- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
It wasn’t all that long ago that I remember spending a good deal of time here at the Case Foundation working with nonprofits as they contemplated their willingness to dip their toes into unknown social media waters. The most common response went one of three ways: “I really don’t get the value,” “it’s all too overwhelming,” or “we just don’t have the money or staffing to support it.”
The times they are a changin’ as evidenced by many things -- not least of which is a new report out of Dartmouth, showing that the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations have outpaced corporations and academic institutions in their adoption of social media. Similar research has confirmed that the Fortune 500, the Inc. 500, US colleges and universities and charities have all increased their adoption of blogging between 2007 and 2008, but charities are “out-blogging” them all for the second year in a row.
In fact, the Dartmouth study shows a remarkable 89% of charitable organizations are using some form of social media including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging and wikis.
Other key findings from the report include:
- Social networking and video blogging are now the most common tools used, with 79% of charities using each of them. Use of online video increased by 38 percent; social networking increased by 47 percent in the one-year period studied.
- Sixty-six percent of respondents in 2007 and 75% in 2008 report they monitor the Internet for buzz, posts, conversations and news about their institution. This compares with 54% of colleges and universities and 60% of the Inc. 500.
- When asked if they felt their blogs were successful, approximately 90% of charities with blogs said yes. This finding is consistent with studies in business and academia that have consistently shown those using social media are satisfied and feel it provides positive results. (Although, as a personal aside, that number seems awfully high)
- Finally, more than 80% of those studied feel that social media is at least “somewhat important” to their future strategy; 45% responded that social media is very important to their fundraising strategy.
To what might we attribute this rapid change from toe-dipping toward a deep dive into social media? As an active and interested observer of these trends, my hunch is that as we have begun adopting these tools in other parts of our lives, more people are finding that the social web can allow people who work in nonprofits the ability to connect and collaborate informally and across institutional boundaries in a quick and inexpensive manner.
Suddenly nonprofits see value in social media beyond attracting new donors or engaging volunteers, but in crowdsourcing ideas, getting instant and honest feedback, or even in finding new content for programs. Even so, we must remember that social media is just a tool and it takes more than mere tools to make social change.
Has your organization taken the plunge? If so, what did it take? A fearless leader, a nudging younger staff member, a plea from your members, or something else? On the flipside, if your toes are only skimming the surface, what's holding you back?
If you're looking for examples in creating your own social media strategy, there are many out there, and suprisingly more and more people are willing to share their successes as well as their failures. I'd suggest taking a look at what Wendy Harman has done at the Red Cross. She has been working to create this draft version of the organization's Social Media Strategy Handbook. In it, she provides a lot of useful tips, and is realistic about the time commitment involved whether you decide to dip or plunge. The first step, which is a great piece of advice, is to become social media savvy yourself - if you know how the tools work, you can better understand how they may benefit your organization.