engagement, social media strategy, website innovation

Survey Shows Engaged Americans Talk Online, and Want To Know More

16 Comments 25 September 2009

Image courtesy of Brande Jackson

Image courtesy of Brande Jackson

In nonprofit engagement, there are two sides of the social media conversation. On one side, organizations use social media to initiate conversations with existing donors, generate buzz and find new stakeholders. The other side of the conversation happens on the stakeholder end. Donors (and other stakeholders such as volunteers, members, participants) check out your organization online for more information, or to get involved more deeply. Most nonprofits approach social media strategy from just one side of what I call the “social media relationship.” Just as a nonprofit wants to publish its news online and converse with stakeholders, donors want to know more about and engage with nonprofit organizations online. A relatively new Harris Poll of nonprofit stakeholders offers insight into the stakeholder side of the social media relationship.

In March 2009, a Harris Poll of “engaged Americans” (defined as those who have volunteered, donated or advocated in the past year) revealed surprising results.

1. They are talking about your organization to others
61% of those adults polled have recommended a nonprofit they support to someone else. In particular, the Harris Poll results reveals that they are speaking to them about your mission (78%), achievements (53%), opportunities to donate (42%), and opportunities to volunteer (35%). They are be speaking because they care. They are also speaking about your organization because they are engaged.

2. They want to be more involved, and many don’t know how
A summary of the Poll results states that “nearly two-thirds of engaged adults would like to become more involved with the nonprofit or charity they support the most. And, while the most common reason for not actually doing more, cited by 51%, is lack of time, roughly one in ten simply don’t know where to begin.”

3. They want to follow the social media activities of your organization
64% of respondents stated that it is important for non-profits to use social media to communicate with supporters . 47% say they would be interested in keeping up with the non-profits they care about through social media. In other words, engaged Americans want nonprofits to communicate with them through social media and almost half want to actively follow your organization’s social media activities.

Engaged Americans want to keep up with nonprofits through social media because they want to be more involved.

When they are involved, engaged Americans take action as a result of using social media!

Astoundingly, 80% of engaged Americans have taken action “as a result of something they read in a nonprofit of charitable organization’s blog, RSS feed or social networking site.

That’s huge! The chart below illustrates how engaged Americans have taken action:

Engaged Americans Taking Action

I’ve written down a few starter questions that might help you to engage stakeholders online. I’m sure there are more!

•    Is your nonprofit active in the same social networks as your donors?
•    Are your social media profiles displayed prominently throughout your website?
•    Does your e-newsletter include automatically hyperlink URLs to your  social media sites? Do you provide hyperlinks to take action?
•    Is there an easy way to donate online through both the website and other online social spaces?
•    Are there easy ways your stakeholders can help you achieve your mission online: signing an online petition, voting for an award, sending a letter to a legislator, signing up to volunteer
•    Is it easy to RSVP to an event online, and pass the event along?
•    Do you have “share” buttons next to the mission, achievements, and volunteer opportunities on your website or blog?
Which nonprofits are really giving engaged Americans opportunities to interact and share on the website and in their social spaces? Do you have other starter questions to add to this list?

Resources:
Over the Wire: That Newsletter is So 1999
Over the Wire: What’s a Nonprofit to Do?

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  • Debra – point number two makes a strong case for community forums – like a Buddypress system. That way, supporters can share with each other, get clear direction about what they can do, and also opt-in as “raving fans”, or not. Great post, Debra! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Love it! Great suggestion, John,and it is one good solution for helping stakeholders get involved that is easy and offers community as well. A great addition to this post!

    [Reply]

  • Debra – point number two makes a strong case for community forums – like a Buddypress system. That way, supporters can share with each other, get clear direction about what they can do, and also opt-in as “raving fans”, or not. Great post, Debra! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Love it! Great suggestion, John,and it is one good solution for helping stakeholders get involved that is easy and offers community as well. A great addition to this post!

    [Reply]

  • Your article came at the right time. Tomorrow I have a conference call with our Heifer International HQ marketing and volunteer team. I’ve been a strong advocate of social media and NPOs because it’s fast, far-reaching and FREE. HeiferPortland is a grassroots group of our parent organization Heifer International and we have lead the way in connecting with our volunteers and donors via social media. We are starting to reap the benefits and becoming recognized in the social media community because, like you mentioned, we engage in the communication and have a two-way conversation with our supporters. Thank you for writing this article at the right moment.

    Noland Hoshino

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Noland, I’m so glad you stopped by and commented! Yes – engagement is the key to a successful strategy. It sounds like Heifer Portland is strategically utilizing social media platform to connect with stakeholders effectively! Best of luck with your social media efforts, and please write or comment when you have an interesting project involving social media success. I’d love to write about it or ask you to present it as a guest post!

    [Reply]

  • Your article came at the right time. Tomorrow I have a conference call with our Heifer International HQ marketing and volunteer team. I’ve been a strong advocate of social media and NPOs because it’s fast, far-reaching and FREE. HeiferPortland is a grassroots group of our parent organization Heifer International and we have lead the way in connecting with our volunteers and donors via social media. We are starting to reap the benefits and becoming recognized in the social media community because, like you mentioned, we engage in the communication and have a two-way conversation with our supporters. Thank you for writing this article at the right moment.

    Noland Hoshino

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Noland, I’m so glad you stopped by and commented! Yes – engagement is the key to a successful strategy. It sounds like Heifer Portland is strategically utilizing social media platform to connect with stakeholders effectively! Best of luck with your social media efforts, and please write or comment when you have an interesting project involving social media success. I’d love to write about it or ask you to present it as a guest post!

    [Reply]

  • Debra:

    Great content here and thanks for bringing it to my attention. I missed the initial survey and you highlighted some great stuff.

    I submit that there is a third side to social media conversations for some nonprofit associations, especially cause and advocacy groups. The third side of the conversation is educating the general public, helping them move from awareness to action about a specific issue. These people are not necessarily stakeholders of a nonprofit, nor the donors although they could be potential new donors or stakeholders. However, the goal of communicating with these people are to educate them and help them make positive behavior change.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Jeff – good point. It certainly addresses the “they want to help but don’t know where to start” question. Associations and advocacy groups would be ideal groups of people to educate for activism.A lot of times I suggest that organizations offer specific actionable items in blog posts, check-offs on the website (donate, volunteer for an event, etc.) or attend facebook events. Maybe one idea is to step back and make it clear from the website, blog, and social profiles the types of involvement that actions can make a difference on behalf of the organization, and sharing the impact of these activities. Thinking out loud and thank you for suggesting this line of thought. Would love to hear some concrete examples or thoughts about educating the general public.

    [Reply]

  • Debra:

    Great content here and thanks for bringing it to my attention. I missed the initial survey and you highlighted some great stuff.

    I submit that there is a third side to social media conversations for some nonprofit associations, especially cause and advocacy groups. The third side of the conversation is educating the general public, helping them move from awareness to action about a specific issue. These people are not necessarily stakeholders of a nonprofit, nor the donors although they could be potential new donors or stakeholders. However, the goal of communicating with these people are to educate them and help them make positive behavior change.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Jeff – good point. It certainly addresses the “they want to help but don’t know where to start” question. Associations and advocacy groups would be ideal groups of people to educate for activism.A lot of times I suggest that organizations offer specific actionable items in blog posts, check-offs on the website (donate, volunteer for an event, etc.) or attend facebook events. Maybe one idea is to step back and make it clear from the website, blog, and social profiles the types of involvement that actions can make a difference on behalf of the organization, and sharing the impact of these activities. Thinking out loud and thank you for suggesting this line of thought. Would love to hear some concrete examples or thoughts about educating the general public.

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: e.politics: online advocacy tools & tactics » Quick Hits — October 1, 2009()

  • Debra:

    Here’s an example of how the trade association I work for educates the general public.

    We have a blog aimed specifically at the American public on the importance of oral health as related to overall health. (I work for a trade association of dental benefit companies.) We also provide consumer information on how to find American dental insurance companies that offer individual insurance. And, we have a specific Twitter account, @joeneedsdental for the public where we share tidbits of information about dental and oral health. Here’s an example of a tweet from today: Did U Know? According to the American Surgeon General, 120 diseases can be diagnosed through the mouth, making dentists an important first line of medical treatment.

    This is part of the advocacy we do on behalf of our members.

    Here’s another example: A friend of mine help develop a Facebook widget for the American Heart Association in honor of CPR week. The goal was to get more Americans aware of the need for CPR training. The widget was a huge hit and well received on Facebook. My friend actually has the ROI of the entire experience. You can see his slideshare here: http://www.slideshare.net/KoryeLogan/aha-cpr-week-digital-marketing-case-study

    [Reply]

  • Debra:

    Here’s an example of how the trade association I work for educates the general public.

    We have a blog aimed specifically at the American public on the importance of oral health as related to overall health. (I work for a trade association of dental benefit companies.) We also provide consumer information on how to find American dental insurance companies that offer individual insurance. And, we have a specific Twitter account, @joeneedsdental for the public where we share tidbits of information about dental and oral health. Here’s an example of a tweet from today: Did U Know? According to the American Surgeon General, 120 diseases can be diagnosed through the mouth, making dentists an important first line of medical treatment.

    This is part of the advocacy we do on behalf of our members.

    Here’s another example: A friend of mine help develop a Facebook widget for the American Heart Association in honor of CPR week. The goal was to get more Americans aware of the need for CPR training. The widget was a huge hit and well received on Facebook. My friend actually has the ROI of the entire experience. You can see his slideshare here: http://www.slideshare.net/KoryeLogan/aha-cpr-week-digital-marketing-case-study

    [Reply]

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About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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