Governing Through Networks

22 11 2010

This is the final chapter of The Networked Nonprofit.  In this chapter the authors talk about governance and how it is critical to organizational success.  However, often governing boards represent only the view points of the elite and don’t seem to get much done.  This chapter outlines ways that social media can open up governance and make it more representative of the communities that the organization serves and to better guide the organization.  Here are some ways that governing boards can worked in networked ways:

  • Create a place where board members can share information online and have conversations with each other outside of the board meeting room.
  • Join a public online social network like Facebook.
  • Create an open invitation to meetings on your website and other social media sites you may have.
  • Post agendas online so others can see what the meeting will be about and offer suggestions.
  • Train board members how to use social media.
  • Share information and data from the meetings with other audience members.  If they are well-informed, audience members can better provide assistance.

I think these tips are excellent points.  Being a networked nonprofit means breaking down the walls and being truly transparent.  When I served as a board member of the Clemson chapter of PRSSA we implemented many of these suggestions.  Before member meetings we would post agendas and during our meetings we live blogged and tweeted so that people who could not attend the meeting could follow along from home.  Live blogging is very easy to use and could be a great way to broadcast what occurs in meetings without streaming video.  Nonprofit organizations like Safe Harbor could benefit greatly from implementing a few of these strategies.  Some organizations are still wary of being completely transparent, but things like posting agendas and minutes from meeting could be the start for these organizations to break away from their fears.





Turning Friends into Funders

22 11 2010

Online fundraising has been growing quickly over the past couple of years.  For example, after the earthquake struck Haiti the American Red Cross reported that it raised $22 million through a text message campaign.  Social media fundraising must begin with relationship building, however this takes time.  According to the Networked Nonprofit building an online community of supporters who may want to donate can take 6 to 18 months.  In this chapter Beth Kanter and Allison fine (authors of The Networked Nonprofit) outline some tactics to help make your organizations fundraising successful.  Some of these include:

  • Establish trust and credibility with potential donors.
  • Make sure that your message is simple and compelling.
  • Build urgency around your fundraising effort.
  • Spread out the giving: request small dollar amounts
  • Recognize donors publicly and personally.  Be thankful throughout the whole effort, not just at the end.
  • Use stores to put a face with your fundraising effort.

An example of how an organization has used social media to fundraise is the Jingle Bells Run/Walk for Arthritis.  This campaign utilized social media to raise funds that sponsored teams in the run/walk.  All the money went to fund research.   The Arthritis Foundation (the sponsor of the event) had a Facebook, video on their website a kit with ideas for raising funds and even a fact sheet on how to utilize social media.  The social media fact sheet contained sample Facebook statuses and Tweets.  I thought something like this would be very useful for our client, Safe Harbor.  If they choose to launch a campaign to raise funds this website would be extremely beneficial.  Check out their website for more useful information:  http://www.arthritis.org/jingle-bell-run.php





Learning Loops

16 11 2010

This chapter discusses learning loops and how nonprofit organizations can use this to help them elicit social change.  Learning loops monitor and analyze a process as it unfolds.  Learning loops involve tracking, monitoring and reflection of a project.  There are different steps in the process of learning loops.  These include:

  1. Planning: Organizations should carefully consider their goals and objectives for using social media prior to beginning a project.  They should identify a specific target audience and decide what key questions they attempt to learn about their use of social media throughout the project.
  2. Measuring Engagement and Connections: In order to build relationships an organization needs to connect and engage with people.  Blogs have multiple options for measuring engagement.  The number of subscribers tells the organization how many people have made a commitment to reading the blog.  Monthly trends of the most read posts are helpful for helping the organization to understand what readers are interested in.  There are also many free online tools to measure engagement.  Comments are the most obvious way to measure engagement.  Last, influential blogs link to other blogs.
  3. Reflection:  This is the last step in the learning loop process.  Organizations need to reflect on what happened and how they can move forward.  Analyze the successes and failures of the project to help make the design of the next project more helpful.

I found this chapter particularly helpful.  My group is designing a Social Media How To Guide for Safe HArbor.  In this guide we are including tips for Twitter, Facebook and blogs.  The section that discusses measurement and engagement on blogs is very helpful to organizations that are just getting their feet wet in the social media world.  I am going to incorporate these tips into our How To Guide.  Also, I found this blog post on generating comments, which the chapter states is the easiest way to measure engagement, very helpful.  Please visit this post to learn more about increasing comments and online engagement.





Working with Crowds

16 11 2010

This chapter discusses how nonprofits can utilize crowds to inexpensively lift some of the weight off the shoulders of staff members.  This process is known as crowdsourcing or the process of organizing people to participate in a joint project, often in small ways.

The chapter discusses 4 different types of crowdsourcing:

  1. Collective intelligence or crowd wisdom: This is the concept that more heads are better than one when it comes to problem solving.
  2. Crowd creation: crowds can help create original works of knowledge or art
  3. Crowd voting: crowds love to vote for their favorite things
  4. Crowd funding: Crowds have a collective pocketbook and can help to fund ideas that benefit others

Working with crowds takes practice and trust.  The organization should break their strategic goals into smaller pieces that the crowds can help with.  First the organization must make it clear what they want their crowds to accomplish/do. Second, Organizations need to connect with the right crowd for the job.  Last, the organization needs to make it clear to the crowd how their input will be used.

After reading this chapter I realized that my Communication class serves as a crowd for Safe Harbor.  They have given us small goals that they would like accomplished and then have given us the freedom to expand and add to these goals.  Safe Harbor has a lot of trust in our class and has allowed us to act as free agents on their behalf.  I would categorize our crowdsourcing as collective intelligence, crowd creation and crowd voting.  We are creating content for them to use, collectively solving problems on their behalf as well as voting for them to win a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant.  This semester Safe Harbor has benefitted greatly from crowdsourcing.





Building Trust through Transparency

8 11 2010

Transparency is one of the hardest things for organizations to embrace, but also one of the most important  if the organization wants to embrace a larger network of individuals and organizations.  Transparency is a way of thinking and being for organizations.  It is often very difficult for organizations to embrace being transparent because they do not want to reveal their mistakes and flaws to their audiences.  Also, being transparent allows someone to say anything they want about the organization and everyone can see it.  This chapter compares a transparent organization to a sponge.  The organization is anchored, clear about what they do and know what they want to accomplish.  They let people in and out easily and both are enriched by this ebb and flow.

Transparency builds trust.  It allows audience members to learn whatever they want about an organization.  It allows audience members to trust the organization because they are not hiding anything from them.  In addition to building trust, being transparent takes a lot of trust by the organization.  The organization has to trust that by being transparent its audience members will not be out to get them.  In a sense the organization needs to jump off the edge and hope that its audience members will be their to catch them and support them.

However, transparency can be difficult for some organizations because of the line of work they do.  For example Safe Harbor, a domestic violence shelter, would have a much a harder time being completely transparent because it needs to protect the confidentiality of its clients.  It can be transparent in other ways.  For instance, a news room on its website with fact sheets, press releases, photos, ect. would help audience members have better insight into this organization.  Also, I think Safe Harbor can be more transparent by sharing success stories of clients and by allowing a place for people to comment.  These would offer transparency while still protecting the safety and confidentiality of its clients.





Chapter 5: Listening, Engaging and Building Relationships

8 11 2010

The purpose of using social media and other outlets on the Internet is to build relationships.  This is the ultimate goal.  Online relationship building begins with listening, then moves to engagement and finally action.

The key to building any relationship is good listening.  Organizations should listen to what people are talking about, what their interests or concerns are, and most importantly how they view your organization.  Listing also helps organizations who are new to social media orient themselves.  It can help the organization to become more comfortable with using these new tools.  There are some tools that can help organizations listen.  Some include Google Alerts, RSS readers, Twitter search, Delicious tags and Technorati blog mentions.  I personally like Google Alerts and Good Reader.  These two applications help to organize all the things you want to listen to and put them in one place.  Google Alerts can be sent directly to your email.  Google reader allows you to monitor and organize all the blogs and websites you like to keep up on.

Engagement is the next step in building a relationship.  This can be thought of as “being human through your computer.”  Engagement means getting involved online.  You are not only listening, but also are participating in conversations.  Organizations can share information, enter or initiate conversations, thank people, educate and raise awareness or ask people to do something.  Currently our class is engaging with potential audience members of Safe Harbor by asking them to vote online for our Pepsi Refresh Project.

Lastly, relationship building calls for action by the organization and the audience member with whom the organization is engaging.  Organizations need to be intentional about their efforts online and need to expect that online people will march to their own drummers.  Building relationships takes consistency and practice.

 

 





Creating Social Culture

18 10 2010

This chapter discusses the notion of social culture that is created from an organization’s online presence.  The book defines organizations that have social cultures as:

  • use social media to engage in two-way conversations
  • embrace mistakes and take calculated risks
  • reward learning
  • use a “try it and fix it as we go approach”
  • overcome the need to do things as they have always been done
  • understand and appreciates the informality of social networks
  • trust staff to make effective decisions and respond rapidly to online situations

Often organizations are afraid to let go of their control and chose to engage only partially online.  This is not an effective way to build a social culture.  An organization’s online activity should be real and authentic.  One way to help ease the fears of organizations when it comes to social networking is to create a social media handbook or online communication guidelines.  The book mentions the American Red Cross’ social media handbook.  This will ease the feelings of fear and anxiety of letting control go.  I found a website that links to different organization’s social media handbooks.  It is very interesting to see how different organization’s attempt to ease fear of losing control with the principles it outlines for social media use.  The American Red Cross does an excellent job of guiding users through FAQs, explanations of social media tools, how to create a strategy, etc.  This is something my group feels that our client, Safe Harbor, really needs help with.

This chapter includes an outline of what should be included in social media guidelines.  The suggestions are:

  • A purpose statement for the policies
  • Reminder that everyone is responsible for what they say online.
  • Encouragement to be authentic.
  • Reminder of who the audiences are and what they mean to the organization.
  • Encourage good judgement.
  • Balance personal and professional roles.
  • Respect copyright and fair use.
  • The need to protect privacy of clients.
  • Use social media in a way that adds value to the organization.
  • Create balance between online and on land activities.

 





Understanding Social Networks

18 10 2010

This chapter of the Networked Nonprofit introduces what social networks are and how they can be utilized to illicit social change.  This chapter explains that social networks have two main components: people or organizations called nodes and the connections between them called ties.  This chapter explains that effective networks are made up of strong and weak ties.  Strong ties are relationships that you have with close personal friends or relatives.  Loose ties are connections that are made with acquaintances.  These ties are much looser.  These should be utilized and maintained to engage social networks and unite people behind a cause.

For example, for our class project we are attempting to win a Pepsi Refresh Grant for our client, Safe Harbor.  In order to do this we are utilizing our personal social networks along with Safe Harbor’s social networks.  To win the grant we must utilize effectively our loose and strong ties.  We are planning to reach out to everyone, not just people that we know.  We are hoping that by us asking on behalf of Safe Harbor for people to vote will encourage more people to unite behind this cause.  This is an excellent example of how social networks and their ties can be used to illicit social change for a cause or issue.





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.





Selecting and Training Spokespeople

5 10 2010

It is critically important to choose the right spokespeople.  The messenger is extremely important in establishing trust and credibility for your organization.  This particular chapter talks about how to choose the right spokesperson; understanding what is meant by “on the record,” “off the record,” and “on background”; getting professional training; and presenting a face and name people can trust.

One particular part of the reading that seemed especially important was understanding media terms and how to successfully interview with the media.  The number one rule all spokespeople should understand is to assume that everything is “on the record.”  This avoids confusion and avoids bad press.  Spokespeople should be especially careful what is said around the media and in media interviews.  Always present your organization in the best light by using accurate information, not exaggerating and always communicating effectively.

Another point this chapter brings up is that the press is constantly trying to “put a face” on issues.  Many times they want access to real people who can tell their stories about the issue that the organization is involved with.  This involves extra preparation to ensure that these people are protected and adequately prepared.  However, sometimes “survivors” are great spokespeople for an organization or issue because they experienced it first hand.  Safe Harbor could benefit from this tactic.  It would put a face and a survivor story with the organization.  This is very tricky for an organization like Safe Harbor whose issue is domestic violence, because it could put the person in harms way.  Organizations who support issues where their survivors could be harmed from sharing their stories need to be especially cautious.