Seth Godin took a swing at nonprofits today in a blog post “The problem with non," saying that nonprofits are afraid of change and that many are lacking in social media adoption. Many nonprofit pundits took issue with the logic and metrics he used to make his case:
Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you're doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I'm betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change? Is there too much bureaucracy or too much fear to tell a compelling story in a transparent way?
The Chroncile had a post swinging right back saying that Seth was slacking.
Is a celebrity-marketing expert right when he chides the nonprofit world for being “paralyzed by fear” when it comes to the use of social-media tools such as Twitter and Facebook?
Or did he fail to do his homework?
Tom Watson wrote a post "Why Seth Godin in Wrong" that could be best summarized in his tweet:
Seth Godin uses the Ashton Kutcher Metric of Social Change - not yet proven, only a theory!
Tom goes on to say:
I preach digital change to nonprofits every day. Change ain’t easy when the world keeps moving and you have the keep the lights on – ask the President.
Besides, nonprofits are way, way down the list of sectors that really abhor change. Wall Street, big insurance, government – now they really hate change. More nonprofits need to adapt, to experiment, to take risks, to embrace change. But they need to keep on providing services while they’re doing it.
I think the “non” in Seth’s post relates to its own currency frankly – it’s an old bromide that’s getting kinda stale.
Nick Temple from the UK left a comment on the link I shared on Facebook:
It smacks of someone who knows the marketing and internet world very well, and the non-profit world barely. Diss non-profits for their marketing strategies by all means, but not for their lack of featuring in the top 100 on Twitter. Is that how we measure social impact now? Twitter & Digg? Seriously?
One final thing; the post also tars all non-profits with the same brush, ignoring huge amounts of innovative work with web 2.0 and social media. See http://www.socialbysocial.
com or countless other examples catalogued by Beth and others.
And one (other!) final thing: if he's that upset, I'd say focus that anger on helping solve it: help a non-profit achieve what he's talking about. Put the weight of his reputation and networks behind it. Create the marketing phenomenon he's talking of. It's easy to carp and point; less easy to make that change.
Godin replies on the comments of Tom Watson's post:
Sorry to hear it didn’t resonate with you.
I was actually overwhelmed with mail (about ten times more than I usually get) and every single piece from a frustrated person inside of a non-profit.
Here’s a simple example from my day job: on a regular basis, Squidoo writes $10,000 checks to charities. And yet, virtually no “major” causes have sent their volunteers over to use it as a fundraising or attention raising or action generating tool. I never said (re-read it) that we should turn over “service sector into a crowd-sourced cyberlibertarian throw of the dice at utopia.”
Again, sorry that I’m stale. I’ll try to do better!
Here’s another example: the non-profits I’ve given money to in the past (and you’ve heard of many of them) continue to spam me with direct mail tactics that are 40 years old.
My point about VCs wasn’t that non profits should be raising money from them. It’s that we expect ‘real’ companies to be innovative risk takers, but somewhere along the way, the status quo for non profits has become to be boring.
Change is hard for people and for people who work in nonprofits. Social media can also inspire timidness. Seth's painted a untrue picture of ALL nonprofits as deer frozen in the headlights. While there are many examples of nonprofits embracing social media and getting results with only a fraction of Ashton Kutcher's Twitter followers - there are organizations that are not engaging. If anything, Godin has got the attention of those who work in the nonprofit sector and are engaged in the social media conversation. Whether or not that is only a small percentage of the nonprofit field or not remains to be seen.
Certainly the nonprofit field has made progress since 2006 - when Godin ranted about nonprofits being clueless.
What do you think?