In previous posts, we have discussed the business uses of social media, such as its application in big data analytics and business strategies. However, social media had initially started off as a social tool for users to create and share within their network/community and it has more extensive effects for society than simply a new marketing tool or source of data for business to leverage off.

As seen in the video, social media can be used to:

  • Maintain personal relationships and connect with people worldwide
  • Aid in crisis management
  • Distribute vital health information
  • Create a platform for social and ethical movements

And so much more…

Social Media and Not-for-profits

There is great potential for NFP organisation to utilise social media and social media analytics. In fact, social media is the most used channel to communicate to donors and supporters (as evidenced in the figure below, where Facebook dominates the most used channel). But how can social movement and NFPs utilise social media data to further their cause? This is where social media analytics can come in handy.


nfp use of channels
Source: Innovation Index – The Australian Not-for-Profit Section Report (March 2015)


Social media analytics: no longer just for businesses anymore

Social media and social media analytics is no longer just a tool that big businesses use anymore, as more and more NFPs jump on this growing trend.

There are many ways that NFPs can utilise analytics. Some examples include:

  • Localising awareness campaigns
  • Develop more effective solutions

Localising awareness campaigns

For many NFPs, it is important to reach the right audience to gain support for their cause, which can be in the form of awareness, donations or social sharing. Utilising natural language process (NLP), which derives meaning from unstructured data e.g. social media data, your organisation can identify social media users who are already passionate about the issues relating to the NFP. By identifying these users, NFPs can target those users in awareness and marketing campaigns.

Furthermore, by analysing previous and current supporter information can assist with marketing efforts as well. For instance, by combining internal data about supporters and comparing these to public data sets regarding demographics in the area, the organisation can more effectively orchestrate mail or newsletter marketing campaigns based on these supporter insights.

A real-life example of this is the application of analytics in the YMCA. By looking into their membership data, they were able to determine the types of programs that their patrons cared about and who they should target for future memberships. By achieving this, they were able to increase membership and get a substantial return on their marketing investments.

Summary of the returns that YMCA achieved through analytics

Develop more effective solutions

By manipulating analytics, NFPs can develop innovative solutions to combat a problem even faster than before. For instance, social media has been transformational in crisis management during events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

For instance, in the wake of many disasters and crises, Facebook released the ‘Safety Check’ feature. This feature allows Facebook users to inform their friends and family that they are safe via Facebook. Facebook analyses a user’s listed city on their profile page, current location and other signals that point to their location and if it is determined that the user is likely in the city, the Safety Check option is presented for users to respond to.

Example of the Safety Check option on Facebook

This feature allows for more instantaneous feedback for friends and family of potential victims in this area.

Challenges of social media analytics

One of the challenges that using social media analytics faces is the phenomenon of “data discrimination”. Data discrimination, in the context of social media, refers to the fact that data is skewed towards areas that have a high prevalence of the internet and social media use.

For instance, donors who are present on Twitter or Facebook would only be aware of those who use Twitter or Facebook but miss out on the needs of those who aren’t on these platforms. Furthermore, just using social media data as indicators of need after a natural disaster will only direct funding and resources to where social media usage is the most prevalent and where internet access is still intact, rather than where the need might be the greatest.


Bernholz, L. (2013). How Big Data Will Change the Face of Philanthropy. [online] Wall Street Journal. Available at: [Accessed 15 May 2016].

GiveEasy, (2015). Innovation Index of the Australian Not-For-Profit Sector 2015. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2016].

Jacobsen, J. (2015). How Non-Profits are Using Big Data for Big Change. [online] Umbel. Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2016]. (2014). Introducing Safety Check | Facebook Newsroom. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2016].

Ribeiro, R. (2015). Big Data Can Help Shape the Future of Nonprofits. [online] BizTech. Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2016].

Thakkar, S. (2014). When Big Hearts Meet Big Data: 6 Nonprofits Using Data to Change the World. [online] Umbel. Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2016].

Umbel. (2014). How the YMCA of Austin Uses Data to Drive Outcomes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2016].

Vidaeff, V. (2015). The Impact of Facebook Safety Check During Terrorist Attacks and Natural Disasters |. [online] Refuge Marketing. Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2016].

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What other potential superpowers can analytics provide not-for-profits? Tell us your thoughts below!