This is the presentation WITH SPEAKER NOTES that I made on Thursday, October 15, 2009 for the SANGONeT conference in South Africa (presentation made remotely) that includes highlights from reports in the US and the UK about social media use by nonprofit organizations.
Notes: Social Media, Nonprofits, and the Role of Individuals
Hi – my name is Amy Sample Ward and I’m a blogger, facilitator, trainer and
general conversation starter about technology for social impact. I am also the
Global Community Development Manager for NetSquared, an organization
focused on the intersection of technology and social change.
I don’t have a ton of time, and you can’t even see me which could be pretty
unexciting, but I’m going to highlight a few pieces of data from research done
in the US and in the UK as well as a brief case study.
Earlier this year, nonproﬁt professionals in the US responded to a survey,
sponsored by NTEN, Common Knowledge and the Port, about their
organization’s use of online social networks.
By a large margin, Facebook is the most popular of the commercial social
networks with 74.0% of respondents indicating that their organization has a
presence there. YouTube and Twitter are a distant second and third.
Looking at how survey respondents use their commercial social networks, the
report found the most popular role is for traditional marketing—to promote the
nonproﬁt’s brand, programs, events or services, with 80.5% of survey
respondents indicating this role as the purpose of their presence.
Four-ﬁfths (80.8%) of survey respondents committed at least one-quarter of a
full-time staff member to maintaining—marketing, managing and cultivating—
their commercial social network presence over the last 12 months.
Looking ahead, over half (55.0%) of survey respondents indicate they will
increase stafﬁng over the next 12 months.
When asked about the size of their commercial social network communities,
survey respondents indicated an average of 5,391 members on their Facebook
presence, followed by myspace and so on.
The communities on Facebook range in size from 1 to 600,000 fans, but 97%
of the communities were 10,000 members or less, with three very large
communities of 500,000+ members skewing the aver- age. Discounting these
three outliers, the average community size on Facebook is 1,369 members. The
nonproﬁt-speciﬁc social network, Change.org had an average community size
of 243 members.
For fundraising, among the commercial social networks most popular for
survey respondents—Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Change.org and
YouTube—Facebook is the clear leader, with 29.1% of organizations indicating
they are getting $500 or less in fundraising revenue over the last 12 months.
Among all the commercial social networks, only Facebook and MySpace were
used to deliver $10,000 or more in fundraising revenue over the last 12 months
for any nonproﬁts in the survey.
In the second half of 2008, nfpSynergy conducted a survey of charity and
voluntary sector organizations.
Of the myriad social media and online platforms offered in the survey,
Facebook was clearly the most popular with 34% of respondents indicating use
there. Other social networking spaces, myspace and bebo, had much lower
numbers with 13% and 3% respectively.
The eCampaigning Review was just released on Tuesday (October 13, 2009).
In the summer of 2009, Jess Day and Duane Raymond analyzed actions by
organizations, mostly in the UK (with a few from Canada and elsewhere).
Some of the highlights from the report include: 31% of the
organizations in the survey used blogs to support online campaigning
work. 93% had a presence on a social networking site, with facebook
being the most popular – if an organization listed that it had a
presence in social networking, facebook was the site listed, if it had
two, it was facebook and twitter.
And now, to switch away from data and stats and into the people side
of social media…
Social media is a very dynamic and powerful medium for creating and
maintaining relationships, as individuals but also as organizations.
Many of us have had the experience of “playing” online, finding new
tools, and experimenting. And often we mention something new
we’ve found or tried to a colleague and we may then try it at work, at
an event, or elsewhere. It’s a common pattern but one often too
invisible or loose to really follow. This is a case study to bring to light
that path and highlight the influence individuals inside organizations
have over the social media presence of the organization.
Leah Williams is the head of communication for the Women’s Resource
Center based in London, UK.
I first met Leah when she was online as an individual in social media,
connecting with others in the sector and discovering the “nptech”
space of collaborating, sharing and helping each other learn about
technology for nonprofits.
She wanted to better understand how social media could be used at
her organization and was already in use by other organizations. She
especially wanted to indentify ways social media could help deliver on
Leah started out by creating accounts as an individual, representing
just herself, in various places online – she created a twitter account,
join social networks and so on. One of the social networks she joined
was a group on ning, called the Charity Place – a network for people
working in charities to connect and share ideas, ask questions, provide
support and more. This way she could both learn the ins and outs of
using social tools, but get some advice and help at it, too!
She spent time online, making connections, discovering others in the
charity and womens sectors and did a lot of listening.
In Leah’s experiences using social media, she identified some crucial
ways using the tools could help the organization:
• Using social media allows for more responsive communications with
members, supporters, etc.
• Using social media helps establish a brand and build reputation by
extending that brand out in to other networks/spaces online
• Using social media means access to more tools to make work more
effective (campaigning, research, conferences, capacity building,
As the WRC,Leah and her team are now using: Twitter, facebook,
flickr, blogs, youtube, linkedin, and delicious. They have also set up
their own social network using ning – as a place for people working in
the women’s voluntary and community sector.
Here are some of the lessons Leah learned, and the same lessons are
true whenever I speak with organizations using social media of any
• Be human – include your name and picture on your profile, if it’s an
organizational profile, list who at the organization could be talking,
• try new things, and don’t be afraid that they may not be useful – try
them, if they aren’t useful, move on, if they are, expand!
• as Leah says, don’t think of these tools as cool or just to be hip,
think of them as a whole new way of communicating with your
supporters, new and existing
• be sure to know what you want to do, what you are after, what your
goals are for social media in general as well as specifically to each
tool or platform you use
• be sure to know your audience, what they want from you, how they
want you to talk to them, how they want to interact with you and so
So, go try! See what you discover when you use tools yourself and
share your ideas, excitements, and failures with your colleagues.
I’d love to continue talking with you and to answer any questions you
have. You can reach me in any of these ways!
Finally, here are links included earlier in the presentation for ways to ﬁnd out