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« An Interview of Me in GEO Magazine in Italy - Anyone Understand Italian? | Main | NTEN We Are Media Project: Week 1 - How Can Your Nonprofit Organization Avoid Drinking the Web 2.0 Kool-Aid ... »


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I think the best way to argue for social media, especially in the non-profit world, is to point out 2 key things: the new audiences it reaches and, honestly, the fact that it is low-cost or even free. Our budget doesn't allow for any paid advertising at the moment, so I've made the argument that this is a next step towards building on our PR efforts.

Also, I think it helps that I'm the new kid in the office straight out of college so I can discuss the blogs and more up-to-date things that I just had classroom experience with. I think they're trusting me more because I've been inundated with it for the past 4 years - maybe youth helps in that respect.

Account Deleted

I would like to include in this module the "Why NOT to use Social Media". There are many organizations who have much more pressing technology needs that are being pushed down the priority list in favor of this as the "hot new thing". I would like the curriculum to include some sort of evaluation tool that helps nonprofits prioritize this.

Perhaps just a questionnaire tool - "Are your computers networked and able to access the Internet?", "Do you have a staff member responsible for maintaining your online presence?", "Is your website regularly updated, engaging and interactive?", etc. If you answered "No" to more than three of these, you may need to address those issues before beginning work with social media.

Whatever it is, I would just want to include a perspective besides "You have to do this now no matter what". I think this is a very important area for nonprofits to get educated about, so I would want to present a balanced perspective. These activities can be a relatively big time sink - even for small experiments (and they are not "free" - staff time is a cost).

My 2 cents!


I agree with John in the sense that I always tell my nonprofit colleagues that social media is a tactic, not an end in and of itself, and that if that tactic helps you reach your goals, go for it. However, I would moderate that point by saying that I think in general, nonprofits would benefit from the experimental, entrepreneurial ethos and sense of curiosity that is endemic with participation in social media.

In terms of how I managed to get the staff and board to let me ride out this experiment, I did two things. 1) Acknowledged that much of this is untested but there is reason to believe it could have big returns on investment, and 2) Showed how these online tools can have a force-multiply effect in both marketing and relationship building. I made it clear that my intention was not to only work to be part of/build community externally (ie, Facebook), but also convert those relationships into participants in our organization, donors, and engaged members.

What especially resonated with my ED was when I showed him how stagnant our email list growth has been in recent years, despite extremely high output on a programmatic level. We agreed that a new tactic was required to get people engaged and build new pathways into our organization.

Morgan Sully

I agree with John's point above. I've seen lots of little initiatives that jump for the 'hot new thing' but there's nothing to sustain it and sometimes very little strategy or integration with the org's other programs and services.

In building a case for the use of social media (and the networks these proliferate through), I ask myself:

What might our org do better? What information might help with this?
What tools exist for helping do this thing (or things) better ?
How will these tools integrate with EXISTING programs and services?
How do we track and quantify our efforts (i think this is particularly important information for EDs - particularly if they need some quick numbers to empower their conversations with funders;)?

I've come to feel that ED's are there as a resource for making sure your strategy is strong (sometimes by attempting to poke holes in it;). I think it's also important to keep in mind that ED's ALSO have folks (funders/boards/peers) they need to answer to (particularly if they wear the 'grant writing hat' in the org). By giving them the information that they need to have these conversations, you can more effectively build a case implementing social media in your org's strategy.

While this link is web analytics centric, it gets at some of the points pertinent to getting buy in:

(the analogy between web analytics and Angelina Jolie is also corny if not hilarious;)

Beth Kanter

Kivi expanded on her thoughts she shared in email

Bill Kennedy, CA

When I volunteered to design my first church web site, the advice I got was to create a logical structure behind the scenes, so the site could be updated easily. Then you add a layer of links that follow the way a person's mind works, jumping from one topic to another even if they are not logically related.

I believe you need to approach social media the same way. As was noted above, if you're going online, you MUST be sure your content is regularly updated. In the background there has to be a co-ordinated strategy. But in the foreground is the character, the story teller, the insider, i.e. a personality to represent your message. It doesn't have to come from the Executive Director or even the staff. In fact, an "outside" source, e.g. a volunteer, may be more engaging to the target audience. Social media is a chance to be subversive. You can have the official web site and then use social media to grab the audience in an informal way.


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