If you’re wondering whether social media is just a fad, getting ready to dip your toe into the proverbial pool, or you’ve already taken the plunge and aren’t getting results you hoped for, this book is for you.
Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, two leaders in nonprofit technology circles, recently published The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change. The book is split into two sections -- the first covering what it means to be a networked nonprofit and the second offers tips and case studies of how to work in a networked way.
Why It’s a Good Read
Here are two reasons to spend a weekend on the couch reading -- one, because there aren’t many good books out there that address nonprofit management needs beyond the basic level. This book is a refreshing change. More important, though, are Kanter and Fine’s critical connections between the use of social media and the daunting challenges our sector faces in an evolving world. We are witnessing a sea change in the way leading organizations engage the public in solving societal problems.
If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to set up a Facebook page, this isn’t it. Although it’s chock full of tips, advice, and case studies, the book is more intriguing as a treatise on where we find ourselves today and where we need to head in the future.
Four Big Ideas from the Book
“Networked nonprofits are easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out.” -- This goes beyond breaking down internal silos and sharing your annual report on a website. They point to a level of transparency and organizational “porousness” that is revolutionary. Trust me. It will give you pause.
“Nonprofits and the people within them have too much to do because they try to do too much as stand-alone organizations.” -- Kanter and Fine assert that organizations, whether they realize it or not, are part of a larger ecosystem of individuals and groups at work. The coordination of this larger network is what is needed to tackle the complex issues we face today. Moreover, people aren't asking for our permission. They'll continue the work, with or without our support.
“Social media is a contact sport, not a spectator sport.” -- Some organizations are already on the bandwagon, but they still use social media the same old way -- to send one-way information blasts. Two-way conversation is the key that unlocks the gate of engagement.
“There is no one-size-fits-all friendship.” -- Social media tools don’t create relationships, people do. And, it’s appropriate to ask for different things at different levels of a relationship. Kanter and Fine share a model called the Ladder of Engagement. It’s a helpful way to look at how to deepen support and resources, whether you need volunteers, donations, or both.
Finally, the book also includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter. If you are expecting resistance to social media at the office, these questions might help get the conversation started in a meaningful way.
As a footnote, I’m hoping that when the second edition is published, they’ll add an entire chapter on program evaluation using networks. Right now I’m helping develop a performance improvement system. It makes me wonder. Who’s using social media to involve stakeholders in program evaluation and how? Can social media help us make program improvements in a truly authentic and participatory way? Once we understand what we need to change, how can we continue to engage our network in supporting the transformation?
What do you think? Share your comments below.
Want to learn more? Check out Beth’s Blog. She writes regularly about how real live nonprofits and advocates are using social media tools in new ways.
(Photo credit: T. Johnson)