By Amanda Salas Calderón - Bilingual Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations
Globalization has become a large element constituting the character of multiple individuals, along with numerous organizations worldwide. Most notably, non-profit organizations have acquired a significant role in civil society in terms of reliability. This transpires due to a rapidly decreasing trust in governmental and public institutions throughout the years. Nevertheless, NPOs cannot be disqualified from the public disenchantment simply because of their function to society, much less in an era where there’s an element that ought to be considered before considering a nonprofit trustworthy: social media. For this reason, in this article the relation between the public’s decision to deem an NPO reliable and what contributes to their opinion will be weighed, as well as the importance of this characteristic for NPOs to thrive.
Firstly, it’s important to establish the weight of social media on society’s decision-making ability before relating it to NPOs. Social media helps share ideas. As Marshall (2013) expresses, it brings those with the same mindset together for a common cause. Seeing as people are digital media consumers, it’s necessary for NPOs to be able to reach this public. Lovejoy and Saxton (2012) concur that:
Social media appears to have created opportunities for interpersonal engagement, interactivity, and dialogue that are qualitatively different from those offered by traditional websites. It would thus be reasonable to infer that social media would similarly carry considerable potential as an organizational communication and stakeholder relations tool. (p. 339)
Society is an ever-evolving entity, vital for NPOs to be modernized constantly. In this light, social media provides it the best approach to create awareness of its existence. The platforms allow people to share experiences, information, and interests, as a communication channel. However, most NPOs are not yet at a point where social media are being employed consistently as a strategy to capture and share the organization’s stories (Given, Forcier & Rathi, 2014, p.7). Sharing the inside and outside working of it, what the staff do, the behind-the-scenes of volunteer work, is strategic. Making the audience feel part of the process acts in favor of the organization’s image. This is the way people will use to first determine if the organization is worth it. Then, analyze if it is reliable, accountable, and transparent enough for them to support and follow it.
The topic of trustworthiness is key to complement the successful use of social media. The perception of trust and an expectation of honesty play a central role in the daily operation of nonprofit organizations (McDonald & Goodman, 2021). For this reason, NPOs must demonstrate their adherence to this principle. Accountability is one of the main motives for people to trust them to pursue social good. One negative comment against them could lead for their supporters to back away completely. The reliance of the sector on fundraising to cover expenses, coupled with the limited oversight of the sector, provides both the incentive and the opportunity to engage in potentially malicious activity (McDonald & Goodman, 2021, p. 204). They ought to be cautious in their endeavors and how they answer to society and the population they operate for; they are their only motivation.
Social media might not be the method most NPO’s traditional leaders would initially consider. Yet it is a necessity now. Coupled with the communication channel social media platforms offer them, and their duty to be accountable and transparent, non-profit organizations only have to act. It is important that they consider the impact they could achieve in the sector they focus on. Aside from demonstrating everyone their trustworthiness, they could use it to attract more staff and sponsors. Not only does social media gives non-profit organizations the opportunity to gain supporters, but also stability. In an ever-changing world, their ability to adjust to popular demands and trends will determine everything. It is in their best interest to use the digital instruments to spread wider their mission.
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Given, L. M., Forcier, E., & Rathi, D. (2014). Social media and community knowledge: An ideal partnership for non-profit organizations. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 50(1), 1–11. https://asistdl.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/meet.14505001064
Lovejoy, K., & Saxton, G. D. (2012). Information, Community, and Action: How Nonprofit Organizations Use Social Media. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(3), 337–353. https://academic.oup.com/jcmc/article/17/3/337/4067685?login=true
Marshall, C.P. (2013). Facebook, Senegal, and Development: How can the increase in social media affect the impact of nonprotfit organizations? [Bachelors' thesis, The University of Arizona]. https://academic.oup.com/jcmc/article/13/1/210/4583062
McDonald III, B. D. & Goodman, C. B. (2021). The Truth about Honesty in the Nonprofit Sector. Public Administration Quarterly, 45(2), 188–210. https://doi.org/10.37808/paq.45.2.4