Top 12 Social Media Insights for Nonprofits in 2012

Social networksBlackbaud, NTEN, and Common Knowledge have released their fourth annual Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, a yearly analysis of how nonprofits are using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This year’s report highlights 12 key social media insights for nonprofits that are intended to help the sector become more effective at using social media to drive value and raise awareness for their causes.

Conducted between January 24th and February 21st this year, over 3500 nonprofit professionals completed an online survey around two main categories:

  • Commercial social networks: The use of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+
  • House social networks: The use of social networks built and managed by nonprofits themselves

The report highlights how nonprofits have continued to grow their presence on social networks without spending unreasonable amounts of money. Engaging in social media uses resources, which are in short supply — 79% of nonprofits only have one person spending half or less of their time on social initiatives and 74% allocate a budget of less than $10,000, although staffing and budgets are on the rise. The main goals of commercial social networking activity are “Grow our base” at 76% and “Engage members more” at 74%.

The data shows that Facebook is the most-utilized network — 98% of nonprofits have a presence there in 2012, with an average community size of 8,317. Twitter is the next most utilized at 72%, followed by LinkedIn at 44%.

New this year is a benchmark for the average cost of acquisition for Facebook likes and Twitter followers, along with the average value of a Facebook Like. The reported average cost of a Facebook Like is $3.50, while a Twitter follower runs $2.05. Respondents said that the average value of a Facebook Like is $214.81 over the 12 months following acquisition. This value is far greater than benchmarks of the actual values of online- and offline-acquired donors ($32 and $62, respectively) as reported in a 2011 study. Given the low cost of acquisition, these channels are ripe for maximizing outreach, communication, and fundraising.

“These self-reported figures provide the first real glimpse into benchmarks for our industry,” said Holly Ross, NTEN’s executive director. “To be conservative, we recommend that nonprofits treat these benchmarks as a minimum investment level for acquisition of new supporters on Facebook and Twitter.”

Jeff Patrick, president of Common Knowledge, added that the wide difference between self-reported value and other actual benchmarks in the marketplace indicates that nonprofits still lack the necessary tools to truly measure the value of social network members.

From the report:


  1. Nonprofits’ Facebook and Twitter communities have grown by 30% and 81% respectively.
  2. Nonprofits own an average of 2.1 Facebook Pages and 1.2 Twitter accounts.
  3. The average cost of a Facebook Like is $3.50, while a Twitter follower costs $2.05.
  4. The average value of a Facebook Like is $214.81 over the 12 months following acquisition.
  5. The most common fundraising tactic on Facebook is an ask for an individual gift.
  6. Budgets and staffing for commercial social networks continue to climb.
  7. The top 3 factors for success on social networks are strategy, prioritization, and dedicated staff.
  8. Facebook advertising is used primarily to meet non-fundraising goals.
  9. Google+ is struggling to gain momentum in the nonprofit space, while Pinterest is the top newcomer.
  10. House social network use by nonprofits holds steady at 13%.
  11. The average number of members in house networks grew by 265% year-over-year.
  12. Open source software is the #1 development tool for house social networks. designed the infographic below to support the report’s findings:

How nonprofits are using Twitter and Facebook

Download the free complete report