How Social Media is Impacting Non-Profits

Non-profits looking to start using social media as a marketing tool will find a wealth of sound advice online, but putting the pieces together into a solid strategy? That's the real challenge. No one simple strategy will work for every nonprofit group. (In fact, trying to give step-by-step "one size fits all" directions for using social media is a lot like trying to teach a shy first-time party guest how to mingle with strangers.) Enough non-profits have broken the trail.

Non-profits continued to increase their use of commercial social networks over 2009 and early 2010 with Facebook and Twitter proving to be the preferred networks. LinkedIn and YouTube held steady, but MySpace lost significant ground.


Based on results of a survey conducted by the Non-profit Technology Network, social media is beginning to transform non-profits both in the way they work as well as their relationships with constituents. Non-profits are leveraging social media in their:

  • Marketing Communications: Stake their brand claim before someone else does and provide valuable and interesting content to attract incremental new followers and earn the trust of the ones we already have
  • Member Engagement: Create a deeper connection, with more kinds of engagement

Looking at how survey respondents use commercial social networks, the most popular role is for traditional marketing—to promote the non-profit’s brand, programs, events or services—with 92.5% of survey respondents indicating this role as the purpose of their presence on commercial social networks.
The second most popular role is for fundraising (45.9%). Program delivery (34.5%) and market research (24.3%) via the social network are utilized, but less frequently.

Read the complete Non-Profit Social Benchmark Report.

Member engagement is unique to the non-profit world—and one of the most important reasons for leveraging social media.

Over the past five years, The March of Dimes has used social media to nurture its online community, Share Your Story. It is one of the better examples of how non-profits can use social media to empower supporters without having to control it.

March of Dimes supporters came out in droves for a networked memorial service for a toddler named Maddie. The community raised tens of thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes in Maddie’s memory as well as covering the funeral costs for the family. The organization did little to stage this event.The March of Dimes has embraced openness and inspired their stakeholders to feel empowered enough to take action on their own.

While many non-profits still have a long way to go, the implementation of social media in their campaigns is helping these organizations meet and exceed many different goals. While some groups may measure their social media success based on how much money they raise online, other non-profits may assess their wins according to how many new volunteers they recruit, or how much more dialogue is shared among the community.


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