In this season of giving, more charities are turning to online resources to reach prospective donors for money and time. Yet they lag their private-sector counterparts in the adoption of these enabling technologies.
Though US charities are heavy users of social media -- 98 percent of nonprofits responding to a January Change Dynamics survey used social networks -- these organizations want help leveraging the technology. In fact, 90 percent "indicated that they are actively seeking guidance on how to best leverage social media to help meet their organizations' goals."
Foreign not-for-profits lag their US counterparts. In the next 12 months, 31 percent of Italian and 28 percent of French not-for-profits plan to use social media for fundraising, according to Blackbaud's 2012 State of the Nonprofit Industry report (registration required). The fundraising software provider surveyed 1,516 organizations in nine countries to compile its report.
In the United Kingdom, 30 percent of respondents to an Accenture survey said they have no social media plans, even though 44 percent said technology will have the "biggest impact on charities over the next five years."
According to the Blackbaud report, social media are now the second-most popular tool for recruiting new donors at not-for-profits in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, and Germany. In other nations, charities prefer requesting first-time donations at special events or pre-scheduled meetings.
Though charities in many countries have reported using social media and the Internet to recruit donors, few are calling this tool highly effective. But the technology is inexpensive to use, which is one reason so many organizations incorporate it into their fundraising and donor recruitment activities. Also, not-for-profits may lack the tools to measure and audit the results of online initiatives. It seems there is a real opportunity for a solution that can readily translate social media followers into real donors or volunteers -- the goal of any charity.
Andrew Poppleton, managing director of Accenture's UK and Ireland Technology group, said in a press release:
Charities are more supportive of technology than ever before and many are working with IT companies -- often on a pro bono basis -- to evolve their strategies and there is still clearly work to be done. Despite wanting to use new technologies, some charities are struggling to invest in areas that could show huge benefits.
Just like any for-profit business, charitable organizations typically generate most of their funds from patrons. Keeping these donors happy is key to charities' continued success -- and the ongoing success of their missions. A lot of this satisfaction revolves around communication in face-to-face meetings, speedy thank-you letters, events, newsletters, and emails. But there is little apparent use of social media in this realm. Depending on the donor's interest in publicity, recognizing volunteers or generous donations on a charity's Facebook page could be a visible yet inexpensive form of thanks that would appeal to some benefactors.
Many nonprofits accept donations online, and more are taking money via mobile devices. In the Blackbaud survey, most of the charities that took online donations in the past 12 months reported receiving 5 percent or less of their donations that way. Nonprofits reporting the most growth in their online donations had improved their Website or enhanced accessibility, increased public awareness about the online capability, added software to make donating easier, and credited the growing acceptance of online transactions.
More than 40 percent of charities in each nation Blackbaud surveyed plan to enable their Websites for mobile browsing in 2013, and charities expect to double their use of QR codes.
At a time of year when many people give unselfishly, perhaps some charities will get free lessons in maximizing social media. That truly would be a gift that keeps on giving.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution