A recent study on the usage of social media by nonprofit organizations concluded that nonprofits were most likely to use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness for their cause and promote their upcoming events and most recent activities. In the study, done through Rutgers University, nonprofits were broken down into six sectors: healthcare, education, arts and humanities, human services, religion and public benefit.
According to the study, just 3 percent of messages tweeted by nonprofits are aimed specifically at fundraising, while about 44 percent of tweets are aimed at raising awareness. Tweets for promotion and press rate the highest for arts and humanities organizations with 47 percent of their tweets aimed at promotion. Nonprofits that have missions focused in healthcare communicated their specific actions and advances through Twitter most out of all the nonprofits in the study. While nonprofits promoting education had the most interaction with their followers through replies and retweets.
Since Twitter, as a part of social media, is so easily accessible and free, questions began to arise from the results of the study as to why more charities aren’t using Twitter for fundraising. Those in nonprofit management say they find it more beneficial to use social media tools to reach out to and acquire supporters and donors through awareness and information as opposed to soliciting for direct donations. Public relations director for the American Lung Association (ALA), Mary Havell says, “Our main objective with Twitter is to distribute messages and to engage and educate people who are following us to support our mission. We’re not really using it as a platform to solicit donations.” She also says that social media is used, “as a tool to have more people attend events.”
Overall, the attitude of nonprofits toward social media have very little to do with fundraising. In fact, the main use for social media by charities is to open up communication and engage their community and supporters. It doesn’t hurt that social media can increase the number of attendees at events and drive traffic to websites. Jennifer Byrd publications director at The Salvation Army says, “We see all that (social media) as a way to get our message out… Something that might be going on that might not make the mainstream media.”