If you are managing a nonprofit or some aspect of a nonprofit’s fundraising and have not yet found yourself faced with the question of what to do about online social network participation, you will be—and more likely sooner rather than later. Year after year the data keeps piling up, and it says social-media use just keeps growing. No organization can afford to ignore the constantly growing reach, power, and peer-endorsement clout of social networks. The latest study to reinforce that conclusion—Social Networking Sites and Our Lives—was released June 16, 2011 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Among its findings:

In 2008, 26% of adults used an online social network;
in 2010, it was 47%.

In 2008 only 18%of Internet users over age 35 used a social network;
in 2010, it was 48%.

Average user age in 2010:

  1. My Space 32.
  2. Twitter 33.
  3. Facebook 38.
  4. LinkedIn 40.

Percentage of users who check a social network site at least once a day in 2010:

  1. Facebook 52%
  2. Twitter 33%
  3. MySpace 8%
  4. LinkedIn 6%

It’s hard to extrapolate exactly what all this and the rest of the far more detailed data to be found in the study mean to nonprofit organizations. But, the amount of time and the level of involvement that social media is garnering makes them a major conduit of communications and places to build awareness of an organization and its mission. For those who figure out how to turn that awareness into action, social media can become important sources of contributed income. Others have done it to the tune of millions of dollars—depending on the scale, appeal, and immediacy of their organizations and funding requests.