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    « nonprofits, especially web newbies, shouldn't miss this free webinar series on storytelling and social media | Main

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    Listed below are links to weblogs that reference still searching for clues: my response to the recent seth godin post on nonprofits (for which i come out of blogging hibernation):

    Comments

    Seth Godin

    I clearly struck a nerve with my post (pro and con) and I'm sorry if it confused people in any way.

    I write 365 posts a year. Believe it or not, they're not personally motivated. I don't choose to write about something because I will make a few dollars from one post or another. I don't take ads and don't do consulting. The blog is an intellectual effort for me, not a commercial one. I'm sorry if that doesn't resonate with some people, but it's true, and you should take it for what it is.

    My post about non-profits was not designed to improve signups for Squidoo. If it had been, I would have said so. It was, as I mentioned in a comment post, informed by some of my experiences there, as well as in my field work with various non profits, both with CEOs (some of which pre-dated Squidoo) and with beneficiaries in the field. Again, you don't have to believe me if you don't want to, but there you go. (Interestingly, I got a note today from someone who had been at one of those meetings 9 years ago and still remembers the details).

    While Squidoo is profitable, I don't take a salary and have invested but never taken anything out of the project. The project's stated goal from the start was to help volunteers raise money, and to a great extent, it's working.

    If there are nonprofits (large or small) that believe they were treated arrogantly by me or my team, I hope they'll have the courage to tell me so, because that's certainly not my intent, and whispering about it doesn't help anyone.

    And as for ROI, I think that's a very fair question. The good news is that the investment is tiny, because as far as I know the work that's getting done is volunteer work, from home, in a volunteer's spare time. Obviously there is a cost even to that, but it's a lot smaller than running a walkathon. With Christmas shopping around the corner, it seems like an easy thing for someone to test, but yes, even fifteen minutes invested may be too much for someone who's totally jammed with things to do. I understand that.

    Simple example: instead of putting a list of books on my blog, I put it on a Squidoo page, earning $400 for my chosen charity in 7 days. Your mileage will certainly vary, as it helps to have a big blog...

    I promise to continue to be transparent with the goals of my posts and I hope people won't assume I'm doing something when I'm not.

    The main point of my post, which I hope isn't getting lost, is this: do you believe that non-profits should be held to a lesser standard in terms of the sophistication and effectiveness of their consumer outreach merely because they're a good cause? I don't. If a technique (whatever it is) is good enough for Dell or JetBlue to use to make money, I wonder why it's not worth using for the right non profit that's trying to reach a similar audience?

    Most of all, I hope we don't lose the important things, which is how important the work is, how good people's intentions are, and how much we all need these causes to succeed.

    Celeste Wroblewski

    Thanks for responding, Seth. I do believe that you are fundamentally driven by a desire to do good. I'd like to think more on your response and reply a little later.
    In the meantime, I have changed my post to say that it was someone FROM your company (not "Seth and company") who interacted with my friend. My use of "Seth and company" was imprecise--I meant to refer only to your organization, not you personally; I apologize. My friend does not wish to publicize the name of the organization (just as you did not publish the names of the executives in your first post).

    Thanks again.

    Kevin B. Gilnack

    It's great to see some dialog on these issues after Seth's original post, and I do think it's important to be reminded that everyone talking about this is interested in the advancement of nonprofits on the social web.

    I've been a broken record about this, but I'm disappointed to see Seth continuing to perpetuate the misconception that nonprofits are less interested in adopting social media than the business world with quotes like this:

    "do you believe that non-profits should be held to a lesser standard in terms of the sophistication and effectiveness of their consumer outreach merely because they're a good cause? I don't. If a technique (whatever it is) is good enough for Dell or JetBlue to use to make money, I wonder why it's not worth using for the right non profit that's trying to reach a similar audience?"

    The fact is, even if Seth hasn't seen the examples, the numbers show nonprofits leading the way in social media in much larger percentages than businesses.

    I thank you both for keeping the conversation going and hope to hear more. I'm especially curious what the average nonprofit earns through their volunteer force on Squidoo. I feel that question may have been a bit side-stepped...

    John Cuthbertson

    I grew up in Tasmania, Australia. An island State of 500,000 people with some of the most amazing wilderness in the world. Not surprisingly, there 's no shortage of environmental causes trying to be heard.

    For some time, given my background in cost-benefit analysis (amongst other things) I've wondered why they spend their effort trying to tug at the heartstrings of 'Joanne Public', when she really cares more about 'Joanne' than the worthy cause. Wouldn't it be a whole lot smarter to find which of Joanne's buttons to push to get her to support the cause (just like you would with any commercial effort) rather than rely on her hard-to-obtain goodwill?

    Sure, if it's all a matter of principle, then the cause wants to rack up the 'conversion'. But if they gain support, for even unrelated reasons, isn't that a good outcome for everyone?

    Yes...it's time the not-for-profits got a little bit smarter and confronted some of their ineffective practices. It would certainly encourage me, as a borderline supporter, to consider contributing to the cause.

    I realise I've not addressed the 'social media' aspect of this conversation, but in the end, isn't it FIRST about the message you're trying to convey (and getting that right, for each market) and SECOND...the means by which you convey it?

    Beth Kanter

    Celeste: Hope you'll start blogging again!

    Clamo88 (Claire Murray)

    What's missing so far from this conversation is what makes it difficult for non profits to adopt new techniques. Seth says,
    "If a technique (whatever it is) is good enough for Dell or JetBlue to use to make money, I wonder why it's not worth using for the right non profit that's trying to reach a similar audience?"
    Here's part of the answer. Budget! Talent! It is very difficult for non profits to add staff to projects because funding sources fund programs and not the staffing that goes along with them. Thus, they focus on hiring staff who have the project-based or client-based skills they need to run their programs. Funding a develoment officer, even a grant writer, isn't always possible.
    Just as human resources lagged behind in its use of technology in the organization for many, many years because their focus was more on soft skills and thus were not trained in technology, so non profits have hired talent over the years that have often lagged behind seriously in technology.
    That is changing. Geeks like me who also have the soft skills are entering the picture and transforming the way non profits work. However, it takes time to shift the organization's thinking, help leaders adopt new technologies, and still get the human services work done.
    AND, we have to figure out which technologies fit our organization, culture, and stakeholders. There's always something new in the tech arena. Which tool fits which project? Can we assign someone the role of testing these out and guiding us? Remember, we don't have a budget to bring in a consultant, etc. That means staff committees & meetings where we share our knowledge, experience, and research with peers and management to help the organization adapt -- in addition to our "day jobs."
    So, Seth, the tools are there, yes. But it may take many non profits a bit longer to figure out which tools are right for them, develop policies that change the nature of how the staff interact with stakeholders, "loosen up" some of their controls to permit staff to engage more with stakeholders, and realize a return on that investment in policy change and communication shift.
    That previous paragraph sounds scary to a lot of non profit execs, and that will increase the time for many non profits to get on board.

    Jonah Holland

    Good point Claire. That is one of Seth's points that I think really misses the boat. On one hand you are talking about trying to follow in the footsteps of Dell and JetBlue in regards to social media. On the other hand, you are suggesting that volunteers should do the work from home and that no additional training and that no expertise is required.
    It's a disconnect if you ask me. We all know it takes time and experience to get to be good at social media. Certainly, training IS required. More and more non-profits are taking the leap and trusting this is a good move for them. How about we raise the quality of what they are going to offer on their blog, tweet or Facebook update, by giving them a social media (for non-profits) 101 class? If someone takes the time to make sure that they "get" social media before they start, it will make things better for us all.

    Mary

    Non-profits should definitely check out and test different sites, incl. social networking sites for promotional purposes.

    Squidoo should be at the bottom of the list though, because it doesn't offer nearly the flexibility and syndication possibilities of a Facebook and Twitter account for example. Case in point: this blog has 'share' on Facebook and Twitter buttons - and so do millions of others!

    If you're going to take the time, invest it on a Facebook or Twitter page and setting up your own blog if you don't have one yet. Those are the basic building blocks of creating a presence and a following on the web.

    And this will work not just for non-profits, but for anyone. The wonderful thing is that all these things are free, besides your time investment. Don't waste your time with Squidoo.

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