in this category.

House social networks do a little better, with 50% of surveyed nonprofits raising more than $1,000 in the last 12 months. On the other hand, 68% of house network-owning organizations are doing no fundraising at all.

As for resources, 67% of the surveyed nonprofits that use commercial sites, and 57% of nonprofits that have house networks, devote only 1/4 to 1/2 of a full-time employee to their community efforts. Budgets are also tenuous with 59% of commercial network users devoting no budget for social networking to 33% of them spending up to $10,000.

The researchers point out that lack of a clear ROI is likely holding nonprofits back from deeper financial commitment to social networking, but lack of expertise also plays a significant role.

There are lots of fascinating data in this report that will help you compare your organization's efforts with its peers. You can download the Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report here.

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