December 22, 2014

Foundation communication goes digital


Bruce Trachtenberg

Bruce Trachtenberg

Following the societal trend, foundations in the U.S. are utilizing digital media to communicate with their key audiences, a new survey says.

Virtually all the 155 foundations surveyed are using social-media tools in their communications efforts and, on average, social media received a larger chunk of funding than traditional media, says the report from the Communications Network.

Almost half of foundations surveyed maintain blogs, three-quarters have videos on their websites, and a majority have links to their social-media pages on the homepages of their websites.

On average, almost a quarter of communications budgets are expected to be directed to social media this year, more than any other communications tactic, including print publications, the survey says.

And a majority of respondents say websites and blogs are among the most effective tools for reaching their target audiences.

"A foundation communicator these days needs to be well-versed and agile in using a variety of communications strategies - from traditional media to tweeting and blogging - to reach key audiences in immediate, highly targeted ways," Bruce Trachtenberg, executive director of the network, says in a statement.

At the same time, social media rank as the top disappointment among foundation communications professionals, the survey says.

That frustration stems from organizations' lack of strategy around social media and insufficient financial and staff resources dedicated to developing social media.

Communications budgets overall have weathered the economic downturn well, with almost half of respondents reporting no budget cuts and 17 percent reporting increases, while 34 percent reported reductions.

Foundations' top communications priority is to increase public understanding of the issues foundations focus on, followed by publicizing the impact of their grantmaking and increasing general awareness of their organizations.

The audience foundations try most to reach through their communications is policymakers, the top priority for almost half of funders, followed by community leaders and grantees.

Comment on this article


I disagree that there should be a "social media strategy." Social media tools should be considered as any other communications channel -- to be used for the right messages, audiences and timing in the overall communications strategy.

I would respectfully disagree with the previous comment. To determine the correct messaging, the target constituency, and the most effective timing, is, in fact, strategizing.

Social media should be a part of an overall strategic and integrated communications plan, and it does, by virtue of its nature, require some specialized planning. We would be wise to learn all we can in order to use the right tools in the most effective manner.

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