What Canadian donors really like about social media

publication date: Mar 28, 2011
author/source: hjc/Convio

Since the meteoric rise of networks like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, Canadian fundraisers have been scrambling to make the most of social media. But while donor interest and engagement have risen, there have been few breakthrough fundraising results. Moreover, many fundraisers know their files are on the older side - and the assumption has been that it's mostly younger folks who are active on social media networks.

In November 2010, Stratcom, hjc and Convio released a groundbreaking study exploring the multi-channel preferences and charitable habits of four generations of Canadian donors. This study just scratched the surface of data we collected from over 1,500 Canadian donors. Recently we went back into that data and asked a few new questions. Or more accurately, we asked the burning question. Just how do I use social media to engage my donors?

Social media luring every age group

Our data shows that some of our assumptions about who is using what social media channels, and how much, are not really accurate. Here are four social media generational profiles:

  • Gen Y (b. 1981-1991) Majority use the Internet 10-19 hours a week. 87% use Facebook. 30% use Twitter. 24% use LinkedIn. 93% use YouTube.
  • Gen X (b. 1965-1980) Majority use the Internet 10-19 hours a week. 81% use Facebook, 25% use Twitter. 23% use LinkedIn. 90% use You Tube.
  • Boomers (b. 1946-1964) Majority use the Internet 10-19 hours a week. 66% use Facebook. 13% use Twitter. 19% use LinkedIn. 72% use YouTube.
  • Civics (b. 1945 or earlier) Majority use the Internet 10-19 hours a week. 52% use Facebook. 6% use Twitter. 8% use LinkedIn. 45% use YouTube.

What really struck us in this data was just how prevalent social media usage is across generations. Yes, it's true that the Gen Y audience is the most active and engaged. But all groups are using social media and the majority of your donors of any age are on Facebook and YouTube.

Another surprising finding is how donors first come to learn about a cause to which they now donate. Twelve percent of Gen Y, 8% of Gen X, 9% of Boomers and 9% of Civics report that they first learned about a nonprofit online or through social media. These fairly high percentages show that social media is an effective branding channel. Given its low cost compared to more traditional forms of marketing and branding, social media should definitely be part of your marketing mix.

Think first date, not gift

There are certain ways that donors really like engaging with the nonprofits they support on social media. For many donors, the first interaction they had with a nonprofit they now support happened on social media - 30% of Gen Y, 20% of Gen X, 10% of Boomers and 10% of Civics report that the first interaction they had with a nonprofit was joining their social network.

Social networks have a very low barrier to entry. There is no cost for donors, they can manage the volume of communication they see from you, and content on social networks is usually up-to-date and relevant. It's important that your social presence portray your brand and mission effectively and clearly. If these people will eventually donate to you it's important that your direct response content speaks with the same voice as your social media content.

You can't ask successfully - but supporters can

Unfortunately, donors just are not interested in donating to you via social media. Less than 2.5% report having made a donation via a social network. Perhaps this will increase in the future - in the United States this percentage is around 5% and they are slightly ahead of Canadian in social network usage and maturity. But the lesson is clear for now:  raising funds should not be the primary goal of your social media strategy.

On the point of donations though, the majority of Gen Y and Gen X donors thought that having a friend ask them to donate via a Facebook post, tweet or other social network was an acceptable and appropriate way to raise money. Maybe we'll see a shift in peer-to-peer fundraising to utilizing social networks rather than standalone websites and personal pages. Want to be an early adopter? Make sure your peer to peer technology can integrate seamlessly with social networks.

It seems there are lots of things that Canadian donors like, don't like and are still exploring when it comes to social media and nonprofits. But rest assured - you are reaching a wide range of people when you post, tweet, share a video and more. All ages of donors are using certain social networks in Canada. They're not donating through social media, but social media tools are a good way to brand your organization and engage and interest potential or existing donors.

To learn more, watch this recorded webinar

hjc specializes in integrated fundraising, brand building and campaigning. Since 1992, we have worked with nonprofits to bring online and other channels together. hjc's strategic consulting team brings together some of the most innovative thinkers in the nonprofit sector. And our in-house production team of designers, programmers and copywriters can do it all - delivering complete programs. For more information, www.hjcnewmedia.com or email.

Convio is the leading provider of on-demand constituent engagement solutions that enable nonprofits to raise funds more effectively, advocate for change and cultivate relationships with donors, activists, volunteers, alumni and other constituents. For more information, please visit  http://www.convio.com.

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Copyright, Hilborn Stanois Inc., © 2011-Current. All rights reserved.

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