First, the good news. A recent "must read" data memo from the Pew Internet Project reports that 35% of American adult internet users have a personal profile on an online social network site … four times as many as three years ago.

More detail on the percentages of online folks who have a social net profile:

  • 65% of online teens
  • 75% of online adults 18-24
  • 57% of online adults 25-34
  • 30% of the 35-44 segment
  • 19% of the 45-54 segment
  • 10% of the 55-64 segment
  • 7% of the 65 and older segment

I’ll bet I know where most of your donors fall!

Only 28% of adults who are not students have an online profile.

And while 31% of online white adults have an online profile, 43% of African-Americans and 48% of Hispanics do so.

Which social nets? 50% of adult social network users have a profile on MySpace, 22% on Facebook, and 6% on LinkedIn.

Social networking sites are gaining traction for political activism:

  • 29% of social networking users have used such sites to discover their friends’ political interests or affiliations;
  • 22% to get campaign or candidate information;
  • 10% to sign up as a friend of a candidate;
  • 9% to start or join a political group.

So let’s all go out and raise gazillions on MySpace and Facebook, right?

Wrong! That’s the bad news.

First, study this report and assess how closely your donor base overlaps the demographic distribution of active social networkers (it probably does not).

Second, get a handle on what social networkers are actually doing through this channel. I think you’ll find they are networking, yes … proselytizing, no. Nor are they responding to advertising messages.

Today, I would say social net sites hold utility primarily as a means of empowering the small segment of donors (not more than 10-15% according to our DonorTrends data) who do act as missionaries for your cause. And — for sure — that’s a terrifically important group for you to energize. Do you know who they are?

However, in terms of straight out fundraising, the usage numbers just aren’t there today, especially when looked at in the context of how most folks actually use the sites. In 2009, I can think of many things I’d do to shore up my fundraising results before turning to experimenting with social net sites (unless, of course, my nonprofit’s CEO can match the charisma and exce.

That said, we’re not "wet blankets" with respect to innovation. We’ll have a lot more to say inthe weeks ahead about both the use of social net sites and the importance of empowering your missionaries, as we release DonorTrends papers on both subjects.




This article was posted in: Communications, Demographics, DonorTrends / DonorVoice, Media usage / trends, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media.
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