Mercy me!

Even while media researcher Niesen is reporting that social nets and online video have transformed the web, the Washington Post is telling us that online fundraising via social nets is over-rated.

What’s a poor blogger to do? Say they’re both right!

The usage trend data measured by Nielsen are as solid — and impressive — as it gets. Here MediaPost’s summary:

"The number of U.S. consumers who frequent online video destinations has climbed 339% since 2003, while time spent on video sites has shot up almost 2,000% over the same period. In the last year alone, unique viewers of online video grew 10%, while the number of streams grew 41%, the streams per user grew 27%, and the total minutes engaged with online video grew 71%.

Meanwhile, there are 87% more online social media users now than in 2003, with 883% more time devoted to those sites. In the last year alone, time spent on social networking sites has surged 73%, while in February, social network usage exceeded Web-based e-mail usage for the first time."

Nielsen says that consumers are seeking "more personalized relationships" online.

But so far, those personalized relationships are not generating contributions! The Washington Post, in an article focused exclusively on Facebook and its Causes program reports these fundraising results:

"More than 25 million of Facebook’s 200 million worldwide members have signed on as supporters of at least one cause, making it the third-most popular of the more than 52,000 applications on the site … But just 185,000 members have ever contributed through the site, which sends credit card transactions on Facebook to the Bethesda-based Network for Good to distribute. The median gift through Causes is $25. The majority of Causes’ participants have received no donations through the site. Fewer than 50 of the 179,000 groups on Causes have raised $10,000, and just two — the Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet — have cracked the $100,000 mark."

Pretty puny fundraising results. Granted, there are other social net fundraising applications and efforts out there, but we have no reason to believe that any would perform significantly differently.

The Agitator has posted plenty on social nets and fundraising (just search our "social netwoking" category). Our view has been essentially … Get Ready, Aim, small arms only, Fire!

The priorities we suggest:

1. Make your website really donation friendly.

2. Capture plenty of email addresses from your donors and learn the ropes of online fundraising and cultivation via email.

When you’re confidently on top of #1 & #2, then …

3. Make a very modest mind share and resource commitment to understanding the social net platforms and experimenting with fundraising applications. But don’t open a separate bank account yet for social net contributions. Today, expect your youngest donors and your existing "missionaries"  (that’s 20% of your donors if you’re lucky) to be the most likely users of social nets, and maybe 5-10% of them to donate via this channel.

That’s a pretty restrained assessment. If readers out there disagree, we’d love to hear about it,


P.S. Hats off to Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet. Your online fundraising folks deserve a raise. Why is it working better for you, I wonder?


This article was posted in: Communications, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media.
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