- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
The first post on our network builders roundtable focused on what the builders do and how they do it. Let’s turn our attention now to the future of nonprofit network building.
Five years ago, this position or capacity didn’t exist within nonprofits. Our organizations tended to look and act like buttoned up corporations - what Beth Kanter and I call fortresses. But networks and fortresses are not compatible; put some lemon juice in your coffee tomorrow morning and you get the idea. Organizations have to work differently to engage successfully with social media and as networks. And that’s where the network builders come in. But as they’re getting started, they are running into a few barriers that our roundtable wrestled with. The first is where to house the network builders within their organizations, and the second is how to measure the results.
Fortresses have silos - separate rooms and divisions for different kinds of tasks. One silo holds the fundraising department, another communications, and another marketing. But social media is moving organizations from what Geoff Livingston calls silos to hives.
In other words, we’re going from this:
Most of our participants were housed in communications, development, or marketing departments. However, several organizations represented around the table were operating differently from the usual silo approach. We learned that Atlas Service Corps with an entire staff of five people has everybody using social media as a fundamental part of their jobs. The Sunlight Foundation staff are all facile with a variety of social media channels. They have a daily seven minute morning meeting (two minutes shorter than the Humane Society’s daily meeting) to discuss the hot topics of the day and distribute tasks; someone write a blog post, someone design a graphic, someone reach out to the mainstream media – and everyone Tweet!
Part of the problem of housing a specific social media unit within another department is trying to make the outcomes for social media compatible with the other activities of that department. A direct mail fundraising effort is immediately either successful or not. A press release is dropped on the desk of thirty newspaper editors (if thirty of them are left)! How to determine organizational success using social media is a challenge for organizations, particularly those accustomed to immediate results from more traditional fundraising or marketing efforts.
KD Pain, one of the leading experts on measuring the impact of social media discusses the differences between the results of traditional media versus social media in the video at the end of the post.
Our participants discussed the need to help senior staff and boards understand these differences and begin to use different measures of success for social media. They discussed the importance of not just watching their networks grow, but understanding why and how. They also mentioned the need to follow the bouncing ball of relationship building around the social web to determine how messages have been spread. Real-time learning, what Beth and I call Learning Loops, are critically important to understanding how social media are working. One of the most critical tasks for nonprofit organizational leaders over the next few years will be articulating and practicing using a variety of measures, far beyond the baseline quantitative measures of data like page views and downloads, to determine relationship building and meaningful engagement by an organization’s network in their efforts.
Ultimately, participants tied online experience to on land success as the ultimate measure. As Jenn Roccanti said, “The goal is always to get people to Miriam’s Kitchen. And we want to draw people there by communicating with them in whatever way they are most comfortable.”
It’s the job of network builders to make social media feel safe and fun for the organization and its supporters, according to Deborah Drysdale. And the best way to do that, according to Carie Lewis, is to start with listening, and to go where your constituents are. One final thought from Scott Beale summed up the feelings of many of the participants:
Having a "no fear" attitude with your supporters has more positive effects than negative ones.
We could extend the idea of creating “no fear” zones to nonprofit organizations in general, because it is the only real and lasting way to build networks for social change.