Nonprofits Missing Out on Social Media Connections, Study Finds

Nonprofits Missing Out on Social Media Connections, Study Finds

While nonprofit organizations have invested heavily in social media platforms in recent years, they still view social media as a tool for broadcasting announcements and raising awareness rather than as a way to deepen their connections with constituents, a report from consulting firm Dunham+Company finds.

The report, Nonprofits & Social Media: A Missed Connection (42 pages, PDF), analyzed the social media platforms of more than a hundred and fifty nonprofits in four areas — adoption, response time, integration, and content — and found gaps in nonprofits' use of social media, engagement with other users, and effectiveness. Despite widespread adoption and increased investment in content, charities aren't producing or sharing content often enough or with an optimal mix to maximize user engagement — which in turn limits their success in connecting with and generating responses from their intended audiences. According to Dunham+Company, the nonprofits it profiled are no better at responding to comments, questions, and online donations than they were in a previous study conducted more than four years ago. 

While environmental and animal welfare organizations had the largest median audiences across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram and religious organizations had the smallest, religious groups had the highest rate of audience interaction (0.56 percent), followed by arts, culture, and humanities groups (0.28 percent), health organizations (0.24 percent), human services organizations (0.22 percent), and environmental and animal welfare organizations (0.19 percent). Based on a composite score that factors in audience size, audience engagement, and frequency of posts, the report found health nonprofits to be the most effective users of social media overall, with religious organizations and environmental and animal welfare groups tied for second. 

Individual nonprofits that are most effectively using social media see it as a channel for two-way, interactive communication, the report concludes, and work to optimize each channel for certification, connectivity, and response; offer the most efficacious mix of content, with a focus on video and other visual elements; facilitate more engagement by closing the loop in channel optimization; invest in human or AI capacity to monitor and respond to comments; and use it to fundraise. 

"With a new user every fifteen seconds, it's no secret that social media is playing a more integral part in how we live and work. However, when it comes to nonprofits using social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram to optimize their fundraising, there is a disconnect," said Jennifer Abohosh, chief strategist at Dunham + Company. "The problem isn't that charities are not using social media — we have seen widespread adoption of social media — but rather it's the way it is being used."

"New Study Explores the Relationship Between Social Media and Charities." Dunham+Company Press Release 02/18/2019. "Nonprofits & Social Media: A Missed Connection." Dunham+Company Report 02/18/2019.