The Internet, Social Media, and Nonprofit Organizations

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

nonprofit-word-cloudLike many other businesses and industries, the nonprofit sector has been greatly affected by social media and the internet. All of the major functions of nonprofit organizations can be enhanced by social media, like community outreach, fundraising, and public awareness. For any who are still doubtful, a quick look at some recent research and statistics will show that the internet and social media hold the greatest opportunity for the future of nonprofit organizations.

The Growing Importance of Online Donations
The internet has been a growing source of revenue for nonprofit organizations. In 2012, nonprofits saw online donations increase by 14 percent, reaching $2.1 billion. A report in March noted that the average online contribution is $146 (education-based nonprofits brought in over four times as much per click). Because of the relative low cost and expansive reach of internet marketing, online donations at this level represent a large return on investment for organizations.

“Giving online is just where people are these days,”  said Julie Taylor of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation in a statement in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “That’s how they’re comfortable giving now.”

A recent study from eNonprofit Benchmarks showed that the increases in revenue were being seen by all kinds of charity organizations. Environmental groups saw a 34 percent increase in online revenue. Animals groups grew by 23 percent, health groups by 13 percent, and social justice groups saw their revenue rise 11 percent.

Social Media and Public Awareness
The fact that social media is public makes it an ideal tool for nonprofit organizations and charities. While people say that they don’t want to acknowledged when they do good things, science has shown that public recognition does encourage people to be more altruistic. This is why nonprofits have often given plaques, awards, and other small thank yous to provide incentives for supporters. Social media platforms allow for public recognition in an inexpensive way that still has a lot of reach. The friends and family of someone who posts about donating to a charity see the message and it may drive them to contribute or become more aware of the nonprofit’s work.

Similarly, social media can be a powerful for public education campaigns. Since social media represents how much of the information (and misinformation) in modern society spreads from person to person, it’s the best channel to spread accurate information about a subject.

While some people would argue that social media activism is shallow and doesn’t produce meaningful changes, a recent organ donor registration campaign on Facebook suggests the opposite. On the first day of the Facebook organ donor initiative, more than 13,000 people signed up to become organ donors (compared to the usual daily average of 616 sign ups). Even a few weeks later and sign ups slowed down again, they still remained at more than double the rate from before the campaign. It showed that encouragement from friends, along with the ease of using the Facebook initiative, made the campaign far more successful than it would have been through traditional methods.

Successful nonprofits must make their audiences commit to an action. Whether that action is making a donation to a charity, changing a daily routine for the environment, or committing to a social cause, social media can help drive audiences to take that action. One thing social media and nonprofits have in common is that they both need the community to survive. By tapping in the community-building tools that have allowed social media to grow, nonprofit organizations can be better equipped to accomplish the goals they share with their supporters.

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