How Canadian charities use social media

publication date: Nov 21, 2012
author/source: Julie Fiorini
Earlier this week at Congress 2012, organized by the Greater Toronto Area Chapter, Association of Fundraising Professionals, I presented An Inside Look at How Canadian Charities are Using Social Media. I emphasized the importance of social media as part of an effective marketing and communications strategy for charities big and small.Julie Fiorini photo

To discover how Canadian charities use social media, Stephen Thomas collaborated with Montréal-based firm Ajah to identify the charities that use social media proactively and effectively, and test our hypothesis that those with a social media presence would be more likely to have higher overall revenue. 

Over 85,000 charities are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. Of these, roughly 22,000 include their website with their CRA listing. We examined the home pages of these 22,000 websites to detect those with an obvious social media presence, then linked those findings with financial information available through their T-3010 return. 

Numbers of followers, revenue not correlated 

We did not see a correlation between social media following and revenue. We did, however, see that organizations with higher revenue are more likely to have a social media presence. 

On the whole, our study supports the current wisdom that using social media is not a way for charities to make money. Rather, social media should be used primarily as a way to engage new donors and to solidify and strengthen relationships with existing donors. 

Study highlights 
  • Only 10% of Canadian registered charities use social media in some form.  
  • British Columbia leads the pack, with 15% of BC charities using social media.
  • Not surprisingly, the most commonly used social media site is Facebook (75%).  
  • Twitter usage is 48% and YouTube is 24%.  
  • Flickr and LinkedIn presence is relatively low, at 9% and 5% respectively.
  • The median number of Facebook likes is 218 and median number of Twitter followers is 301. 
  • Hockey Canada Foundation has the most Facebook likes (368,567). 
  • Benny Hinn Ministries has the most Twitter followers (134,391).  
  • Of the 5 charity types (welfare, health, education, faith-based, community benefits and other) community benefit charities show the highest social media adoption. 
  • Faith-based type charities are the lowest adopters of social media. 
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Julie Fiorini is Director, Digital Marketing at Stephen Thomas (ST), a Toronto-based marketing, communications and fundraising agency exclusively serving nonprofits. Drawing on more than 10 years of online marketing expertise, Julie is responsible for engaging online audiences and generating revenue for clients including Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, Kids Help Phone, The Salvation Army, and the Canadian Diabetes Association. Before joining ST, Julie implemented direct and interactive marketing strategies across the nonprofit, private, and public sectors. 

For more information, email her, follow on Twitter @fiorini, or visit       

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