April 27, 2010

Social Media Yet to Bring Big Money to Charities

While online events such as Twestival suggest that charities could soon be using sites like Twitter and Facebook to reap donations a new Chronicle survey shows that the nation's largest charities aren't yet receiving big rewards from those sites.

As part of its annual online fund raising survey, The Chronicle asked some of the nation's largest nonprofit groups to share how much money they raised through the use of social media in 2009—and the results were less than overwhelming.

Of the 177 organizations that answered the survey only 110, or roughly 62 percent, reported that they were using some form of social media as part of their online fund-raising efforts.

Of those, a much smaller number reported the amount of money that they raised through social media.

And the groups that did raise money reported modest totals.

Here's a thumbnail look at the results:

• Thirty-six groups raised $408,000 on Facebook, with a median total of $1,000 per organization.

• Sixteen groups raised $36,000 on Twitter, with a median amount raised of $500.

• Six groups raised $245,000 through blogs, with a median amount raised of $11,500.

• Two groups raised $500 on MySpace.

What does this mean?

Not surprisingly, it means that the nation's largest charities haven't yet figured out how to raise large sums of money through social networks.

But a bigger question looms: Can charities effectively raise money through tweets and Facebook profiles?

The answer depends on your goals. If you're looking for short-term results, the answer is probably no.

But social media isn't set up to be a fund-raising medium. Instead, it's a tool to build relationships.

And since so much of fund raising is about relationships, it stands to reason that any medium that helps build relationships is useful. It just takes time for those relationships to flower into gifts.

Do you agree? Will Facebook and Twitter pay long-term rewards for patient charities that are looking to raise more money? Or are fund raisers better served spending their time elsewhere?

Post a comment to share your thoughts.