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Study: Charities use social media more than businesses

UMass research finds that large charities make strong use of blogs, online video and other Web 2.0 tools

By Heather Havenstein
November 28, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The country's largest charities are outpacing the business world in their use of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs and podcasts, according to preliminary survey results released by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

The survey of 76 of the largest U.S. charities found that 75% are using some form of social media, including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking sites, video blogging and wikis. More than 41% of the charities surveyed are using online video, and more than a third of the charities are blogging.

Almost half (46%) reported that social media is a very important part of their fundraising strategy, according to the preliminary report, called "Blogging for the Hearts of Donors: Largest U.S. Charities Use Social Media." Those surveyed include representatives from well known charities like the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, Habitat for Humanity International and Easter Seals.

While 34% of the charities reported that they are using blogs, previous research by the university has shown that only 8% of companies in the Fortune 500 and 19% in the Inc. 500 are blogging, according to the preliminary research results. The university plans to release the full results of the survey next year.

"This research proves conclusively that charitable organizations are outpacing the business world in their use of social media," the report noted. "U.S. businesses as well as colleges and universities tended to be far less familiar with podcasting than the charities studied here. The nonprofits are making good use of both audio and visual technologies to help tell their stories and get their message out."

The charities reported that their blogs were most often written and managed by their in-house public relations or communications staff. They reported that social media is a key part of their fundraising efforts, but most measured the success of their blogs by using traditional metrics like the number of hits or comments instead of donations generated.

Just over half said their blogs are available through an RSS feed.

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