« A Procrastinator's Guide to Year-End Fundraising | Main | Five Tips for Online Fundraisers from a Direct Mail Dinosaur »

MySpace.com: A Place for Donors?

MySpace: A Place for Donors?

Post co-authored by James O'Malley and Justin Perkins.

With estimates up to 200 million members globally and 12% of all internet traffic, MySpace certainly earns the title of the "top dog" of social networks. Despite the more recent shift of attention to Facebook in the past six months by the nonprofit community, there are still remnants of a goldrush by nonprofits over the last year to build a presence on the uber-popular site. But was there ever any gold? And is there any left?  And what is the optimum combination of videos, pictures, text, friends, and other widgets? And is it even worth it?

Á la our Causes analysis awhile ago, we examined 150 nonprofit profiles on MySpace to see which functions people were using, how those features were working, and how much money their profiles were raising.

Whether you've stacked your profile with all the cool widgets, videos, and badges or you're still trying to figure out who "Tom" is, read on to learn what others are doing and how you can maximize your MySpace, or see if you even want to spend your time there.

The Data

How was it collected?

Within MySpace, we searched the names of 383 of the largest, most well-known nonprofits to see if they had created profiles. From that 383, only 150 organizations had profiles that appeared on the first two pages of results. Then, we examined each profile and recorded the following data:

  • Number of friends
  • Number of comments
  • Has the organization friended other nonprofits to drive more traffic to their own profile?
  • Has the organization friended celebrities to drive more traffic to their own profile?
  • Does their profile inclue media (videos, slideshows, podcasts, etc.)?
  • Does their profile have an e-mail capture box on it?
  • If it does, is it located above the "fold"?
  • Does their profile include a donation widget or a link to click for donations?
  • If it does, how much money has been raised and which widget are they using?
  • Does their profile include a link to an action (sign a petition, write a letter, etc.)?
  • Does their profile include badges/buttons that other members can post to their own profiles?
  • Is the blog used and updated?

To see the full Excel spreadsheet of the data including which organizations we searched and some additional comments, you can e-mail Justin Perkins.

Unlike the Facebook Causes App, it's a little more difficult to judge how "successful" a MySpace profile is by simply looking at it. There are few concrete numbers to look at like there are for the Facebook Causes App. However, one thing that's pretty clear from just a quick glance at a profile is how much time, effort, and thought went into it -- and some groups spent thousands of dollars on design.

How many friends do organizations have?

Looking at the number of friends can tell you how much promotion a nonprofit has done for its profile. The average profile had 12,015 friends, but perhaps more telling is the median was 1,090 friends. This means that (Product) Red significantly brought up the average with 632,962 friends, making up the difference for some of the profiles with less than a hundred. On MySpace, though, you don't necessarily "get" friends, you earn them yourself by surfing other users' profiles and clicking the "Add as Friend" button. Some groups like The Sudan Genocide Intervention Project and Dennis Kucinich chose to hide the number of friends they had.

How many comments do nonprofits have?

Interestingly, the number of comments a profile has is perhaps the most unimportant piece of data in the study. The average was 797 comments, while the median was 74. Most of these (dare we say almost all) are little more than "Thanks for the add!" comments. These don't add much value to a profile. It's pretty commonplace for a nonprofit to send a "thanks for the add" comment to their friends' profiles.

Which features are in the profiles?

This chart shows the percentage of nonprofits using each feature.



How much money is being donated?

As you can see from the above chart, only 19% of profiles had donation widgets or links to their main donation page. Of that 19%, only seven used any sort of widget that would allow other users to see how much money had already been donated. The most popular widget was Change.org's, with Sixdegrees.org also being used. The ASPCA and Easter Seals profiles monitor the money themselves and created an image of a thermometer showing how much money had been donated.

To date, the Transfair USA Change.org widget reports bringing in the most money ($942), which works out to be about 22 cents per friend. They, however, were a significant outlier; second most is ASPCA with $200 (less than a penny per friend). It also is worth noting that Transfair was promoted by Change.org, which seems to have helped. 

Overall, however, numbers work out to be about three cents per friend from groups with donation badges, with the median being less than a penny and the mode being $0.00. This means you're most likely to see less than a penny per friend of monetary value directly from your MySpace profile.

Does this mean you should abandon MySpace altogether? Probably not, as it still can have a noncalculable benefit in terms of online brand recognition. You should, however, be careful about how much of your resources you pour into your MySpace mission. If you haven't yet done so, check out our social networking ROI calculator first to help you start weighing the costs and benefits.  It's also worth noting that you are limited to inviting only 50 people per day to be your "friend".


What should my profile look like?

MySpace is perhaps one of the best opportunities you'll have to establish your nonprofit's brand online. Because it allows you to interact with other members - potential donors - it's important that your profile makes the best impression possible. You want people to look at your profile and think, "Gee, there's an organization I could give my hard-earned money to."

A quick straw poll of some good profiles are the aforementioend ASPCA or, for something a lot simpler and easier to create, Drug Policy Alliance. Notice how they have consistent color schemes that match their logos. They're crisp, tight, and leave a positive impression. We also like the work that Oxfam and HSUS have done on their efforts and promotions on MySpace. Read our HSUS case study here.

How much is too much?

Oftentimes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In the case of MySpace profiles, there is a very definite tipping point in terms of the amount of content that should be included in your profile. It's very easy for us to get really excited about all the great videos we have, but do not put all of them on your profile! Any more than two is overkill - one profile we saw had 14 videos which clutter the space too much and decrease the chance of the most important one being watched.  They also slow down the profile's loadtime significantly.

Where should I put my e-mail capture box?

The e-mail capture box is probably the most useful element you can put on your MySpace. While people may not be likely to donate much money through MySpace, they are far more willing to sign up for your list. Then, you can work them into your e-mail communications and have more visibility over their level of engagement with your organization.

Same as with your main website, the best place for your box is above the "fold" - the point where users have to scroll down to view more content. But on MySpace, it is kind of tricky to get it there. We're no MySpace codemasters, but you can look at LiUNA, Wal-Mart Watch, and Drug Policy Alliance for some examples of how they did it. Unfortunately, only about 18% of profiles spent the resources to place their captures above the "fold", probably because the coding is tricky.

How can I interact with other MySpace members?

Rather than just "thanks for the add," write "why did you decide it was important to friend us?" or "why do you feel strongly about our cause?" on other users profiles. Then, as they answer, your comment space becomes littered with why people care, rather than simply "thanks for the add" - a far more worthy use of space.


While MySpace began as the playground of only topless guys and overly made-up teenage girls, it has evolved into a site with far more marketing potential. Though it's still an unproven strategy when results are compared with more tried and true grassroots fundraising methods -- such as email and Direct Mail -- the medium still draws a lot of attention and seems like a free and easy way to attract new supporters.  However, MySpace and Facebook (we should just call them MyFace) are essentially a microcosm of the internet, and hosting a profile on either is akin to managing a website.  It still requires a lot of attention, staff time, management and promotion.  If you decide you want to go there, here are some points to consider before embarking on your MyFace mission:

  1. Define clear, realistic, measurable goals for your MySpace profile.  Do you want to achieve a certain number of friends?  Do you hope to generate a certain amount of donations from a widget?  Do you want substantive, meaningful comments that you can use in other marketing tools?  How many?
  2. How much resources, both financial and manpower, should you pour into your MySpace campaign?  Make sure it's worth it for your organization by using our social networking ROI calculator.
  3. Is this a strategy for the long term or for the here and now?  If it's a short term effort, you'll probably be disappointed given the current results most groups are seeing, and it might be more realistic to see the medium as a way to spread the word about your brand among future potential donors.
  4. Get to know "Tom" -- the groups that have developed partnerships with MyFace, YouTube, Change.org, etc get preferential treatment and promotion, which smacks a bit of the good 'ol fashioned broadcast model that can increase the chances of things going "viral" within the social networking site.
  5. The groups that take advantage of the buzz around social networks and new phenomena such as Second Life are really benefitting from the splash made through a creative use of the technology and a multi-channel approach to marketing.  So it's not really the medium itself that enables these successes -- it's really all of the media buzz that a creative idea gets, which then of course reinforces the fundraising success.  Sounds kind of like traditional PR tactics, n'est-ce pas?  However, these sorts of successes are difficult to replicate.
  6. The biggest list wins:  it's crucial to have a large network of people to reach out to when your organization faces a crisis or an opportunistic moment in the news.  You should test to see whether you get better response rates from your email lists or social network profiles, so that you know where to prioritize when it counts!

Reader Comments (3)

I'm not sure about the usefulness of metrics like number of friends or number of comments. Numbers alone (well except for dollars raised) aren't that meaningful unless you run it through some cost/benefit.

So, something like "the number of useful business/marketing insights via comments on our sn profile" versus the cost of a focus group or other research.

Anyway, great work here!

I'm the session designer for a panel on social media ROI and I am wondering if you'd like to be a panelists? Perhaps present your ROI calculator or a case study of an actual campaign.

What do yo think? Email me.

November 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Kanter
Good work on helping us all sort through whether and when and how to invest energy into these new ways to connect. For small organizations or organizations doing important (but perhaps not cool) work, the ROI is probably not high enough. At least not yet.
November 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Kincaid
I think long-term and repeat business marketing has always been about building relationships of trust and integrity. The social bookmarking sites offer this. It's just a case of how to tap into it in a cost effective way

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.