Nonprofits use social media to accept online donations

To say that nearly all nonprofits are on social media is far from an understatement. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's Center for Marketing Research, 98 percent of the 129 charitable organizations polled were using at least one online network in their donation outreach efforts.

While Facebook has historically been the most widely used communication conduit, the study identified YouTube as the most common social media tool nonprofits used in the spring of 2014 with 97 percent of organizations saying they used the video-sharing platform to help increase donation processing. Facebook was close behind with 92 percent of charities using the world's largest social media network to improve outreach efforts. Twitter was the third-highest at 86 percent.

Social streams generate recognition
Generally speaking, online networks are all known for their sharing capabilities; however, the manner in which they interact with users typically differs from platform to platform. Facebook and Twitter are great mediums for real-time, interpersonal communication with individual donors. Alternatively, Instagram's visual stimulation adds to the appeal of its service. In the same vein, YouTube was widely used among nonprofits to promote digital and visual content to third party viewers, according to the UMass-Dartmouth study. 

Driving awareness seemed to be the general consensus among organizations that used social media channels. More specifically, 81 percent of social managers said nonprofit recognition was their main objective while just 40 percent said the same for generating donations, eMarketer said, citing the UMass-Dartmouth study. Yet, that's not to say fundraising isn't an important element in the eyes of charitable organizations. Although the majority of nonprofits weren't using social media for cultivating donations, the vast majority of charities were seeing success in generating gifts through online networks. More than 70 percent of organizations polled found social media to be either somewhat or very useful in regards to raising money for their brand. Conversely, just 11 percent of charities found social networks to not be very useful.

Direct solicitation not as popular
Although nonprofits were relatively successful in promoting their brands and generating traffic to their online donation forms, a separate study by by marketing agency InkHouse and digital data collection firm Global Market Institute found that Internet users in general weren't interested in seeing fundraising requests from friends. Benefactors are looking for a laugh when they access social media, as 54 percent of respondents said they'd prefer a humorous post while just 4 percent referenced requests for charitable donations, eMarketer added, citing the joint study. A direct request from a friend wouldn't be enough to merit unfriending them, though, as only 8 percent of users would disconnect with a peer who posted too many requests.

It seems clear that nonprofits are beginning to think of more creative ways to cultivate donations instead of directly soliciting potential donors through multiple channels. A comprehensive, unique and interesting marketing campaign can not only drive awareness on social media, but it may indirectly improve donations as a result.

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