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Online volunteers putting Not for Profit sector at risk

25 Sep 2013

The tendency of Not for Profit organisations in New Zealand to rely on enthusiastic volunteers to manage their social media activities has been branded risky in a recent report across ANZ.

According to findings from accounting firm Grant Thornton, based on a survey of 416 Not for Profit organisations across ANZ, Kiwi firms should follow the Australian sector and invest more in this area.

Claiming Australia tends to have an annual social media budget, an active social media plan and an employee dedicated to managing its social media, the report argues in New Zealand, organisations are more likely to rely on a keen volunteer.

“Whether social media is used to promote an organisation, communicate with stakeholders or help fundraising, it is critical that it is integrated into the wider business/marketing plan," says Barry Baker, Grant Thornton New Zealand Partner.

"Its use in isolation could create more risk than benefit.

“Organisations without a full-time social media resource and appropriate monitoring tools are at the greatest risk of damaging their brand.”

The report identifies a significant disparity in overall online activities between Not for Profits on both sides of the Tasman with 99% of the Australian organisations surveyed having a website compared to 79% in New Zealand.

Organisations in the health sector appear to be the most active online with 92% of those surveyed having a website and being the most likely to increase their social media activity through dedicated resourcing.

But companies in the culture, sport and recreation sectors are least likely to have a website and tend to rely on a volunteer to manage their social media activity, the report reveals.

Baker says the survey found the most important purpose of a Not for Profit organisation’s website was marketing, followed by communicating to members and then stakeholders. Fundraising was a relatively distant fourth.

“Organisations in Australia are, arguably, using their websites more than those in New Zealand, where it appears some organisations lack a clear digital strategy," Baker says.

The report also identifies a decline in the effectiveness of telemarketing and door-to-door fundraising in the Not for Profit sector, and growing utilisation of social media.

However, it warns against treating online channels as the “silver bullet”, referring to a survey in the United States three years ago which found that 77.6% of non-profit organisations that used Facebook to raise funds, raised less than $1,000.