Increased social network can have big payoff for nonprofits, study shows


BUFFALO, N.Y. — Charitable fundraising once depended primarily upon a charity’s size, efficiency and longstanding reputation. That was before Razoo, Kickstarter, Facebook and Twitter came to town.  

In the first academic study to look at what determines charitable giving on social-media sites, researchers found that those media have created a more level playing field in the nonprofit world, one in which successful use of technology can make up for limited organizational size.

Technology and social media, it turns out, can not only raise the online profile of even small organizations, but increase their support bases and their ability to generate donations online and off.

That is among the findings of “The Social Network Effect: Determinants of Giving Through Social Media,” a study by Gregory Saxton, associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Communication, and Lili Wang, assistant professor of nonprofit studies in the Arizona State University School of Community Resources and Development.

It was published online in the current issue of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

“This paper is innovative in several ways,” Saxton says. “It is the first to look at the predictors of donations in a social media setting.  It also appears to be the first study of donations on a crowdfunding platform. Furthermore, it examines variables the ‘traditional’ studies have ignored — the size of the organization’s social network and the organization’s ‘Web capacity.’

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