Do Charities need social media to survive?

So we all have Facebook, most of us have Twitter and many of us are venturing to the likes of Tumblr and Pinterest. But when it comes to charity, are these new social networking sites a help or a hindrance?

The Australian born charity Movember has been able to grow from strength to strength due to a huge online presence. Over the past eight years, Movember has internationally gone from raising £21,600 in 2004 to an incredible £79.3 million in 2011. It is believed that more than 1.9 million people take part internationally; with official organisations in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and all over Europe.

Each country involved with the Movember campaign has an official Twitter page, with Movember UK gaining 36,630 followers. James Bridgwater-Court, a student from Bristol who took part in Movember said: “I think websites such as Facebook and Twitter have had a big impact on the Movember charity because it is mostly young people who take part in the charity and it is also young people who are constantly on social media sites.” The official Facebook page for Movember UK has 71,158 likes and has 617 users taking about it. The page has multi-media features, such as videos and photos which are publically available.

So, is it now essential for charities to use social media services in order to be successful? Martin Campbell, director of innovation and strategy of Blackbaud Europe, the institute of fundraising, seems to think so. When asked why he thought some charities were not active on social networks, Campbell said: “there are two main reasons… they lack the time and resources and they feel they lack the skills required to be a success on social media. Managing a presence across all social networks can be time consuming.” Campbell went on to explain how he believes charities without a social media image need to “take the plunge” and most acknowledge it as a tool for communication, stating it could have “practically been invented for the third sector.”Blackbaud Europe recently researched how charities and supporters used social media, discovering that social networking was in fact adding to, rather than replacing more traditional methods of fundraising and recruiting support. Campbell said: “Being aware that someone ‘likes’ your charity on Facebook in itself might not be hugely useful , but in conjunction with information about when the person last donated, via which method and how much, a more detailed view of that supporter begins to emerge and a charity can take action accordingly.”

Looking at Facebook statistics, it is clear to see why so many charities are using social media sites to advertise their causes. Sources show that, from September 2011, Facebook had more than 750 million active users with a huge 50 per cent of them logging on to the website every day. The accessibility of Facebook has increased too with more than 250 million people being able to access the site on their mobile devices. Figures suggest that 48 per cent of Facebook’s biggest demographic, 18 to 34 year olds check the website when they wake up.

Twitter’s statistics too show that in the UK, there are 10 million active users and 140 million internationally. In 2012, an average of 750 tweets were sent each second.

Speaking on, a multi-channel helpline for charity organisations, Patrick Nash said that through social media, charities are able to communicate with their supporters in a way many of them feel comfortable to do so. Nash advised charities to look at the return on engagement and the idea of getting closer to the charity’s community. And it is clear from statistics, that Nash is correct. Save the Children’s official Twitter page has over half a million followers and using multi-media elements within it, such as links to videos and photos. Similarly, the Save the Children Facebook page has 2,918 likes, with anyone with a Facebook account being able to access photos, websites and videos of recent events carried out by the charity.

Peter Morgan, a retired charity owner said: “I understand why charities today would want to use the internet to raise awareness of charity work because it is an easy way to gain more supporters. When I am set up my charity, I had to use only traditional methods to make it successful and that could be hard at times.”

New technologies introduced in the last decade have enabled charities to promote themselves on a variety of social media which had not been available previously. With the sales of smart phones continuously growing, more and more people have access to the world of social media at their fingertips. And it is not just online social media that has seen an increase the third sector and charity awareness. Figures highlight that after the Panorama programme, aired 13th December at 9pm, was shown, the website for Shelter England received nearly 4000 unique page views as a result of the TV media.

With the United Kingdom suffering from such a poor economic climate and government cuts being dramatically made in the third sector, it is now the time more than ever for charities to find new ways of raising awareness of their cause. Social media is the new way for charities to not only raise money and awareness but also develop a strong online community.

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