Facebook: Is it Worth your Nonprofit’s Time? | npENGAGE

Facebook: Is it Worth your Nonprofit’s Time?

By on Jul 12, 2011


This is a guest post by the one and only Allyson Kapin – co-founder of Rad Campaign. Make sure to check out what she’s got going on!

How much time should your nonprofit spend engaging with their “fans” on Facebook?

Is two hours a week good enough? Or will nonprofit campaigners who spend eight hours a week on their FB fanpage see better results such as more actions taken on campaigns and increased donations? Idealware who surveyed over 500 nonprofit staff members about their Facebook usage and goals may have answers to some of the questions organizations have been seeking. Their recent report provides great insight into how nonprofits are benefitting (or not) from Facebook.

Bottom line – nonprofits are having some success in connecting with new constituents and generating action, but the social network works best when requiring a low level of commitment. Like other studies have noted, social networks like Facebook are not raising much money. In 2010, 78% of nonprofits surveyed by NTEN who had raised money on Facebook raised $1K or less in 12 months. Only 3.5% of the organizations fundraising on Facebook, raised $10K or more.

Check out the key Facebook data below.

Facebook Increases Event Turnout

Interestingly, over 70% of nonprofit staff respondents saw the most success attracting new event attendees. Staff said that Facebook helped build enthusiasm for events when people reposted the info and shared it with friends. I was surprised to see these results because getting people to attend offline events is not a low barrier. It’s much easier for people to click a button and sign a petition online than it is to take time out of their busy schedules to attend an event.

Facebook Is Not a Good Tool for Donor Acquisition or Volunteerism

Only about 40% reported success converting Facebook fans into donors or volunteers. “Many organizations said they used the Causes.com Facebook application as a fundraising tool to varying degrees of success, but some respondents expressed frustration over recent changes to the Causes interface,” said the report. “Respondents that indicated some success reported using apps or other online donation tools that interact with Facebook.”

The report also noted that while many nonprofits did not have much success in spurring volunteerism amongst their FB fans it was a good way to retain and engage existing volunteers.

Facebook Boosts Organizations Web Traffic, Advocacy, and Email Lists

70% of nonprofit staff said they that Facbook helped increase their website traffic.  66% from advocacy organizations said they experienced an increase in people taking some type of action, like signing a petition. And 42% reported an increase in their email lists that they could attribute to Facebook.

Facebook Helps Build Stronger Relationships with Existing Constituents

80% of nonprofit staff said that that Facebook helped them build better relationships with their existing constituents by helping nonprofits stay in touch and build community around their issue.  50% said that while Facebook may have helped increase awareness of their brand they didn’t see much of an increase in new members.

“For instance, the Workers Interfaith Network said it came to Facebook expecting to add a lot of new constituents, but instead found it more as a communications adjunct to its website and email.”

Nonprofits Spend 2.6 Hours a Week on Facebook

On average, the nonprofits who experienced success in using Facebook spent about 2.6 hours per week on the social network. While organizations experiencing a positive impact from Facebook spent more time on the platform, any time spent over four hours per week, the results leveled-off.


Conclusion: After three years of nonprofits using social networks like Facebook as part of their communications and outreach, their strength still lies in its ability to serve as straightforward “touch points” with supporters rather then tools to reach new audiences or to raise money.


Allyson Kapin is the co-founder of Rad Campaign, a web agency that provides web design, web development and online marketing and strategy for nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. She is also the Blogger-In-Chief for Care2’s Frogloop blog.


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

Comments (8)

  • John Haydon says:

    Allyson – Great post here. 

    Using informal and and formal polls, I’ve found that most nonprofits consider their expertise level beginner or intermediate when it comes to using Facebook. 

    Additionally, less than 25% have a strategic approach (goals, messaging, strategy, tactics, measuring) with Facebook. Surely these two factors would a direct impact on results. So one thing I would have liked to have seen in the study was information on how savvy / experienced the org was, and if they have a Facebook strategy.

  • Laura Quinn, idealware says:

    Thanks for the writeup of our survey report, Allyson!  John, just FYI, if you look at our original survey report we do in fact discuss at some length the number of people who had set goals (not many!).  We also collected data as to how long people had used Facebook.  Interestingly, there was little correlation between that and success in any particular area, or even number of fans.

    • John Haydon says:

      Laura – sorry I missed that (my bad). 

      Setting goals seemed to have made a small difference though (40% of those who set goals saw positive results vs. -25% of those who didn’t set goals saw positive results). I also noticed that setting short goals was more effective and that goals were primarily around fan growth.One thing I noticed about the case studies was that most seemed to have a strategic approach (more than just goals) and brought in other channels (email, their website, events).

  • WomenWhoTech says:

    Hey John thanks for checking out the post. Just wanted to chime in and follow up on what Laura said and my personal experiences working with nonprofits. The organizations that have the most success using any form of social media are the ones that have dedicated social media staff like NWF, HSUS. They have done a great job engaging their community, building up a base of supporters, and raising more money through social networks then other nonprofits who don’t have the staff resources or large email lists and supporter bases to start with. I also think the nonprofits who use multiple channels to reach supporters see the best results.

    There are some great strategists like Estrella, founder of Big Love, Little Hearts who have much smaller orgs/social enterprises then say HSUS and have also seem some success. But Estrella works so incredibly hard night and day and has a very niche audience where the issue is so personal to their members.

  • My informal observations concur… and my clients will agree. So, give up on Facebook? Hardly. It is just one tool that needs applied exactly where it serves the most good. Thanks for sharing.

  • Aaron Biddar says:

    I think we are still learning lessons and I would hate to see us stop trying new things. I think the biggest problem we have is differentiating between what is or could be working for large nonprofits versus small nonprofits. 

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