When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, does the old adage that silence is golden ring true? Consider the following mini-experiment:
- Take the top 100 charities as ranked by Forbes.
- Gather data on their fundraising efficiency from Charity Navigator (this excludes some observations due to missing data). The fundraising efficiency number reflects how much it costs the organization, on average, to raise $1 of donations.
- Gather data on how talkative the charities are, as based on their number of tweets.
- Consider if/how the fundraising efficiency of organizations correlates with their talkativeness.
Note that the least talkative charities spend, on average, less than 5 cents to raise $1; in contrast, the most talkative charities spend 12 cents to raise $1, quite a stark difference. Not only that, but the cost gradually increases as you move through the intermediate quartiles as well. In short, organizations who tweet more actively are, on average, less efficient at fundraising.
The first question one must ask is whether this is mere coincidence that arises from a small sample. Using a regression model, with fundraising efficiency as the dependent variable and number of tweets as the independent variable, reveals a positive relationship with a p-value well below 1%. This means that if there was truly no relationship between the variables, the probability of seeing such a positive relationship in a sample of this size is less than 1%. That is, the relationship is clearly statistically significant.
- Is this connection due not to talking (tweeting) but more broadly an organization's overall presence on twitter? After all, as discussed in this blog before, organizations with more followers also turn out to be less efficient fundraisers. To address this, I used tweets per follower (rather than tweets) as the "talkative" variable, and the positive correlation persists.
- Is this connection driven by how an organization splits its costs between fundraising and non-fundraising categories? After all, many complain that different application of accounting rules is what makes some organizations appear more efficient than others. To address this, I used revenue growth (rather than fundraising efficiency) as the "fundraising" variable, and the connection again persists.
As with any data exercise, it is important to stress that the statistics demonstrate correlation, not causation. That is, there is no indication that tweeting will itself reduce fundraising efforts. However, it does indicate that organizations who actively tweet are also organizations that tend to struggle with fundraising efficiently. Thus, twitter usage may portend difficulties in fundraising, even if it is not a cause of it.