Figuring out how your organization is "doing" with social media has been a difficult task for nonprofits since the beginning. A myriad of solutions have been developed to help, but for many nonprofits, it is difficult enough to find the time to maintain a presence on social media, let alone figure out how to measure it.
However, as I said in last week's blog post, Getting Strategic About Your Social Media, it's important that you're not just doing social media because everyone else is, precisely because of how much time it takes. Being strategic about your efforts is important, and benchmarking is one way to help you determine both your current position and where to go from there.
Benchmarking, as it relates to nonprofit organizations, is the process of comparing your nonprofit's performance or processes (in a given area) against those of (1) your industry, (2) a group of your peers, or (3) some defined best practice. If you'd like to start benchmarking your social media performance against that of your fellow organizations, there are a few ways to go about it.
The first way is to benchmark your performance against that of the nonprofit sector as a whole. NTEN, in partnership with Common Knowledge and Blackbaud, just put out their 2011 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, which compiles the data from a survey of nonprofit professionals at a whopping 11,196 organizations. The organizations in the survey represent a huge variety of budget sizes, areas of activty, and levels of social media use. You can download a PDF of the report here to see the full results, but here are a few of the main takeaways:
- 82% of nonprofits surveyed found their social networking efforts either "very valuable" or "somewhat valuable".
- Facebook is king of the social networking hill, with 89% of surveyed nonprofit reporting a presence in 2011.
- Twitter comes up next with 57% of nonprofits reporting a presence, with LinkedIn following after that with 30%.
- Of the three, only Facebook shows slow growth (3% over 2010) while both Twitter and LinkedIn have plateaued in the last year, even decreasing slightly in use.
- MySpace continues to decrease in importance, with the 14% of nonprofits reporting a presence in 2010 dwindling by half to 7%.
- Of the lesser-utilized social networking platforms, only Foursquare had any significant use with 4% of nonprofits reporting a presence. Other outlets like Jumo, Vimeo, Talp, Picasa, Ning, and Delicious accounted for less than 1% each.
- Average follower base by network: (1) Facebook - 6,376 (2) Twitter - 1,822 (3) LinkedIn - 1,196
- Fundraising on Facebook is growing, with 46% of organizations reporting fundraising between $1 and $10,000. That said, 35% of organizations are raising less than $1000, so the 46% might be a little misleading.
Speaking of fundraising, in one of the most interesting findings of the survey, the results revealed a kind of superclass of fundraising organizations who raised over $100,000 using Facebook. What does it take to raise this kind of money? According to the survey, a giant Facebook following (the average was nearly 100,000) and a relatively high level of staff time (30% of these Master Fundraisers dedicate 2+ staff to their social networking activities). One thing that was surprisingly not a factor was organization size. 30% of the Master Fundraisers have an annual budget of less than $5M. The takeaway? Staff time is more of a factor for success than overall size of the organization. Still, only 27 organizations of the 11.196 surveyed managed to raise that much money, a statistic that speaks to the difficulty of using Facebook as a serious fundraising tool.
I would argue that for a small, more locally based organization, comparing yourself to some of these statistics (especially for the size of the average Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn communities) is going to be discouraging and ultimately not very useful. Based on the budget breakdowns for these organizations, I'd say many of them are very large, and depending on how the word about the survey was spread, highly socially active organizations may be somewhat overrepresented in relation to the average small nonprofit.
With this in mind, I wanted to mention an alternative benchmarking process that Beth Kanter wrote about yesterday, in which you more informally compare your organization's performance to that of your similar organization, perhaps within your field or within organzations of a similar size. This is a also a great exercise to meet more organizations in your field or area. As Beth puts it, "You identify a list of similar organizations and collect specific metrics to compare" and go for it! The example she cites in her post used Google Spreadsheets to pull together metrics for arts organizations, an easy and low-key solution. This method of benchmarking can give you more reasonable goals (given your organization's position in the field) to aim for, rather than a broader standard that factors in the communities of social media giants like the Red Cross, American Cancer Society, and the World Wildlife Fund.
How are you measuring your organization's social media progress?
Elyse Klova, Program Associate, Foundation Center Atlanta