5 Myths About Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations

5 Myths About Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations

Image A post by Dania T. Miwa

1.     Social media is a great way to fundraise. While I agree it can be a great tool to reach potential donors and I have even seen a successful twitter fundraising campaign or two, what is typically more common is Nonprofits using social media as a stewardship tool to connect donors and constituents to the mission of an organization and help them to feel connected. Donations may in fact come out of that as a byproduct of good stewardship, but it is usually a secondary outcome

2.     Social media will get people to do something for us or drive more traffic to our website.  Nope, wrong again. I personally think social media can be a great way to involve donors and constituents, but there needs to be an actual person following up and having actual authentic conversations with their followers, friends, etc. No one wants to follow/like a business that only talks about themselves. Additionally, speaking from my own experience, I don’t often “like” an organization, then go visit their website. After the “like” I usually move on to the next thing.

3.     A nonprofit’s ‘follower’ numbers directly translates in to memberships, dollars in the door or increased event attendance.  I can’t tell you how many organizations I follow/like that I am truly interested in, but take no other action than to click the follow/like button.  However, I have noticed that not many of the organizations I’ve “liked” have contacted me to follow-up in other ways, i.e. direct mail, email, even event invites on facebook.  Personally, I think that is a missed opportunity.

4.     Social media will fix all the problems, and is a great strategy for nonprofits. Remember social media is a tool itself, not the strategy. The best social media plans I’ve seen or worked on are the ones that the organization has, or is creating a complete communications/fundraising strategy, and  the social media component is a well thought out piece of that, not the entire plan.

5.     Finally, my favorite myth, social media is a fad, and we can just ignore it until it goes away. I agree that Facebook might not be the wave of the future, but something will replace it online, and potential constituents of your organization are out there looking for ways to connect, many on a social platform of some sort. It behooves a nonprofit to look in to the many varied options and make an informed decision. I would never recommend starting something that is not useful to the organization’s mission; however, I believe that getting out there is important, even if your organization makes mistakes along the way.

Copyright 2012 The Good Counsel, division of Toscano Advisors, LLC. May be duplicated with citation.

  1. Great article! I’d add to your first point that fundraising over the Internet carries risks for nonprofits that they often aren’t aware of. From my website’s page on raffles & charitable lotteries:

    “Using a web site or other Internet means to further a charitable lottery (raffle) may be construed by some states as charitable fund raising solicitation to its residents — even when the nonprofit isn’t targeting residents of a particular state. In theory, a South Dakota nonprofit may be violating Florida law by allowing Florida residents to see the raffle page on the organization’s web site!”

    Charitable solicitation registration is a serious issue. If a nonprofit isn’t large enough or broad enough, grographically speaking, to undergo the process itself, it should strongly consider accepting online gifts through a third-party portal, such as Network for Good, that has already registered.

  2. Regarding #3, one of the biggest issues is the ability to solicit personal information such as an email address from the Facebook audience. While that technology is emerging quickly it can be cost prohibitive for most smaller nonprofits. Organizations that are truly serious about social need to look at Facebook app development that makes the audience want to engage.

    • Merritt | LiveSimplyLove Says: July 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      That was my first thought upon reading #3. How would a nonprofit reach out to you in a different way without having your contact information? The smaller nonprofits I work with would love to connect with Facebook followers in other channels. The problem is HOW!?

      • Good questions. I see many nonprofits struggle with this. Often times, I encourage nonprofits to reach out to people who “like” their fan page and ask them to connect in other ways. I don’t often see this done.
        I know I have willingly given my information to groups who have reached out to include me in a special event, sign on letter, etc.

        This can be a good first step, getting individuals who’ve already self identified to then take another action step.

  3. A good post! I agree with 4 of the 5 responses. Number 2 though is NOT a myth. Social media definitely does drive traffic to websites and can get people to take action. You’re right that nobody likes an organization who uses social media to only talk about themselves but if that’s what is happening they are likely using it to push out information rather than being social. If they use social media to engage people by talking like a person and responding to people, they can use the relationships developed to get people to take action. If you are known for sharing quality content on your website/blog, you will drive traffic to it.

    • I agree completely with you. I guess I should clarify my point. Social Media can drive traffic to your site, but without a deeper relationship to the organization, traffic doesn’t necessarily mean engagement. Nonprofits with good content and clear, authentic messaging will be more successful. My main point really is about authenticity, and a thoughtful strategy in social media engagement. Not just starting a organizational twitter to try to get more people to come to your site.

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