Digital Communications a Top Priority for Foundations, Survey Finds

Six out of ten communications professionals at U.S. foundations say that increasing capacity for new media and related digital work is a high internal priority, a survey commissioned by the Communications Network finds.

According to Foundation Communications Today (89 pages, PDF), 47 percent of the 155 foundation communicators who responded to the survey said they work for organizations that have blogs, while 76 percent host videos on their Web sites. On average, respondents estimated that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of their communications budget in 2011 would be spent on electronic communications, more than any other channel, though print publications still consume a sizeable share of their budgets.

To gauge the role of communications in the work of foundations, the survey examined how senior leadership valued the contributions of communications staff in helping to achieve an organization's mission. Nearly half of the survey respondents (48 percent) said that leadership has helped make communications central to key foundation activities, including grantmaking, advocacy, and other social change initiatives, while 36 percent said that foundation leadership is in the process of integrating communications into all aspects of the organization's work.

The survey also found that, despite the recession, budgets for foundation communications have remained stable for almost half (49 percent) of respondents, while a third (34 percent) said their budgets had declined. According to the survey, online and social media projects were at the top of communicators' wish lists, but budget allocations for such projects remained modest.

"As philanthropic organizations continue their efforts to advance social change, they are increasingly relying on online communications to support this work," said Communications Network executive director Bruce S. Trachtenberg. "Like many organizations dealing with leaner budgets, foundation communicators are expected to do more with less while keeping pace with the changing communications landscape. A foundation communicator these days needs to be well-versed and agile in using a variety of communications strategies — from traditional media relations to tweeting and blogging — to reach key audiences in immediate, highly targeted ways."

"Survey: 60 Percent of Foundation Communicators Say Increasing Digital Communications Is a High Priority" Communications Network Press Release 06/14/2011.