A study released by the Foundation Center today reports that foundations are dipping their toes into the social media waters. Based on a small sample of 73 foundation executives, the survey finds that about one-third of foundation CEOs surveyed regularly use Facebook or read blogs. Only six percent reported using Twitter.
The executives are more comfortable using more traditional forms of online communications, such as listserves (45%) and newsletters (65%). Obviously, there is a lot of room for growth by these execs in social media.
Just this morning, a friend asked me, “Would you rather see a foundation use social media tools themselves or fund it?” Since both wasn’t an answer, I said use social media tools themselves, because as we write in The Networked Nonprofit, “Social media us is a contact sport not a spectator sport.” It’s hard to effectively fund efforts on the part of grantees that have social media built into them without using the toolset oneself. It’s like buying a car without ever having driven one.
I hope these foundations, and the others who didn’t respond to the survey, will take a page out of the Case Foundation or Knight Foundation’s playbook and really begin to use the tools themselves. Senior executives need to blog and tweet as real people, not logos, out from behind the fortress walls. It’s the ony way to see how it feels to work as part of a network not just fund them.