Non-Profits ‘Outblog’ Private Sector

October 15, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Brand Metrics | Non-Profit | Social Media | Technology

The largest charitable organizations in the US far outpace the business world and academia in both their use of and familiarity with social media and their measurement of online buzz, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, which found that 89% of non-profits used some form of social media in 2008.

The study, which included interviews with 76 executives at America’s largest charities as defined by Forbes, compares organizational adoption of social media tools – including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging and wikis – in 2007 and 2008.

Among the key findings:

  • 89% of charities studied in 2008 make use of social media, up from 75% the previous year.
  • 45% now say social media is very important to their fundraising strategy, down from 46% in 2007.


  • 81% say social media is at least “somewhat important” to their future strategy.
  • Usage has increased from 2007 to 2008 for every social media tool studied.
  • The largest number of respondents in 2007 were familiar with blogging (62%), but by 2008, familiarity with social networks was the highest (70%).
  • 90% of charities with blogs believe their blogs are successful.
  • 75% of charities surveyed report they monitor the internet for buzz, posts, conversations and news about their institution, up from 66% in 2007.

Familiarity with SocNets, Blogs

According to the latest (2008) study, social networking and video blogging are now the most common tools? – with 79% of charities making use of each of them. In addition, some 57% are blogging, 36% are podcasting, and 16% are using wikis.? In addition, 49% of the charities studied are also using micro-blogging sites such as Twitter and uploading video to YouTube.


In terms of the growth from year to year, the use of social networking sites, video blogging, and blogging has increased dramatically. Video is up 38%, social networking up 47% and blogging up 23%.

Charities also are increasingly making use of? video in their blogs. The number reporting they did so jumped from 40% in the 2007 study to 65% in 2008.

Charities Lead in Monitoring

When comparing charities with other sectors also using social media and monitoring their names, brands and products, non-profits are ahead of the pack, the study found. In 2008, 75% of the top charities monitored online buzz about their names, causes or other pertinent information, compared with just 54% of US colleges and universities, and 60% of the Inc. 500.


More than? one-third (36%) of top charities now say they search manually to monitor buzz about their organizations or their causes.? This is down from 42% in 2007, primarily because there has been a corresponding increase in the number of charities automating their searches.? Automated searches from 34% to 42% from 2007 to 2008.? Google alerts were the most popular automated searches.

Comparisons with Academia, Business

While the Fortune 500, the Inc. 500, US colleges and universities and charities have all increased their adoption of blogging between 2007 and 2008, charities are “out-blogging” them all for the second year in a row, the study found. Separate research by UMass-Dartmouth found that only 16% of the Fortune 500 had corporate blogs, compared with 39% for the Inc. 500, and 41% of colleges and universities.? These numbers are all lower than the 57% of charities with blogs.


Additional study findings:

  • In the 2007 study 85% of those charities with blogs accepted comments. The number rose to 88% in 2008.
  • In the 2007 study, 58% of charities had an RSS feed available and 23% allowed email subscriptions. In 2008 those numbers rose to 67% and 56% respectively.
  • Among those not currently using social media or a particular tool, 54% percent of those without a blog in the 2007 survey planned to add one in the future, and 52% of the respondents to the 2008 survey still without a blog said they planned to add one.

A separate report from The Online Directory of Colleges and Universities provides a listing of the top 100 universities and colleges on Twitter.
About the study: The research, entitled “Still Setting the Pace in Social Media: The First Longitudinal Study of Usage by the Largest US Charities,” (pdf), conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson, is believed to be the first statistically significant, longitudinal study on the usage of social media by US nonprofits. The study comprised a nationwide telephone survey of the nonprofits named by Forbes Magazine to their list of the 200 largest US charities for 2006 and again in 2007. All interviews took place in 2007 and again in 2008. 38% of the Forbes 200 list participated in the 2007 study and the same number in 2008, making this research statistically valid. Forbes Magazine’s list of the 200 largest US charities is compiled based on the amount of private, nongovernmental support a charity received in the latest available fiscal year. The list excludes academic institutions, nonprofits that are either funded by a tiny number of donors (such as most private foundations) or don’t solicit, and religious organizations that don’t report numbers.

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