Social Media

In 2004 Mark Zuckerburg started the Facebook revolution. A decade later, what started off as a way for only college students to connect is now being used by 71% of all internet users1 According to Forbes, his entrepreneurial success has earned him a net worth of 34.8 billion dollars.

The social media boom did not end with Zuckerberg though. Two years later, Biz Stone and company founded Twitter and in 2010 Instagram joined the social media scene. The same survey from earlier revealed that 52% of internet users are connected to multiple social media platforms, and that the numbers seem to rise on an annual basis.

This means that at any moment, a person with a Facebook account has the potential to connect with 71% of internet users across the globe for free. The sort of presence social media offers, tied in with crowdfunding opportunities is not only offering a convenient style of donation to a broad audience, but also offering transparency to donors who are able to see on the side bar of most campaigns exactly what their money will be used for. That sort of influence and reach used to be reserved for only the wealthiest individuals but today any college student has the ability to turn a blog into a stream of revenue.

Though it was a political movement, the Occupy protests that gained international attention are probably one of the best examples of the power of social media. In less than a month, from September 2011 to October 2011, the movement spread worldwide; there are occupy protests across the United States, Europe, and Asia2

So how does social media affect the non-profit world? It gives the power of influence back to the individual. The ability of a laptop is not something to be taken for granted: “Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits has increased 25 percent; from 1,259,764 million to 1,574,674 million today.  The growth rate of the nonprofit sector has surpassed the rate of both the business and government sectors.”3 That growth spurt took place during the prime of social media expansion. These web platforms are allowing one person to do the outreach work of what used to take a team for free. And when these young non-profits pair a clear mission statement with transparency they appear to find success in collecting donations.

According to a study by University at Buffalo professor George Saxton and Arizona State Professor Lili Wang, the size of a non-profit’s social network following has a larger impact on their donations than the organization’s size or financial efficiency.4 This means that younger, and smaller companies that have a larger web presence than some well established Non-profits, have the potential to be competitive and make a difference as long as they run successful social media campaigns, integrated with crowfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
How is social media able to have this impact? After all the primary purpose of these platforms is to connect the world socially. As mentioned earlier, what social media offers that very few traditional forms of advertising and marketing do is an almost instant international reach. One idealist is able to connect with the entire world in a matter of seconds for free.

As long as a company is able to present a straight forward mission statement with measurable and attainable goals, they are able to find their niche on the internet and collect consistent contributions to their cause. These non-profits that are crowd sourcing through social media offer the users the ability to provide immediate change to the world while sitting at their office desk or kitchen table; they are able to turn large scale, directionless goodwill into results that follow a definitive mission statement. Bill Gates once said “The spread of online information isn’t just good for charities. It’s also good for donors. You can go to a site like Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits on their financial health as well as the amount of information they share about their work.”

An example of a non-profit that rapidly expanded through a short period of time due to social media is The Food Recovery Network. It was founded back in 2011 by Ben Simon and a handful of students at the University of Maryland. They saw a problem; the university was throwing away its unused food. And they found a simple solution: Donate that food to those who need it instead of the landfill. Since its conception, not even 4 years yet, the Food Recovery Network has managed to donate 725,223 pounds of food.5 By promoting their work through various social media platforms like Youtube and Facebook they have expanded to every corner of the country, from New York to Washington, and Southern California to Florida. And they are still expanding. On their website they offer a link where a person can fill out an application to start their own chapter; it is a simple one page document that tells the reader exactly what they have to do in order to get started. That essentially takes the thinking, and trial and error out of the equation leaving only the question of whether or not the person wants to spend their time towards the cause.

By promoting on multiple platforms the Food Recovery Network offers the transparency and accountability that appeals to younger generations. It helps expand their audience and reach new people on a daily basis. They use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. Not only do these platforms promote their work into different corners of the internet, but they all connect back to the website, which has the potential to drastically increase page traffic from a diverse collection of people. Because not everyone who uses Facebook, uses Twitter, and vice versa. Once a person is on their home page they see three things immediately: The founding date, the amount of food they have collected/donated, and a link for monetary donation.

Social media is helping to prove that a large population of the planet wants to donate to charity and make the world a better place. Non-profits that have full embraced the social media revolution offer not just transparency of their actions, but also convenience. They allow a person to make an immediate impact on the world while sitting in their bathrobe through high impact donations. As the old saying goes “Charity begins at home.”

The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or the use of information regarding any website’s users and/or members. 


  1. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/
  2. http://www.npr.org/2011/10/20/141530025/occupy-wall-street-from-a-blog-post-to-a-movement
  3. http://www.urban.org/nonprofits/more.cfm
  4. http://www.classy.org/blog/the-social-network-effect-good-news-for-all-nonprofits/
  5. http://www.foodrecoverynetwork.org/