Post by Justin Greeves, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs and Policy Research
Those of us who are on Facebook and other social networking sites know that many of our friends have “friended” their favorite cause or non-profit and have asked us to be friends as well. Many of us chalk this up to a fun activity that allows us to learn a bit more about our friends, their likes and dislikes, and to hear about interesting new causes. However, some non-profits are taking great advantage of this growing population and are starting to count the money, the friends, and their growing online influence. While still, other non-profits remain on the sidelines, unsure if this new reality will have any actual use or payoff.
Our recent DonorPulse study reveals the growing power of social media for non-profits, advocacy organizations and others. The numbers are staggering and show how many organizations are leveraging this new national pastime into real support toward their missions. Our survey shows that just less than half (48%) of adult Americans engaged in philanthropy have done something passively to support a non-profit through social media. This includes “friending”, encouraging others to act, showing support generally, and posting stories about their favored non-profits. This adds up to about 76 million Americans and that is quite a base of potential new donors, advocates, volunteers!
However, we all know that being a friend isn’t just about passive activity. A small but growing proportion of active social networkers represent the leading edge and true power of this pastime. The results from DonorPulse reveal that, of those who already use social networks as a way to keep up with their non-profit friends on social media, an amazing 85% have taken meaningful action as a result of what they have seen or read about those non-profits in social media. This includes making a financial contribution, recommending to friends and family, volunteering, attending events and other such directly supportive behaviors. This leading edge group represents about 10 million adult Americans, many of whom are highly engaged in giving, networking, influencing, and recommending other things to their friends.
Social media outlets of all types represent a new bounty for non-profits and those that support them. The costs for social media are incrementally lower than for other media forms and the returns appear tantalizing for those that have the right people inside the organization to properly leverage this growing media form. One day soon, organizations that used to measure their influence in dollars spent may start telling us instead how many friends they have on Facebook.