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Kris Hoots

Wow! This is great stuff! Several of our clients are dealing with one or more of the technology issues you list, yet they feel compelled to get out into the social market. This study will help us help them prioritize the importance of social marketing vs. fixing foundational technologies.


I'd add something like:

You can't make any decisions due to the 'cross functional technology and/or selection team' cant make up their minds on what is best for you.

I've definitely seen this one happen ... inability to make decisions.


Scott Meis

Good post Beth and thanks for sharing that graph. It blows my mind that faxes are still used that frequently. Absolutely, hard to operate with any efficiency without decent technology in place. In today's day and age though, upgrades don't have to cost a great deal.

To your point, a thorough understanding of social media and how a nonprofit's audience is utilizing social media is crucial. Of course, this becomes difficult unless someone at a nonprofit is fully engaged in social media. Thus, my addition would be to take a close look and ensure that you have someone who can reasonably devote at least an hour out of their day to study, learn and engage in social media.

Laura Quinn

Thanks for this, Beth! I'd add as well that social media probably doesn't make sense as an investment unless you have a relatively strong website and email strategy - just a lot more proven ROI one can get out of a strong website/ eNews/ email fundraising etc program, if you haven't invested much in that area yet.

Jeff Forster

A few notes from the guy with the survey:

Scott, although 80% of organizations use faxes, they use them quite rarely. Check out my new post on the frequency with which the tools are used:

They're not throwing out the machines, but neither are they using them all the time. After the 2006 survey, we cut Broadcast Fax as a communication tool option altogether because so few organizations were using them.

The discussion about how you know you're not ripe for social networking reminds me of an IT hierarchy I used to roll around in my head. It derived from seeing organizations working on a database strategy when they didn't have a LAN. This is obviously pre-ASP options for data management; it drove me bats to see these organizations getting things out of order.

It also reminds me of Seth Godin's Meatball Sundae. That's a whole book to help you know you're not ready for web 2.0.

Finally, I'll add to the list:
-If you have as many inkjet printers as users, don't plunge into social media yet.

Doug Jacquier

Useful material as always, Beth. We've just completed our second biannual national study of technology use in Australian nonprofit settings and although the questions and the countries were obviously different, there is some consistency and some variation in the outcomes, e.g.:
Outgoing email - US v Aus 86% vs 96%
Website - 80 vs 81
Fax - 80 vs 77
Interactive website - 28 v 46
Podcasting - 11 v 5
The full study will be published later this month at

And my 2c worth on whether to use social media, or not, is to ask: Are we trying to engage a significant number of people under 25? If the answer's 'yes', it's a no-brainer that social media (especially mobile tools) are a must.

Jeff Forster

Beth asked me to comment more on inkjet printers. I just think they're the canary in the coal mine at this point. They're so cheap to acquire (often thrown in free with CPU purchase) and so expensive to own and operate. And it's not just having them; it's the printer-user ratio of 1:1 or nearly 1:1. That signals either that you don't have a network or that you don't manage printing resources planfully.

We debated in our office recently whether a bellwether is always positive. If you can say that something is a negative bellwether, tons of inkjets would be one - a bad signal about the overall state of IT in the organization.

Will Hull - United Cerebral Palsy eCoordinator

Great post Beth. I happen to be in grad school currently and I am working on a research proposal in how nonprofits are engaging in social networking. Still working at the beginning of it, but it should come out in a couple days. Basically, I am setting up a study, but I wouldn't be executing it. It is a practice type exercise. Thought you should know, I think about this stuff even when I am not at work.

Thanks again for all that you do.

Marcus Goodyear

Where has this site been all my life? Thanks so much for the link to the report, your summary of it, and the hilarious thread about inkjet printers.

ROI is key. But I've wondered recently if social media isn't more about marketing brand awareness and message more than boosting direct sales/donations.


Hi, I'd say you always have to start! But depending on where you are start small and with something that will have high results. I disagree that you should not start- that's the reason why some people think web2.0 is not relevant for developing countries and the Ghanaians whom I told too disagree!


Have you looked at - they may be able to do some good basic social media work for smaller non-profits that don't have the budget to do something in social media.

Robyn McIntyre

I'd add:
if you don't have a point person who can monitor the SM conversations and;
if you haven't developed an SM policy yet, and;
if you don't have a strategy for how you'll interact with the community that results.

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