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"Social Media and Why Non Profit Organisations Should Be Using It"

The use of Social Media and its role in helping Charities and Not For Profit Organisations engage with their community is becoming very evident. I was talking to Fi Bendall the other day who has worked in this area extensively, including Amnesty International Australia and Earth Hour Global and below is a snap shot of her findings.

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“The impact of social media, from blogs, to video, to the rise of user-generated content has been widely reported. The impact of the social web on society has had a major impact on how the public are addressing global problems, and how citizens are becoming social activists to raise money and support for social causes through the power of social media.

Online sites, such as Kiva.Org, Causes on Facebook, DonorsChoose and Change.org have been pioneers in the way humanity views philanthropy and activism, as well as how many individuals go about trying to improve life on our planet. Online social activism has become a sector bound together by a growing critical mass, in online usership, online community with an expanding acceptance in the worlds of philanthropy, politics, activism and marketing.

The online world is always “turned on” and always “connected” and delivers results, for example:

The US 2008 presidential campaign generated tens of millions in contributors supporting candidates, in particular the social media campaign by Obama being the most famous. Kiva.Org, a not-for-profit start up uses social networking to direct loans from everyday people to small-scale entrepreneurs in the developing world. It grew from zero to more than 270,000 leaders in less than three years making loans of $26,149,810 USD. DonorsChoose, hot-housed in a Bronx public school just after the year 2000 delivered more than $25million USD to school teachers. GlobalGiving a not-for-profit founded in 2002, has funnelled more than $6million USD to 900 projects around the world. Cause on Facebook leveraged social networks most popular hub, to sign up 12 million supporters and raise $2.5 million USD for various causes.

People have the ability to get vocal, be part of a solution and lobby governments in a way they never have before. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans sent the online social community into a frenzy of donations, missing persons posting and consequentially firing up American society’s horror and sheer anger at the latency of their governments response to the disaster. The online call to action became so loud that the Bush Administration had to make a public announcement on the issues of getting aid into the State so late. The online social environment is a fertile ground for fast-moving social activism, allowing for an individuals charitable involvement that is both personal and open to the world. Together through social connections, Ben Rattray, founder of Change.org calls them the “mega-public” a vast inter-connected army of people, who at least in part, want to change the world.

Of late, Australia’s own natural disaster, the Victorian Bushfires is still generating a mention every 9 minutes online as the author types, within 24 hours of the major centre of the fires hitting, tens of thousands of people joined a supporters group on Facebook, millions in donations were generated through Twitter and Tweetfestivals alone.

Social media has allowed for “self-organisation” and it delivers online social activism, non-profit fundraising, connected social entrepreneurship, political organising, flash causes and digital philanthropy. It overlaps into the larger world of organised charity and non-profits of politics and policy organisation and changes them. Millions are using social networks to raise money, push for votes, bring attention to some cause, big or small, that will make the world a better place. It is important to note that the most successful organisations using the social media channel are the ones who adjust their business and social models as they go along to keep in tune with the online highly emotive community chatter.

Social Media Audiences and Social Causes

There are distinctive differences emerging between the generations online, that any social media cause campaign should consider, in terms of content and strategy.

  • 12-24 year olds – To their generation they live online, their causes are online and there is no separation between virtual and reality. They wear “the badge” even if their donations are the smallest of other demographic groups to make a statement.
  • 24- 55 year olds – The most likely group to pass a message on, get vocal and behind a message, they will collaborate to move the wider collective group into making an action.
  • 60 years old plus – The fastest growing audience online in Australia today and are recorded as being the most similar to the “tech savvy” as the younger audience demographic.

Sources: Mckinsey; Nielson; Audit Bureau of Circulation Au.

Social Media Demographic and Insights
Courtesy of the following Foundations: The Columbus Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation and The San Francisco Foundation.
The analysis of social media power users revealed the group was younger than the traditional composition of donors one would find in a charity’s database. Forty-seven percent were aged 30-49, 40 percent were under the age of 30, and only 13 percent were 50 or older. Almost two thirds (62 percent) were female.

  • 30 years and younger were not a high dollar donor generation: Only 4 percent donated $5,000 or greater in 2008, and only 11 percent donated more than $1,000.
  • 20 percent of those between the ages of 30-49 gave more than $5,000 and 41 percent gave $1,000 or more, demonstrating potential for higher dollar contributions.
  • 50 years and older, 47 percent gave more than $5,000 and 66 percent gave $1,000 or greater.
  • The rest of the analysis focused on the 30-49 and over 50 age brackets as they represent the greatest opportunity for online cultivation of high dollar donors.
  • 30-49 age brackets and the over 50 bracket have used social media to discuss philanthropy.
  • 84 percent of the social media savvy aged 30-49 and 55 percent of those older than 50 used conversational media for these purposes.

N ote: This confirms social media is a potential growth area through which major donors can be cultivated.

Some of the statistics that show that “Trust” in social media is significant among social media savvy would-be donors.

Sixty one percent of those aged 30-49 trust social networks and blogs to provide important information, as is the case with 44 percent of those 50 years or older.

With 30-49 year olds, social media use is also very high with
* 91 percent of users participating in social networks
* 81 percent participating in blogs
* 56 percent participating in message boards.

Among those 50 and older
* 94 percent participate in social networks
*78 percent participate in blogs
* 60 percent participate in message boards.

Of all the forms of social media used by 30-49-year-olds, “only social networks and blogs received greater than 40 percent rankings” for “trust.” Specifically, 66 percent trust social networks and 50 percent trust blogs. In the over 50 bracket, 62 percent trust social networks and 42 percent trust blogs.

One of the most interesting learning’s from this data was that both the social media savvy groups in the 30-49 age bracket and the over 50’s prefer social media, with Blogs being the second most trusted source.
Whether for personal use or trust in third party sites, blogs represent the second most viable source of information next to social networks (among both the digital rich and the traditional brackets). After blogs, message boards, forums, wikis and review sites were all deemed more credible than videos or podcasts.

Social media savvy respondents demonstrate a significant opportunity for NGO’s to provide social media. Among 30-49 year olds, 81 percent said they would participate if the information was highly credible and of strong quality, and 77 percent said they would participate if it came from a trusted source. Even more telling, 86 percent of those 50 and older said they would participate if the information was highly credible and of strong quality, and 84 percent would participate if social media came from a trusted source.”

In the next post we will cover some of the processes involved in creating “Social Media Strategies”.

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