Tag Archives: Steve Heath

So what’s a good benchmark for local nonprofits’ Facebook fan count?

It's time to "cowboy up" on Facebook!

Yesterday I posted about Sutter Health’s remarkable growth in Facebook fans.  A loyal reader commented (via email) that it was hard for him to judge how many fans is good.

This led me to wonder about benchmarks for Facebook fan pages of local nonprofits, and to think about the broader value of Facebook fan counts.

So, what’s a good number for a local nonprofit’s fan base?

Here’s my takeaway:  between 500 and 1,000 is good, even very good.  1,000 is a great goal for a local nonprofit.  Sutter Health’s fan base may not really qualify as local as they have facilities dispersed throughout the region.  But their number of fans, and their growth, is something to be aspired to.

Everything I’ve ever seen published about Facebook fan numbers has focused on national or global organizations, not a lot of help for nonprofits in a much smaller pond.  I asked Steve Heath, President and CEO of United Way of the California Capital Region, for a list of larger local nonprofits.  Then I went spelunking on Facebook.

Below is a report on what I found.  What was most noticeable was the disparity between the fan bases, and the lack of correlation between frequency of posts and fans.  The two nonprofits with the largest fan bases do have campaigns underway that are well known:  the Crocker is doing a big expansion, and it’s a tourist destination.  (Yes, tourists do come to Sacramento.)  And Loaves and Fishes has a gigantic fundraising run in which 28,000 people participate.  So those visible activities may have something to do with their success on Facebook.

#1 Crocker Art Museum:  4,561 fans, posts ~1-2 times/week

#2 Loaves and Fishes:  1,318 fans, posts 2-3 times/week… also has 463 fans on its Run to Feed the Hungry fan page

Susan G. Komen – Sacramento Valley Affiliate:  977 fans, posts ~3 times/week

WEAVE:  645 fans, posts infrequently

American Red Cross – Sacramento Sierra Chapter:  511 fans, posts ~1 time/day

Volunteers of America – Greater Sacramento:  294 fans, posts ~3 times/day

St. John’s Shelter:  231 fans, posts infrequently

Salvation Army – Del Oro Division:  214 fans, posts ~1-2 times/week

The SPCA, which Steve suggested, does not seem to have a Facebook fan page.

What does the number of fans have to do with exposure and engagement?

The real value of Facebook may be its value as an amplifier.  I’ll use myself as an example. I use Facebook selectively, so I only have 124 people that I’ve “friended.”  (Daughter Maddie has 851.)  At any given time, Facebook tells me that about five of my friends are on line.  (They might be in the bathroom, but Facebook thinks they’re updating away).  So instead of reaching just one person when my favorite cause posts, a nonprofit reaches me and any of my friends who are cruising around on my profile to get more skinny or check out my photos.  An organization with 500 fans reaches some subset of active users, and some of their friends.  Theoretically, my friends may be more interested in the cause because they can see it’s something that I believe in.  So even if a cause reaches a smaller number of people through Facebook, its message may have greater influence than an impersonal media outlet.

M+R Strategic Services recently published its annual social benchmarking report, which focused on Facebook and Twitter.  The Facebook findings were based on only five organizations, but there were some interesting tidbits.  M+R looked at how many people looked at the fan page each time the organization posted on Facebook; an average of just over a half percent (0.56%) of fans clicked on the status update and actually looked at the fan page each time the organization posted.  The study also looked at interaction. How many fans “liked” something, or commented (either to an organizational post or another fan’s post)?  On average, 2.5% of an organization’s fans used the Facebook tools to do something (e.g. “like” or comment).

  • The average monthly fan growth rate was 3.75%, which far outstrips national benchmarks for email list growth.
  • The annual “churn” rate – fans who click a button to “remove me from fans” or who hide status updates – averaged out at 24% per year.  That’s greater than national benchmarks for email list churn, but the in-flow still exceeds the out-go by a considerable proportion.
  • Participating organizations posted an average of 6 times/week.

My take

Facebook is valuable now, but I think it will become an increasingly important channel for nonprofits to build relationships with potential supporters.

What’s your experience?


Filed under Social media, Uncategorized

Results of the LIVE United launch

United Way's flash mob June 2009

United Way's flash mob June 2009

In yesterday’s post, I wondered how well United Way of California Capital Region’s LIVE United launch achieved its ambitious goals.  I think the team — Amber Murry (VP, Marketing and Communications), Gabrielle Stevenson, PR/Communications Manager, and Allison Fuller, Marketing and Events Manager — pulled off a Herculean effort to do what they did in less than six months.  Was it all worth it?

The results:  According to Gabrielle, the goal of engaging at least 300 new volunteers was achieved, and many were younger than United Way’s traditionally older demographic, as hoped.  She reports, “We had people from 16 to 66 at each of the [Toilet Paper drive] sites, and even involved with the street teams and flash mobs.  A majority of the new people who had never done anything with United Way before were in that sub-30 category. We had a lot of sub-20s too. It was very exciting and amped the energy level quite a bit.”

According to Steve Heath, executive director, most of the donations received came through workplaces rather than directly from individuals.  More people were engaged in the TP drive than in the flash mob or other activities.

United Way did secure emails from many of the volunteers, although the number isn’t available yet.  (The staff is still entering some of the registration data that came in paper form.)  As the UWCCR staff and committee weighed tactics a few months back, it asked the age-old (and everlastingly useful) question:  What’s volunteers’ WIFM?  Why would someone give their email address?  Besides t-shirts, volunteers were given free tickets to a River Cats baseball game.  Baseball and United Way, how American is that?

I was skeptical about two things:  how well a flash mob would work in Sacramento, and how likely UWCCR could pull off a pretty major website overhaul within its 6 week project plan timeframe.

Happily, I was wrong to be such a curmudgeon.  Gabrielle notes, “The flash mob went VERY well! Lots of fun, lots of people showed up to participate and lots of people watched.”  Seventy people turned out at Arden Fair, the local retail hotspot; this youtube video tells the story of how the team put the flash mob together, and then shows the final result.  Lots of fun, indeed, but I don’t think most of the gang is quite ready for “You Think You Can Dance.”

And the website worked and didn’t crash!

According to Steve, the most successful part of Launch Week was the TP drive (and what’s not to love about something that quirky).  It attracted coverage from the Sacramento Bee, regional Business Journals, the major television news stations and local daytime programs, and Newstalk Radio KFBK.

Gabrielle personally rigged up what PR folks like to call a 3-D media kit, and she delivered it about 30 places.  “Does that still work?” I asked.  Delivering a celephane covered roll of toilet paper along with a few other goodies and a fact sheet was just quirky enough to get past the front desk and into the news room.

Even though thousands of hours (staff and volunteer) went into making the events last week a success, the toughest part may be still ahead.  OK, guys, you got the intro to some new folks who want to play with you, now how are you going to continue to build the relationship?

Toward that end, it’s important that UWCCR keep at it with social media.  They were just getting started by the time the launch arrived.  Gabrielle took a shot at Twitter (@gabstevenson) but she acknowledges it fell lower on the priority list compared to traditional media and organizing volunteers for events (plus, wrapping all of those rolls of TP for the news media!).  Facebook Causes was down when I wrote this post, but I know UWCCR quickly attracted 400 supporters after establishing the page 4-6 weeks ago.  Presumably the numbers climbed quite a bit after that. 

Energizing these new relationships — whether through social media or other means — will be important.  Gabrielle notes:  “Yep, we’re planning and fine-tuning [things] now, based on the launch week. Our goal from the beginning has been to keep this group of volunteers engaged. There was a lot of energy last week and we don’t want to lose that momentum.”

I enjoyed the chance to work with my fellow volunteer advisors:  Terry Halleck, Chair, President and CEO, Golden 1 Credit Union; Lori Aldrete, ACS Quantum Strategies; Jim Caster, Vice President, Eyefinity; Sara McKinley, Sara McKinley Market Research; Dick Colvin; and Doug Kim.

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