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The 2013 Charity Social Index


As a trustee of one of the most well-known regional children’s charities in the UK and co-founder of the UK’s first dedicated social media performance benchmarking agency, I have a double interest in the latest 2013 Charity Social Index, published today by Visceral Business. If you are operating in a marketing or digital function in a UK charity, I highly recommend that you take a look. A few things stood out for me:

  • Whilst the number of fans/followers of the top 100 charities on four main social networks has increased by an average 350% since 2011, income (I assume voluntary income) over the same period has decreased by more than a quarter.
  • Charities own websites and independent giving platforms like JustGiving are seen by both charities and consumers as far better fundraising vehicles than social media and/or SMS/text.
  • The percentage of charities saying that they don’t know who their top 10% of donors are has slightly increased over the last year, whilst the percentage saying they have an integrated approach to CRM has drastically decreased. Coincidence?
  • Just 16% of charities that have a properly developed mobile strategy, yet research suggests that over half of the UK population will be using a smartphone by the end of next year.
  • Alarmingly, almost all charities surveyed are measuring the impact of their social media activity by counting the number of fans/followers.

On the whole, I am pretty dismayed on behalf on the third sector by the findings of this research. It is pretty clear that few charities really know why they are using social media, and fewer still know what impact it is having on fundraising income. They are measuring the one thing that has a strong negative correlation with income, yet are neglecting more fundamental platforms like mobile.

So, my advice to every UK charity (for what it’s worth):

  • Stop and think for a second about why you are investing time and effort in something which clearly isn’t having any financial impact
  • Stop measuring likes/fans and followers and start thinking about more meaningful metrics that fit with your objectives (you do have some objectives for social media, right?)
  • Don’t let the novelty and excitement of social media distract you from focusing on the digital assets that really matter: your website, mobile strategy and giving platforms.