The Contribution of Social Media in Helping Nonprofit Organizations Achieving Their Goals
Natacha Maheshe Due on May 17th 2012 CMJR 245 Media Foundations of Communication Research Paper The contribution of Social Media in Helping Nonprofit Organizations achieving their goals Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are structures that aim to serve a community, a cause or raise awareness about an issue without making any lucrative profit. They are formed by people who work or volunteer to help the organization reach its goals for a given cause.
It is known that NPOs do not make money; they, therefore, have to find other means to help them get necessary funds to operate. The goals of NPOs vary from the cause they are working on, a fight that they are leading, an issue they want to raise awareness about etc. Regardless of what the goals of an NPO are, it is very important to find different means that are effective in helping them reach the goals. In this era when technology has made tremendous progress, NPOs are called to adapt and to use technology at their advantage in order to make the most out of it.
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As a result, NPOs turn to social media, a feature that technology is providing as a mean to help in their mission. Before we continue further on the topic, it is important to define social media and address its features that are helpful to NPOs. “Social media consists of the information infrastructure and tools used to produce and distribute content that has individual value but re? ects shared values; the content that takes the digital form of personal messages, news, ideas, that becomes cultural products; and the people, organizations, and industries that produce and consume both the tools and the content. (Parks and Philip, web 2012). Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, on the other hand, define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2. 0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. ” Therefore, we can see how social media includes a number of tools such as the internet, mobile device, applications, websites etc. that can be used in order to convey a message by creating a shared meaning.
The most popular forms of social media used today in the world and mostly by NPOs are: blogs, social website like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, video and media sharing platforms such as YouTube and more. These tools are free of charge, which makes them more attractive to NPOs to use them because they allow them to get their work done at low cost. Social networking sites have given non-profits an incredible portfolio of free tools to use to raise awareness, boost their public image, garner new volunteers, and raise money. Robin Wilding, 2011) First, one thing that social media is helping NPOs realize is raising awareness about the issues and causes they are fighting for. For instance, the like-page feature of Facebook has been great at informing people about issues going on in the world and raising awareness about them. Not only is Facebook providing information about an issue that an NPO wants to inform people about through the page, but it is also creating an interactive setting and shared meaning between the NPO and the people who like the page. This leads to more communication that includes questions, clarifications, and concerns. The number of fans a brand can attract on Facebook serves as public indicator of its social worth, and more ‘likes’ means more impressions on the real-time newsfeeds of self-selected fans. ” (Pardee Thomas, 2011). In the case of NPOs, the number of people who like their page reflects how many people know about them as an organization, or know about their mission and what they are trying to achieve. It is easy for NPOs to reach out to more people via social media tools due to the increase in the number of people who rely on social media to get informed.
Furthermore, “installing a sharing-based tool like Facebook ‘Like’ or Share This will help your content reach new audiences as social networkers are more than twice as likely to forward an article, post, photo or video if it is cause-based” (Wilding Robin, 2011). Not only are social media tools helping NPOs raise awareness, but also creating an image by which the organization is referred to. Companies are continuously launching marketing campaigns in an effort to promote their brand and boost their sales.
However some companies cannot afford to launch huge marketing campaigns using traditional marketing tools because of their cost. This is where Social media marketing comes in. “Most social media marketing ‘tools’ are free to use and can provide the same amount of marketing exposure whether you are just starting out or are a giant conglomerate” (O’Flynn Anthony, 2011). Since NPOs budgets are so tight, they turn to these tools that social media provide to do their own marketing whether for the sake of public image or for the sake of raising money. NPOs, by using social sites like Twitter or Facebook, reach ut to more people in an interactive way, which allows them to get feedback on what they are doing and to improve areas in which they are not doing so well. This type of marketing, especially Twitter and Facebook, work with the ‘friend’ concept. “People can give you positive reviews, recommend your product and tweet about your company. This whole social community allows your company’s name and brand to be viewed by a significant amount of people. Continuous use of social media over time creates brand awareness and thus helps to increase sales” (O’Flynn).
Robin Wilding adds in Social Media Sites, Strategies & Tools for Non-Profits that “Incorporating social media into your non-profit’s portfolio will increase your brand awareness and garner new volunteers”. The better the image of an NPO is, the more people will be interested in it, and the more likely they are to volunteer with the organization. Volunteers are the greatest resource that a charity can have. There are some great social sites that can help swell your volunteer numbers, including Facebook and Twitter. The biggest social networking sites reach the greatest audiences and therefore the greatest amount of volunteers.
However, other social sites have popped up with a specific focus on volunteering. For instance, sites like Idealist. org and Volunteer. org can help you find motivated, socially conscious and talented volunteers. “A Nonprofit organization that uses social media creates viral content that opens them up to a wider audience, helps find more volunteers, helps to raise money for your campaigns, and to widen your overall reach”. (Wilding)The American Red Cross says that “Social media tools allow us to connect with you on an individual basis at the place where your life intersects with our mission.
It makes sense that we would explore these tools and join these conversations that are an important part of your daily life. ” Without social media, it will be hard for NPOs to reach out to the same amount of people that they are with social media. The more concern people feel about an issue or a mission of an NPO, the more likely they are to volunteer their time to achieve the goal. Furthermore, having a huge number of people putting their effort together makes it easier to find ways to raise money for a given cause. Raising money for charities and causes is another reason why nonprofit organizations turn to social media.
It is a known fact that NPOs do not make money and do not have money to spend on achieving their mission unless they ask a third party for money. Usually, they turn to philanthropists to get money, but sometimes they need more money than what philanthropists can provide. Therefore, they have to turn to anybody who can donate money to help them achieve their goal. The traditional marketing methods used to reach out to people are so expansive that NPOs cannot afford at the same time using them and continuing their mission because it will cost them more money than what they can get.
This is where social media intervenes by providing free tools that allow NPOs to get more donations for their causes. Charities like the Direct Relief International and the Natural Resources Defense Council have raised millions of dollars with Google’s AdWords and YouTube non-profit program and tools. Google’s portfolio of non-profit tools includes up to $10,000 monthly worth of AdWords clicks (generally used to find more donors) and free or highly discounted Google Apps (Wilding). Using any sort of social media can be very effective in getting donations needed for a specific cause.
For instance, in 2010 through social media, the Salvation Army’s sidewalk Santas brought in $ 142 million to provide toys, food, clothing, and other relief services to people in need. (Klie Leonard, 2012). The easiest way to get people to donate money towards a cause is by creating a phone app that allows users to donate money using their credit or debit cards. Research shows that, if people can access the sites of charities of nonprofits and use their credit cards to donate, it usually boosts the donations (Leonard Klie).
NPOs are currently leveraging social media marketing, including the American Red Cross and the National Wildlife Federation. The Red Cross has committed part of their resources into a solid social networking strategy that has paid off; their strategy includes platforms like blogging, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Social Vibe, LinkedIn and more. The Red Cross has over 90 videos on its YouTube channel, the National Wildlife Federation over 75; together they have received over 4 million views—for free. (Robin Wilding, 2011).
It is very important to keep in mind that, when NPOs are using social media to get their voice out there, they are doing it for free, which means that they are saving up a lot of money that they would have paid if they were to use conventional means of marketing and advertising. Social media has proven to be a success at helping NPOs reach their goals. They provide free tools like– blogs, sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare– to promote their image, to recruit new volunteers and high profile workers, to raise money to direct to their mission and raise awareness.
Social media allows a conversation between a nonprofit organization and the people they are reaching out to. It has improved the way both communicate and has allowed many fights to be led, many issues to be treated. Many NPOs are overall happy that they have included social media in their everyday life because of all these benefits it is providing them with. For example, the American Red Cross is overall happy it has integrated social media in their everyday life because they have seen the results that follow.
Wendy Harman of American Red Cross adds, “Every day, several hundred people talk online about how their lives intersect with the Red Cross. We read and learn from every conversation. By adopting social media, we’re making it easier for you to tell us how to make the Red Cross a better organization” (American Red Cross). Social media is a revolution that is helping organization that use them, especially NPOs for its relatively low cost and the many features it is bringing in. References Wilding, Robin. “Social Media Sites, Strategies & Tools for Non-Profits. Social Sign- on, Social Commerce, Social Media, Social CRM & More. 21 Mar. 2011. Web. 03 May 2012. <http://www. socialtechnologyreview. com/articles/social-media-sites-strategies-tools-non-profits>. American Red Cross. “Social Media. ” Social Media. Web. 05 May 2012. <http://www. redcross. org/portal/site/en/menuitem. 94aae335470e233f6cf911df43181aa0/? vgnextoid=7a82d1efe68f1310VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD>. O’Flynn, Anthony. “Using Social Media to Increase Sales and Brand Awareness |. ” Using Social Media to Increase Sales and Brand Awareness |.
TED, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 May 2012. <http://ezinearticles. com/? Using-Social-Media-to-Increase-Sales-and-Brand-Awareness&id=4110467>. American Red Cross. “Social Media. ” Social Media. Web. 05 May 2012. < http://www. redcross. org/portal/site/en/menuitem. d8aaecf214c576bf971e4cfe43181aa0/? vgnextoid=24f1cb2d6c15b110VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default> Klie, Leonard. “NONPROFITS Find Money ON THE WEB. ” CRM Magazine 16. 4 (2012): 24-28. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 May 2012.