Since I started blogging about social media on this website, I am being asked by clients if there is any information about Return On Investment (ROI) in regards to the time and money that nonprofits spend utilizing social networking as a way to connect with and receive gifts from their constituents. In my estimation it appears that with ROI, it will depend upon what you are measuring. You can start with the stewardship factor, and just staying connected with your prospects. One can measure the number of “Likes” or how many “Friends” your organization has in Facebook. Or you could measure how many people are viewing your latest YouTube video posting. Or you can look how many followers of your “Tweets” you have on Twitter. Or even one could see how many connections your President has in LinkedIn with your top prospects.
Most organizations tend to focus on how much money can be raised given that they have a strong and robust social networking presence. An excellent source of information regarding the dollars raised via social networks and ROI calculation can be found in The Nonprofit Social Network Report. You can register and download the report at http://www.nonprofitsocialnetworksurvey.com/download.php. This 33-page report will give you a well-rounded view of what is happening with the 11,196 nonprofit professionals who responded to this survey. The top of page 4 will give you a breakdown of organizations, by size of budget, who have raised over $100,000 on Facebook. Page 8 provides some nice charts showing both budgeting and staffing levels for commercial social media. Commercial Social Networks (CSNs) are simply outlets from the commercial networking world such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Page 10 has a table related to ROI and how much is being raised utilizing the various commercial social network outlets. There are several other statistics throughout the report related to ROI, so check out the full report. In addition to CSNs, the report also goes over results on House Social Networks (HSNs), which are social networking outlets internal or private to the organization via the nonprofit’s website.
There are, of course, donations made that we may miss in our measurements. For example a prospect of yours could be following the tweets that your President makes on Twitter for a year, and then one day end up on your website to donate. They may be doing this because he or she is responding to the President’s tweets on the need for funding to your capital campaign to build a new wing to your hospital, university, or performance center. Or they may just like the President’s comments on a particular subject and in the end want to give to the organization because they feel good about who is leading the organization. Maybe the President tweeted about an emotional moment that he or she felt when receiving a donation from someone who is less than wealthy, but wanted to make a difference in their community. Motivation to give may be difficult to measure with social media, but nonetheless, your organization might want to consider finding ways to track this type of data. That is why your nonprofit should always ask questions related to how donors interact with the organization so that you can measure these types of scenarios and that this activity really does impact their decision to give.
The only way you may know if social media impacts a donor’s decision to give to your institution is if you ask the question. So the first step to being able to calculate any ROI with social media is to make sure you have consistent measurements and ask the right questions.
I would also encourage you to read Blackbaud’s NETWITSTHINKTANK website for several blogs that I’m reading and finding quite useful on the subject of social media and fundraising by some of Blackbaud’s foremost experts. Feel free to email me if you want to know some of my favorite blogs on our site and other sites related to social media at firstname.lastname@example.org.