Study: Nonprofits Not Yet Using Social Media to Deepen Ties

February 25, 2019 —While nonprofits have invested heavily in social media in recent years, they use it primarily as a broadcast tool for announcements or raising awareness rather than as a way to deepen relationships, according to a newly completed analysis.

The assessment, summarized in Nonprofits & Social Media: A Missed Connection, conducted by Dunham+Company, based on social media use by 151 nonprofit organizations, found that religious organizations outperform other nonprofit segments in terms of how much they engage with their audiences, as measured by likes, retweets, and similar interactions per social post, adjusted for audience size across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Arts, culture, and humanities, rank second, but at half the rate of religious organizations, while health-related nonprofit s rank in third place.

The least engaged social audiences belong to public-society benefit, international affairs, and environment/animals.

Health and religion verticals tied for first place when it comes to who posts most often to social media, followed by environment/animals, and then public-society benefit organizations, according to the study.

In addition, the analysis found that:
  • 99% of nonprofits have a presence of some sort on Facebook
  • 93% have a YouTube account
  • 91% have a Twitter account
  • 82% have an Instagram account
  • 82% have a LinkedIn presence
  • 70% have a Google+ account
  • 64% have a Pinterest account
  • 50% use Vimeo
  • 48% have a Flickr images account
Effectively leveraging social media entails integration with one’s own website, and, the study found, 97% or organizations link to their social media properties on their website, and 69% ensure that these social links open in a new window, rather than taking visitors away from the website.

According to the study, nonprofits, on average, post eight to nine times a week on Facebook, but to get exposure in the newsfeed organically, Dunham+Company recommends three to five times per day and even more if nonprofit have timely relevant content.

Improving social media effectiveness means nonprofits need to first avoid common mistakes, which include not listening to other people's messages before crafting your own; spreading yourself to thin by trying to be on every platform instead of going deeper on fewer; failing to keep pace with communication channels, e.g., video is increasingly dominant at the expense of static photos and text; and failing to spend even a modest amount on advertising to boost engagement.

"Nonprofits aren’t generating nearly as much engagement from their social media endeavors as they should be. Attracting an audience doesn’t matter if you can’t develop a relationship with your audience," according to the report. To get there, Dunham+Company recommends:
  • Don’t broadcast— interact. Social media is okay as a soapbox, but much more impactful for your mission long-term as a one-on-one conversation.

  • Create what you can, where you can, and follow the trends about what people are consuming.

  • Invest in the ability to monitor and respond to people through human or AI resources.

  • Set up the necessary elements to actually raise money through your social media.