Is Nonprofit Social Media A Waste of Time?

Julia Claire Campbell Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Media 6 Comments

Is Nonprofit Social Media A Waste of TimeDo you find social media to be a big, fat time waster for your nonprofit?

It may be tempting to read articles with provocative titles like Matt Collins’ recent post for The Guardian, “It’s time for charities to stop wasting money on social media”, while nodding vehemently and pumping your fists up and down.

You may be thinking: “FINALLY! Finally, someone told me that it was ok to quit using social media for my nonprofit! I was right all along!”

Well, no. This kind of outdated thinking isn’t just wrong, it’s unhelpful and even risky to nonprofits.

My main beef with articles like Collins’ is that the logic often contradicts itself. His article starts out saying that “social media has changed the world” but then claims that, despite this universal shift in communications, charities should just ignore these channels and continue on with the status quo.

The only problem is that social media has BECOME the status quo. It’s become the norm.

Social media has revolutionized the very way in which humans interact with each other. The platforms have completely changed how we discover and share information we care about (friends, family, news, work, causes, to name a few).

Collins claims that charities have “dormant email lists of thousands of people”. I think that if he bothered to talk with a wide variety of nonprofits, he would find that they are struggling to grow and build their email lists, as well as to communicate with their email subscribers in a meaningful way. His recommendation of simply sending “more emails” is faulty, and could alienate email subscribers if overdone.

I do agree with his assertion that nonprofits (and businesses, and individuals) need to prioritize the places where they spend their precious time. Focusing efforts on Google AdWords and search engine optimization is certainly worthwhile and yields results for many nonprofit organizations. Phone calls, handwritten thank you notes, and in-person donor meetings will never be replaced with a tweet or LinkedIn message.

My point is that social media will never replace tried-and-true fundraising methods for nonprofits. It will never replace direct mail for most of us (at least not in the foreseeable future) or events (as much as I wish it would).

You are assuredly wasting precious time and money on social media if:

**You do not have a plan or a strategy.

**You do not know who you are reaching or why you want to reach them.

**You are only using social media to push out event announcements.

**You are not responding to or acknowledging comments, shares, likes, and retweets.

**You are not building relationships with the people that fan and follow you.

**You are not attempting to use social media to build your email list (where the real digital marketing ROI lives).

**You are only posting once per week and it’s only because your ED reminds you.

Absolutely anything  can be a waste of time, if you do it incorrectly or haphazardly.

However, when done strategically, thoughtfully, and consistently, social media can augment your fundraising efforts. It can enable you to stay top of mind with your donors, and allow them to connect with you in different spaces.

Do you find that social media is a gigantic waste of time? Why or why not? 

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Comments 6

  1. Scott Swedenburg

    Great Points! Social media is a wonderful tool that every nonprofit should be using. But like other tools, a screwdriver is only good for some things.

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  2. Edmond G. Bertrand

    I’ve worked with a number of non-profits that are confused about the hows and whys of social media. They fail at it because they don’t have mental ‘buy-in’ at all levels of the organization. In other words, the staff members at said NPO’s don’t take time, though they most definitely should, to consider how what they are doing could either: (1) impact their organization’s messages and standing on social media or (2) how they, as individual staffers, could contribute positively to the social media outreach of their organization.

    I know of one NPO that’s sitting on a treasure-trove of photos, videos, testimonials, etc. that could all be put to great use in their social media efforts… but they have no one to collate all of it and direct its use.. *and* they don’t value it enough to put someone onto it as a FT responsibility. It’s infuriating. I’ve often wondered how an organization, that lives and dies by its public image, could be so obtuse.

    Like any other kind of advertising, social media efforts succeed ONLY when done (1) consistently, (2) coherently (meaning that there’s a strategy in place), and (3) aggressively. A NPO cannot be timid about social media outreach. There are way too many voices in the marketplace and to be heard, an organization has to find a way to rise above the din and be noticed. It’s a heavy lift….. but it’s not impossible… and it’s very, very much worth doing.

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