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« Ning for Dummies Book Giveaway | Main | NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference: A Vibrant "Social" Community of Practice »


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I'm not surprised by the WaPo's response. They remain to be the ONLY media outlet with whom I have had a negative experience. My suggestion is if you pitch a follow up story, pitch it to the NYT. ; )


Hm. This seems like a variant on the "social media is conversation" line. At some point, it is actually fair to evaluate whether a person is simply on a mailing list or an active participant in the life of the organization as a donor, volunteer or activist.

I have worked for too many nonprofits that counted hundreds of thousands of "members" on the barest of qualifications. Here's a list: they donated once four years ago; they once attended an organizing meeting; they signed a petition with a door canvasser; they asked to received the newsletter; a board member thought they should be on the mailing list; they signed an online petition; they're a politician on our issue and they spoke at our rally; they volunteered in the summer of '99. "They signed up on Causes once" will be the next.

Those mystery people -- whose data is often never collected, whose interests are not really known, who never return to the organization -- are then counted on websites, in newsletters and in letters to public officials as the OVERWHELMING support that the nonprofit has for its mission.

Marketing, even for nonprofits, is too often smoke and mirrors.

That the Washington Post can use a similarly thin measure to evaluate the success of a tool used directly to raise money should be no surprise. If we want our nonprofits to be evaluated across a range of factors, perhaps we should do that ourselves. It would be great to see nonprofit leaders take greater steps to measure the impact of their efforts, to create true memberships, and to evaluate -- if it ain't about the money -- how people who have a small encounter with the organization online then are turned into active donors and volunteers. Where are the real measurements of the success? And I don't mean of this month's campaign but of a body of work against a stated mission.

Until there's more truth in that, I think we get what we deserve from the Post.

Finally, about this "they don't get it." We need to ditch that thinking; it's about as effective as a teenager stomping their feet about how out of touch their parents are. Or the new worker in the group who knows so much more than the workers who were there before. This isn't a "conversation" in which only some get listened to, right? There is wisdom in the tools that came before social media marketing. Let's not forget that.

Katrin Verclas

I think these are all lame excuses, quite frankly. Causes was aimed at helping nonprofits raise money and it has failed there. Let's face it, social media is not as hyped as it was sold to nonprofits and it's about time some of the snake oil gets exposed and we are starting to take a really hard and critical look at ourselves at what works and in what way and what is social media hype. And let's just say, there is plenty.

I would also pose that the WP is not incorrect in noting that the discussions are happening amongst a very small social media consultant and analyst elite that is largely talking amongst itself. I travel all around the world, and let me tell you, the NGO picture of use of technology is grim out there -- with only very few organizations understanding what social media is and how to use tools in their work. To say that this is is all old news is not quite true for about 99.9999 percent of the world.

And let me remind you again that Causes hyped the FUNDRAISING potential of peer-to-peer communications on Facebook - and yes, that is failing pretty miserably. Given that, we better start fessing up to some of the uncomfortable truths and realities of how social media is actually not delivering for nonprofits -- to better and more realistically advocate for what is real and realistic for nonprofits the world over.

Garth Moore

Well, let's face it, most nonprofits don't know how to effectively use Causes to raise money and promote their organization. Causes is a tool, a means to an end, a device built within this mini-CRM (that is FREE for any group to use). Where Causes has failed is in teaching orgs how to successfully channel the tools into building groundswell and constituents. Nonprofits failed in making a clear case for adopting it and folding into their plans (for a variety of reasons: know-how, capacity, time, detracting from other list-building duties, etc).

The WP article was too simplistic with explaining the origins and machinations of Causes. They should have balanced the story with some actual groups doing well in Causes, as well as explained the failures. Nonprofits need to realize that procurement takes time, strategy, and effort. Sure, low yield, but a yield nonetheless and a great tool in a social media tactical plan. Too bad the Post may have sunk it.


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