Posts Tagged ‘Flickr’

Social networking – is it of use to charities?


This is a subject which is only increasing in popularity. There has been enough written about it now, that I think we can provide a useful summary of the general consensus – is this something charities should be allocating valuable resources to (i.e. a body in the office to ‘tweet’ and to look after various accounts) or does it not pay its way?

Applications such as Facebook’s ‘Causes’ have failed to deliver what they might have imagined. Of the 179,000 non-profits who signed up to the ap, a tiny percentage have made even $1000. Fewer than 1% of users who joined a cause donated money through the application.

Incidentally, Nature Conservancy, who are the largest fundraiser on Causes ($198,000) says social networking was never primarily about raising money, but mostly to circulate news and event announcements.

It would appear that those who use social networking tools for their first and foremost employment i.e. communication, are the most successful at raising funds as a secondary product of connecting with their supporters.

The Brooklyn Museum show how social networking, over several websites, can generate interest and conversation to link the museum with its community. It started a complex buzz about the museum online by creating accounts with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and posting content to Flickr, which is now allowed to flourish by holding regular meet-ups at the museum for friendships made and conducted online.

Again, this was not a fundraising exercise but one of communication with their community and their supporters.

Fundraising widgets as a whole do not seem to have brought in the hoped-for increase in donations from supporters, but a presence in the medium of interactive websites might well have given an increase in supporters as a whole. Whereas those who use social networking might be with their charity in spirit, they’re not usually there in pocket.

An article in The Guardian suggests that charities need to be careful with social media. They suggest that “they should be aware that not only might misleading claims be exposed online but that individuals could easily choose to bypass institutions altogether. Not all donors are in a position to travel to countries in need but that is not necessary: they can easily meet a beneficiary online and transfer the money in real time.”

It’s unlikely people will decide to connect directly to individuals and bypass charities as a middleman, I think they will prefer to give their money to well known organisations which are open about what they do and have a proven track record of helping their cause. I do think however, that being able to connect with individuals within the big, faceless charities are helping users associate more with their charity.

The successes have been for those charities with high profile causes – green and environmental charities, or those who tug at the heart strings, such as dog rescue charities. Twittering images of dogs in rescues waiting for new homes is bound to increase communication with supporters. Further successes have also been achieved for charities whose aims are to help kids – they can communicate with them in their own, online environments where they feel more confident.

It seems as though no one has really found the key to using social networking to directly raise money for charity, if indeed one exists. Events such as Hugh Jackman’s offer to donate $100k to the chosen charity of someone on Twitter, when they explained why in 140 characters or less, is as near as charity gets to significant amounts of money from social networking.

There are many articles on the net written to encourage charities to make use of this ‘free’ avenue to attract more funding – but it isn’t really as free as it seems. Excluding the man-hours required simply to communicate with supporters, it also costs money to have widgets and applications developed. And so far, these have raised only a small percentage of the dreamed-of sums suggested by some authors. ‘Join social networking sites to connect with younger supporters’ was the message, and ‘Very few charities have made full use of social networking websites’. Perhaps quite a few charities are just hanging back to see if it is really worth it.