Waters, Richard D.; Burnett, Emily; Lamm, Anna; & Lucas, Jessica. (2009). Engaging stakeholders through social networking: How nonprofits are using Facebook. Public Relations Review, 35(2), 102-106.

Since social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, began allowing organizations to create profiles and become active members, organizations have started incorporating these strategies into their public relations programming. For-profit organizations have used these sites to help launch products and strengthen their existing brands; however, little is known about how nonprofit organizations are taking advantage of the social networking popularity. Through a content analysis of 275 nonprofit organization profiles on Facebook, this study examines how these new social networking sites are being used by the organizations to advance their organization’s mission and programs. Solely having a profile will not in itself increase awareness or trigger an influx of participation. Instead careful planning and research will greatly benefit nonprofits as they attempt to develop social networking relationships with their stakeholders.

What it means:

In 2008, nonprofits failed to use Facebook to its full potential and most often used the social networking site for one-way communication, failing to cultivate relationships. While nonprofits did attempt to be transparent and open by disclosing information such as the site administrator, they did not take advantage of the interactive nature of the social networking site.


Content analysis of 275 randomly sampled legally incorporated nonprofit organizations’ Facebook profiles

Key findings:

1)      Nearly all the nonprofits listed the site administrators (97%) and provided a description of the organization on their Facebook page (96%).

2)      While discussion boards on Facebook were the most frequently used strategy to disseminate information (74%), 36% had not used the discussion board in a month.

3)      Few nonprofits used Facebook as an outlet to provide charitable donations (13%) or advertise current volunteer opportunities (13%).

4)      Healthcare and educational nonprofits were more likely to use fundraising on Facebook than other sectors.

How to use:

This study is beneficial for understanding how nonprofits use Facebook, and provides suggestions for best practices. Nonprofits should use Facebook to cultivate relationships by taking advantage of not only the ability to tell stories, but also to interact with their stakeholders. Nonprofits should also include information on their site relating to fundraising, volunteer efforts, and public relations opportunities.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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