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What Good is Facebook?

(July 5, 2011) Having a Facebook page for your nonprofit can help drive traffic to your website and raise awareness of your organization, but it is proving less effective at helping an organization recruit volunteers and raise funds, according to a recent survey.

The company Idealware recently surveyed 505 nonprofit staff members already using Facebook at their organization and found that, for certain purposes, Facebook can be quite useful.

Over 70 percent of respondents said Facebook helped them attract new event attendees. Seventy percent also saw a significant increase in traffic to their websites because of their Facebook presence.

Plus, about 66 percent of respondents from advocacy organizations saw an increase in people taking some notable form of action, such as signing a petition.

However, there were some areas in which Facebook brought less success.

Only about 40 percent reported success converting Facebook fans into donors or volunteers. And, only a small percentage of organizations are seeing success in fundraising as a result of Facebook. Only 29 percent saw an increase in donations.

The survey also found that just 42 percent of respondents reported an increase in their email lists that they could attribute to Facebook.

Setting Goals

Idealware found in the survey that few organizations have set goals or measured outcomes in regards to their Facebook presence. Those that do set organizational goals and measure the results were more likely to have success.

Only 36 percent of respondents had set organizational goals for Facebook. Among those, 40 percent reported some success. Respondents who had success dedicated 2.6 hours on average per week on the site.

Forty-seven percent of organizations using Facebook are not measuring the results whatsoever, and only 26 percent have a set a substantial method for measuring. The report separates out anecdotal measurement, meaning checking the number of fans or general activity on the site, from substantial measurement, meaning making use of Google Analytics or Facebook Insights - tools that quantify the Facebook page traffic and report more precise results.

Forty percent of those organizations using a tool like Google Analytics reported positive results with Facebook.

Building Community

On a brighter note, 80 percent of respondents felt that Facebook helped them enhance their relationship with existing constituents. Albeit a subjective measurement, Idealware notes that each of the people they interviewed for more in-depth responses said Facebook was a good way to keep in touch and build community around a cause.

"It appears that many consider Facebook to be as much or more a straight-forward ‘touch point' with their supporters rather than a way to reach new audiences or to drive their existing constituents to action," the report explains.

In the end, Facebook so far has proven successful for organizations that commit at least a few hours a week to monitor and update their page, and has shown success in increasing website traffic and general awareness of the nonprofit. Building community and enticing people to action, such as attending an event, has shown to be more successful, so far, than asking for donations or recruiting volunteers.

Idealware's June 2011 report, "Using Facebook to Meet Your Mission: Results of a Survey," can be downloaded here.

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