The Networked Nonprofit

11 10 2010

In my communication for social change class we have started to read a new book called The Networked Nonprofit: Connection with Social Media to Drive Change.  I will be reading and recording observations and notes from this book on my blog.  The first reading we were assigned was chapter 1 and 2.  These chapters introduced networked nonprofits and the trends and challenges they are faced with.  Chapter 1 defines network nonprofits as:

  • simple and transparent
  • easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out
  • engage people in shaping and sharing their work in order to raise awareness, organize communities or advocate for legislation
  • build relationships that spread their work
  • engage in conversations with people outside their organization
  • use a social media tool set

The chapter also lays out some social media myths.

One of the myths that I think is most common is: social media is for young, technologically savvy people.  This is not true.  Most social media tools are easy to use and learn.  Nonprofits should make use of these to expand their outreach and conversation.  In particular the book says that conversation starters (blogs, YouTube, Twitter) collaboration tools (wikis and Google groups) and network building sites (Facebook, MySpace and Twitter) are the most useful to nonprofits.

Another myth that I think is important to realize is that social media is time-consuming.  This myth happens to be true.  However, once social media becomes a habit and it is integrated effectively into the communication strategy, more can be accomplished with less time.

Chapter 2 discusses challenges and trends.  The most important trend that the book brings attention to is the rise of free agents.  Free agents are individuals working outside of organizations to organize, mobilize, raise funds and communicate with constituents. Free agents are amazing influencers with large social networks.  They should be utilized appropriately.

  • Organizations need to communicate with free agents and build relationships with them.
  • Don’t ignore someone because they are new or young.  This would be a lost opportunity.
  • Keep the welcome sign lit: free agents come and go as they please.  Make sure they are always welcome back
  • Let them go: Don’t be afraid to let them go as they please
  • Don’t be afraid to follow even if your organization did not come up with the idea.

All of these are tips that Nonprofits can benefit from.  In a sense each member of our class is considered a free agent.  We are not part of Safe Harbor, but are utilizing our social networks to raise awareness about their cause.  Safe Harbor has done an excellent job of letting us help as we please and they will reap the benefits.

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