Nonprofits often question what kind of an impact social media has on donors. Does engaging with people on social media encourage them to donate money? Does it prompt people to make an extra donation in a year, or increase their financial contribution? In short, does having someone follow your nonprofit organization on social media mean that they are committed to your organization? Or are people “Liking” a nonprofit page on Facebook just as a way to show public support (“hey, look at me, I’m charitable”), but in reality they are not invested in the organization?
A couple of recent studies reveal some of these answers, but unfortunately they are contradictory. Let’s take a look at some of the data.
The Nonprofit Times cited a study during the 14th Annual Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers at the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management that concluded that social media users are quite active with nonprofit organizations.
The survey asked the following question:
“Which of the following actions did you take to support a charity or cause after engaging on social media?”
Check out the survey responses:
- Donate money: 59%
- Volunteer: 53%
- Donate clothing, food or other personal items: 52%
- Attend/participate in a charitable event in my community: 42%
- Purchase a product to benefit the cause or charity: 40%
- Contact my political representatives by phone, mail or in person: 25%
- Organize an event in my community: 15%
- Some other way: 2%
*Note respondents were able to check multiple answers.
However, according to the study The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Prosocial Action, published in the Journal of Consumer Research and conducted by PhD student Kirk Kristofferson and professors Katherine White and John Peloza, “charities incorrectly assume that connecting with people through social media always leads to more meaningful support.”
“Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on.”
Could the difference in the results be that Kristofferson and team surveyed students and not charities' current social media followers? The study focused on asking students to show support for charity, such as “Liking” the charity page on Facebook, joining a FB group, signing a petition, or accepting a magnet or a pin. Next, they were asked to give money or volunteer. The survey found that the students who publicly supported nonprofits on social media, like Facebook, were the least likely to support the charity further, such as through volunteering, donating money, etc. But when participants supported a charity confidentially, such as signing a petition, they were more likely to donate money later.
Kristofferson said that social media is “making it easy to associate with a cause without committing resources to support it.”
He also adds, “If the goal is to generate real support, public facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.”
What are your experiences with your organization's social media followers? Do you feel that they are just as engaged as the people on your email list who are taking actions in a more private setting?