Philanthropy beat: Who is reading all those tweets?

Foundations that post information on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter got some disappointing news this month. A new survey found that few nonprofits are listening.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy surveyed more than 6,000 nonprofits that receive funding from 34 major foundations. Those foundations have warmly embraced social media, with 68 percent posting videos online and nearly 60 percent using Facebook and Twitter.

But just 16 percent of the nonprofits said they followed their foundation funders on Facebook or Twitter, watched their videos or received any information from their social media outreach.

Almost a third didn't even know if their funder used social media.

"I think our survey findings raise critical questions for any foundation that wants to use social media to connect to grantees," said Phil Buchanan, president of the center, with offices in Massachusetts and California.

"It's not enough to simply be online,'' he said. "You need to be intentional about what you are trying to achieve with social media. As in any philanthropic endeavor, making a difference requires clear goals, the right strategy to achieve those goals and measures of progress."

Of the nonprofits that did follow their foundation's social media efforts, most reported they simply wanted information that was related to their work or the grant-making process. They didn't necessarily want to chat or interact with the foundation in cyberspace.

The nonprofits reported that their preferred method of getting information was the old-fashioned way: through conversations with foundation staff, group meetings and websites.

Ellie Buteau, vice president of research for the center, said the survey raised an important question.

"Grantees are a crucial audience for most foundations,'' she said, "and if they are not paying attention to their funders' social media, who is?"

The report is available at www. effectivephilanthropy.org.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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