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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Majority of Nonprofits Use Social Media

November 30, 2009

The majority (88%) of nonprofit organizations are experimenting with social media to engage audiences, but 79 percent are not sure of its value for their organizations, according to a new survey by Weber Shandwick's Social Impact team and KRC Research.

"We know from our work with nonprofits that most realize the potential of social media and are experimenting with it, but many are not maximizing the full opportunity," said Paul Massey, Social Impact co-lead. "This survey validates that there is widespread experimentation, and suggests that, in the future, nonprofits that fully participate in the two-way conversations that make this medium so powerful will reap the greatest benefit."

The majority of nonprofits believe their online presence helps raise awareness (92%), keeps audiences engaged (86%) and reduces costs compared to traditional media (77%). Social media is viewed as being successful in helping nonprofits reach broad audiences (67%). Sixty-one percent say the rewards outweigh the risks.

For these reasons eighty-five percent plan to make greater use of social media in the next two years and (78%) most require more social media expertise to keep communicating and receiving support for their work. While social media is viewed positively among nonprofits, there are still a number of challenges. Sixty-seven percent of nonprofits feel that traditional media, including coverage in newspapers, magazine, television and radio are more effective at supporting fundraising efforts than social media (67% vs.22%). Executives in nonprofits are more skeptical about social media's ability to help them with hard-to-reach audiences such as donors (45%), media (39%) and policy makers (31%).

"While two-thirds of nonprofit executives believe social media has a positive impact on their communications with external audiences, they are less convinced about social media's resonance with donors, journalists and policy makers," said Social Impact co-lead Stephanie Bluma.

"What these results imply is that organizations need to develop more targeted and sustainable digital connections with these critical yet narrower audiences. In the months ahead, digital engagement strategies will need to show value on multiple fronts from brand-building to advocacy to fundraising." The one area where social media is widely believed to have more impact than traditional media is in mobilizing supporters (58%), an important audience for nonprofits.