New Media and Social Change: How Nonprofits Are Using Web-Based Technologies to Reach Their Goals

A new Hatcher Group report reveals how nonprofits are using new media technologies to advance social change. Based on interviews and a 70-question online survey of 30 nonprofits working on state-level advocacy issues, "New Media & Social Change: How Nonprofits are Using Web-based Technologies to Reach Their Goals" shows what new media tools are being used and how, what's working -- and what's not. The report offers advice and resources to help nonprofits use these increasingly important technologies to successfully promote their agendas. It's must reading for organizations looking to make a difference, and their funders.

We will be releasing the report section by section over the next few weeks.

If you want to see the full report now -- don't fret -- you have options. You can click here to view the full report, click here to download it as a PDF file, or email for a physical copy.

Here is the report's introduction:

With the traditional media in flux, nonprofit groups are increasingly turning to alternative means to reach the public. At the same time, self-publishing and social media platforms on the Internet are experiencing explosive growth rates and new prominence.

To understand the relationship between these trends, The Hatcher Group set out to examine how a group of nonprofits working on state-level advocacy issues are using new media technologies to promote their agendas. Our goal in producing this report is to show how some nonprofits are using those technologies to advance social change, and to provide resources and advice to aid organizations in such efforts.

We focused on 30 organizations that are members of the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, a group of independent, nonprofits with a shared commitment to responsible budget and tax policies. Their work is coordinated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In May 2009, we asked each of these groups to complete a 70-question survey online, gauging their interest and experiences with a broad variety of new media tools and technologies. We then followed up with many of the organizations through in-depth telephone interviews.

We found that all of the organizations surveyed currently use new media technologies in some capacity, although 44 percent devote less than two hours to the task each week. Nearly all intend to increase the emphasis they place on new media over the next year -- with half planning to increase their use significantly and another 40 percent planning a slight increase.

Nearly all also reach out to bloggers on a regular basis, and the few who currently do not plan to in the future. Similarly, 60 percent of the groups are now on Facebook, and an additional 30 percent plan to establish a presence.

Many of the organizations we spoke with found success using blogging and social networking to increase their role in policy debates, get their message in front of key audiences and connect with supporters.

Some other technologies were less popular. Despite all of the attention focused on Twitter recently, less than a quarter of the organizations have a presence on the service, and more than half have no intention of establishing one. And while more than a third plan to start submitting content to social news websites, none had previously done so.

In short, we found that the use of new media technologies to advance social change is very much a work in progress. Organizations have a high interest in using new media tools but are still unsure about which work best for them, how much time they want to invest in this effort and how best to use the evolving technology.

But this much is certain: The importance new media plays in helping communicate the message of nonprofits will only increase in coming years and organizations that intend to thrive in that environment should make a concerted effort now to stay ahead of the curve.