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« Are You A Listening Organization? | Main | A Twitter-Like Twitter Policy »


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Our philosophy has been "give-back first". I started to tweet pregnancy tips in 2007 and moved to babytips in 2008. We asked for nothing in the first year; but offered tips, answered questions and provided links to meaty content. It is primarily what we still do, not only through Twitter, but also through our blogs in English and Spanish. After building a following, we now include the occasional advocacy asks or light fundraising promotion.

Ivan Boothe

I really like your critique of traditional relationships between nonprofits and supporters as transactional. Whether it's for donations or signatures, I think it speaks to a deeper power shift inherent in embracing the social web.

The old model of nonprofit/social change theory is that the organization has the power. You sign up with an organization in order to have an impact; the organization mobilizes its supporters successfully based on their numbers but fundamentally the strategy is coming from the top.

The new model of social change embodied in the social web is the wisdom of the network. The power isn't inherent in the organization though they may act as the catalyst. In this case people become part of the organization as part of the process of having an impact. Indeed, many of the most effective supporters may be "outside" the organization on paper. The value comes from the network rather than the membership.

Great post, as always!

Beth Kanter

@modbev - wow, now I understand why your organization has been so successful with its online community and use of social media. I just read a post about the concept of Give before you try to receive


Great points! Maybe online community should instead be thought of as "community online", the emphasis being on community and relationships first and foremost.

Erica Goldman

Wonderful post! A very thoughtful, nuanced examination of relationship-building. Lots to think about.

Regarding your first question – “What are the opportunity costs of not thinking of relationships and engagement on a holistic organizational level?” I would propose that the opportunity cost is as follows:

The organization misses the opportunity to build constituents’ perspectives, preferences, ideas and goals into the very fabric of the organization. Ideally, an organization’s strategy should not simply be defined solely by a small handful of people on the executive team or the board of directors (or the marketing team!), but rather defined by the people who support it, who share the organization’s passion and mission, and who make the organization viable by providing donations, advocating for the organization, volunteering to fulfill its mission, etc. Once these goals are defined, they should be reflected throughout the operations of the organization – including the program execution, partnerships, marketing communications, the donor relations, etc. I think this is a similar idea to those in your June 11th post on Listening Organizations.

As a side note: from my perspective as a marketer, this approach is no different than what a strong, strategic “traditional” marketing team should do for an organization – to engage constituents in meaningful dialogue, build relationships, and incorporate the resulting insights into the organization’s identity. Strategic marketing is much more than communications – it’s identity. As such, I like to see marketing teams working closely with all departments, to help them become as “customer-centric” as possible. (In this case, customers are defined broadly as all stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, etc.)

Social media is simply a (very!) powerful tool to facilitate the activities that the marketing team should already have been doing... and to make it easier for other departments to participate.

Interested in others’ thoughts!


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Alex Steed


I read every day, and you know I've long been a fan. I think you've hit many nails on the head here, both in observation and constructive question asking.

I am really commenting because I wanted to note - and I hadn't when it had originally gone up - how much I enjoy the title: "Is Facebook Causes A One Night Stand?"


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