Archive - June 2010

Launch Week Reflections
Org Tips for Network Builders
What's Sticky About The Networked Nonprofit
Launch Day for The Networked Nonprofit!
Networked Nonprofits in Action
Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Marketing Guide
Free Agents and Government
KaBOOM! Goes Social

Launch Week Reflections

It is such a relief and so much fun for The Networked Nonprofit to be out of our heads and off of our computers and finally into other people’s hands!

Here are photos from our events last week in San Francisco and DC hosted by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, NetSquared, The Case Foundation and Nonprofit 2.0. Here is my favorite book photo so far:

From mcmvanbree

A few thoughts from our launch week.

One of the main vehicles for sharing news about the book we used during the week was live video and chat. On Monday we hosted our own live video, on Thursday we did a live chat at the Chronicle of Philanthropy and on Friday we again used UStream for a video conversation at the Case Foundation about America’s Giving Challenge. Each time I was reminded of scenes from one of my favorite movies, My Favorite Year, about the early years of television. Here’s the trailer from the movie:

Each time we were scurrying around to make the technology work. Poor Beth was trying to monitor the tweet and Ustream chats and questions in real time, with and without her glasses, during our broadcast (I wasn’t much help). Our BlogTalkRadio chat at the Chronicle was fun, alas, most callers couldn’t get on air and we didn’t know if it was us or them. And seconds before we went live at the Case Foundation, Eric Johnson, a brillant technologist, was frantically trying to get around the internal firewall. We’re all just figuring it out, live, and I imagine in two or three years from now will look back and giggle about our early attempts.

On a more serious note there was a thread of conversation that I had with people we met in person last week that was both gratifying and a bit sad. A number of people said to me privately, sotto voce and not for attribution, that they are adopting social media from within their nonprofits, but surreptitiously and even with some fear for their jobs, because of the fortress mentalities from senior management. They didn’t want advice as much as they wanted someone to listen and to tell them that they were doing the right thing by going around the conventions and roadblocks put up by managers educated in a previous century and paralyzed by the fear of giving up control to people inside and out. I admire their courage and strength to do this and the only advice I could offer them is that they are doing the right thing that someday soon their organizations will appreciate their efforts. But until then, they will need to find allies throughout the organization and on their boards to support the need to change and open up their fortresses.

I am immensely grateful for the people and organizations that have been supportive of our launch. It is very exciting to see how timely are the ideas in the book. Beth and I are in NYC this week, first at events graciously hosted by Fenton Communications and Demos on Tuesday followed by a book signing and workshop at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.


Org Tips for Network Builders

I thoroughly enjoyed sitting with and learning from an amazing group of nonprofit network builders at The Case Foundation. The tension that participants talked about within their own organizations about taking the walls down and allowing these talented network builders to do what they do best – having conversations with supporters, and potential supporters, wherever they are and going in whatever directions the supporters want, arose throughout the conversation.

So much of the writing and thinking about network builders is focused on what the individual builders are doing with their communities. In our book we also focus on what organizations and their leaders to do to become networks.

For a post on the foundation’s website, I outlined the following key steps and activities that organizations need to do to support their network builders:

Tips for the C-Suite on Network Building:

  1. Face the Bogeyman. The fears that organizations have about bad things happening if they take down their walls far outweigh the reality of what happens when they do. It is important for organizational leaders to engage in frank discussions with their network builders about what could possibly go wrong and what is likely to go right rather than allow their unfounded fears stop them. One way to help the c-suite over this hump is to use the growing array of stories and case studies of traditional organizations like Autism Speaks, American Cancer Society that are turning themselves inside out.
  2. Challenge the Default Settings. Organizations need to challenge their internal default settings for responding to the world. These settings speak directly to the kind of organizational culture that exists. Metaphorically, organizations need to tie a string around their finger as a reminder of what needs to change in their everyday interactions with the world. Are we open or closed by default? Are we proprietary or open source? Do we let people create things on our behalf or we are prescriptive?
  3. Board Engagement. Our roundtable participants described a level of removal from their boards that was frustrating and disappointing for them and ultimately counterproductive for their efforts. Boards need to become hands on with the concepts of network building and social media. It’s as important as reviewing the financial statements, because their organizations cannot be successful in the future without strong growing networks.
  4. Touching All Departments. Social media isn’t just a communication or fundraising function. Andrew Rasiej is fond of saying about social media: “It’s not the pizza slice, it’s the pan.” Social media skills need to be built or strengthened throughout the organization and experimentation has to happen across departments. In particular, social media has to be woven into programs and services, the real “it” of nonprofit work.
  5. Have Joyous Funerals. Organizations by nature are risk-averse. Through that lens, anything new tried that doesn’t work as expected is considered a failure. Organizational leaders need to celebrate these efforts and focus on what was learned not what was lost. Senior management needs to create space internally for network builders to experiment and learn.
  6. Share the Rule Book. It is important to outline the social media policies, the dos and don’ts of social media use, for organizations. What are we allowed to do and say? Where are the lines we can’t cross? This isn’t just to provide legal cover for organizations; it provides permission and clarity for staff to use social media. Approval of the policies can only come from the top, but if organizations want social media use and network building to spread they have to articulate the rules of engagement. Here is a great post from Wild Apricot on how to create nonprofit social media policies.
  7. Focus on Social Media Capacity. When the summer intern is asked to “Get us up on Facebook,” it is a wasted opportunity for organizational capacity building. Social media aren’t just tools and platforms, they’re an opportunity to create a robust and resilient network that is ready to respond and act at a moment’s notice. It is an abundant resource of creativity, good will, energy, passion and skills. The network builder, whether it is a summer intern or a staff person, needs to build the capacity of everyone within the organization to help build the network on an ongoing basis. The c-suite needs to focus on social media capacity rather than immediate productivity.
  8. Practice Patience. As we discussed in the post on the future of nonprofit network building, redefining success for network building is a work in progress. Organizational leaders (and funders) need to understand that the results will look and feel different from the past habit of counting heads and beds and declaring the battle was won. Building networks takes time and patience and trying to predict their pathways is a fool’s errand. Organizational leaders need to let these efforts unwind and learn along with the builders and the network in real-time what is working and what isn’t.

But this is just a start. This has always felt like the central issue, the core divide within organizations about whether or not they will become networks.


What's Sticky About The Networked Nonprofit

Launch day for The Networked Nonprofit was a blast yesterday. Our virtual launch was great fun and helped shoot us to the top of Amazon lists — and resulted in Beth gracefully diving into her pool!

In the evening we had the honor of attending a reception at the Packard family home, Taaffe House, by Carol Larson, the president of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

A book launch means that the ideas that have been in my head and Beth’s head (what we affectionately call her 10 1/2 floor!) for a year are finally out in the hands of other people. Naturally, our friends are the first to comment, blog and tweet about it, and yet it is still fascinating to see what from the book is sticking in their heads, what has captured their imaginations.

From our first talk at NTEN in Atlanta, the stickiest idea and image is that of non-Networked organizations acting like Fortresses.  Marcia Stepenak has a great post here calling us, and others like us, Fortress Fighters. And a slogan is born!

The imagery of free agents, like Marc Horvath (Hardly Normal), crashing into the closed gates of fortress organizations resonates with people who are on the outside trying to get in and on the inside trying to get out.

Our friend Lucy Bernholz notes that the notion of organizations working as networks. She liked it so much, in fact, that she made it one of her Buzzwords for 2010!

Finally, folks are noting that the book feels very real and practical and useful because of the real-life stories of organizations that are in the process of becoming Networked Nonprofits. Tom Watson writes, “What makes the book sing are stories and the voices: many terrific examples of how nonprofit organizations – big and small – have used these tools, and the ideas of the people who make it all go.”

Momentum speculated about what was coming, how social media was going to change nonprofit organizations. The Networked Nonprofit is about how organizations as traditional as The American Red Cross are turning themselves inside out. The world powered by social media has changed organizations forever, and locking oneself up in a fortress leads to isolation and irrelevance, the death knell for nonprofits.

We have a fun party planned in San Francisco today hosted by TechSoup, and then onto DC.  We’re looking forward to hearing what others think about the book and what ideas and concepts they find sticky — and what they think we’ve missed.


Launch Day for The Networked Nonprofit!

Launch day for The Networked Nonprofit is here at last! This is the day writers think about when slogging through yet another revision of chapter 5 or 8 or 3. Just one more time through, you think, and someday far off in the future someone out there will actually read it. And today’s that day!

The Networked Nonprofit is for senior nonprofit executives struggling to understand the seismic shifts in the landscape that have occurred over the past few years. The shift has been driven in large part by the advent of social media, but not entirely. The ongoing ineffectiveness of stand alone organizations each trying to trump other organizations as the most effective problem solver, or best homeless shelter in the city, or most innovative after school program, and the scarcity thinking that drives this way of thinking has finally worn out its welcome. The bottom line is that complex social problems, and they’re all complex by definition, outpace the capacity of any single individual or organization to solve them.

Our book outlines a very different way of working, one focused on abundance and networked thinking. Nonprofit organizations need to work as networks – not at them or with them – but actually to remake themselves as social networks. The book provides a framework for understanding how to make this transition with lots of stories of other organizations like the American Red Cross, Planned Parenthood and the Humane Society of the US that have begun to turn themselves inside out.

The Networked Nonprofit is also aimed at the Millennials within those organizations who are frustrated and need help convincing senior staff and boards of the need to change the way they operate.

We are delighted with the early reviews that are coming in like this one from our colleague Lucy Bernholz who writes the Philanthropy 2173 blog:

Kanter and Fine live and act like the very types of organizations they explicate in the book. As leaders and learners they connect, share, give credit, invite, discuss, rehearse, improve and introduce. They try things out in public – the book was written collaboratively across different time zones, drafted and shared in countless speeches, slide decks, workshops and twitter feeds.

And they’ve done their homework. The Networked Nonprofit has a dozen examples for every idea it offers – from big organizations and small, digital native enterprises and transformed “old line” institutions, freelance activists and professionals of every stripe.

Please join us today for our  virtual book launch party. Join us today,  June 21st from 1-2 PM PST/4-5 PM EST for the launch of  The Networked Nonprofit published by Jossey-Bass.   Follow it on Twitter (#netnon) and/or Ustream (   We have over 600 people who have signed up to join us!

Here’s the launch party schedule.  Feel free to pop in for five minutes or spend the hour with us.   We’ll be talking about different themes from the book and answer your questions.   We’ll cover:


(1)  What is it like to co-wrote a book?   We have different styles of thinking, writing, and working.  Plus we live on different coasts.  We’ll talk about how we managed our collaboration.


(2)  Why we wrote the book!  What was the initial inspiration, what we discovered in our research, and how we arrived at the framework for the Networked Nonprofit.


(3)  The Networked Nonprofit Framework.   We believe that Networked Nonprofits first have to be, before they can do. We share a 12 step framework in the book.    We’ll discuss these three important themes from the “being” side.   We’ll take your questions.

  • Creating a social culture at your nonprofit
  • Becoming more transparent, less of a fortress
  • Simplicity, letting go, focusing on what you do best and network the rest


We’ll take your questions via email and Twitter.

One last thought about today. Writing a book is a very hard thing to do and writing one with someone else is even harder. It requires negotiation and patience, but in the end it is better than what one person could have done alone – at least that was the case with this book. My sincere thanks to my co-author Beth Kanter for working with me on this effort, putting up with my endless need to find just one more adjective. Your boundless energy and enthusiasm for this topic is infectious and I am so much smarter as a result of our collaborations.


Networked Nonprofits in Action

Beth and I had the great pleasure of joining with our friends at Care2 for a webinar on The Networked Nonprofit. Nearly 800 people joined in as we outlined a few of the major concepts in the book.

What I enjoyed most about the webinar wasn’t talking but listening to Danielle Brigida of the National Wildlife Federation and Marc Sirkin of Autism Speaks tell us about how their organizations are working as Networked Nonprofits. In Danielle’s case it is about helping her organization break out of their physical and mental fortress that too often keeps organizations at a distance from their communities. She does an amazing job of listening using social media tools. Marc’s organization is newer and the walls are lower, the moat shallower. He still spends a majority of his time building relationships with and growing his network. Marc is doing an amazing job of measuring the results of his community building efforts.

What they’re learning about engaging with communities using social media and the internal politics is really important as we are all trying to better figure out what it means when organizations are stretched beyond their immediate boundaries.

Allyson Kapin of Care2 (and WomenWhoTech a group that I LOVE) has a terrific, comprehensive write up the session here.

Here is the slidedeck from yesterday’s presentation:

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_4531760″><strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”” title=”Networked Nonprofit: Care2 Webinar”>Networked Nonprofit: Care2 Webinar</a></strong><object id=”__sse4531760″ width=”425″ height=”355″><param name=”movie” value=”” /><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”/><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”/><embed name=”__sse4531760″ src=”” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”355″></embed></object><div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”>View more <a href=””>presentations</a> from <a href=””>womenwhotech</a>.</div></div>

PS:  Monday is The Networked Nonprofit Launch Day! Please join us for our virtual book launch party! Join Allison Fine and me on June 21st at 1-2 PM PST/4-5 PM EST for the launch of The Networked Nonprofit published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley.


Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Marketing Guide

I was very excited to receive my copy of Kivi Leroux Miller’s new book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

I’ve long admired Kivi’s work, her simple, straightforward how-to advice for nonprofit marketers using social media. Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog is always a fantastic resource for practical and tactical tips and ideas.

The good news is that the book has the same approach.  Kivi opens the books with a straightforward pronouncement, “This book is meant to be part real-world survival guide and part nitty-gritty how-to  handbook for busy nonprofit marketers…” And what she says is exactly what you get.

The frustration I hear most often from nonprofit executives is, “I know I have to do this, I just don’t know how to get started.” Well, here’s how! The book is filled with clear, straightforward and concise advice for busy people charged with identifying, understanding and moving their audiences to action.  You can drop into any section of the book and get immediate, actionable steps for marketing your cause.

My favorite sections were Chapter 3 on listening, Chapter 7 on storytelling, and Chapter 10 on staying in touch with your community.

This book is exactly what busy nonprofit folks, particularly those working in smaller organizations who are already stretched frighteningly thin, need in order to roll their sleeves up and use social media to effectively build support for their causes and organizations. Kivi says, “My greatest hope for the book is that it really inspires and empowers nonprofit staff, volunteers, and board members to believe they can do amazing things with their marketing, no matter how little money or staff they have.”

Network for Good is hosting a free webinar on June 29th with Kivi to share her marketing advice to nonprofits. Or you can just go and buy the book right now!


Free Agents and Government

In California’s primary elections last week voters took a bold step of wiping out over a century of practice and abolished party primaries. Proposition 14 received 54% of the popular vote. It creates open primaries for anyone of any party to enter. The top two winners go on to the November ballot.

Here is Governor Schwarzenneger’s victory lap about the passage of Proposition 14:

It is one of many signs of the demise of our political parties. Not the demise of the two party system and the rise of the long-awaited third party, but the demise of all political parties. And not just here in the United States but around the globe. As the results of a Gallup poll in 2009 highlighted, much as made of the shift in allegiance from Republicans to Democrats over the past ten years; however, what these data don’t often emphasize is that independents now make up a larger slice of the whole electorate pie than either party.

This is the rise of the political free agent. In our book, The Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter and I discuss the critical importance of free agent activists. These are individuals working outside of institutions who are facile with social media and passionate about their causes. Organizations need to work with them to achieve large-scale social change.

Although the ground has similar shifted in the political arena, far less attention has been paid to the affect on governance of free agents being elected. We’ve watched as more voters have become free agents, freed from party loyalty to vote across parties. Obama was supported by a significant percentage of Independents and Republicans. This lack of party loyalty has also been one cause of the backlash against incumbents and the volatility in the support of party leaders over the past few years.Voters who supported Obama specifically because of his stance on the Iraq war or health care may not be supportive when the curveballs of governance, like an oil spill he didn’t create and can’t stop, emerge. These free agent voters give and take away their support when and how they want to, now because a party or association like a union tell them to.

But, what about the free agent politicians who become lawmakers? If you thought government didn’t work and politicians were in the pocket of the highest bidder, how is that going to be any better when politicians are unleashed from even the appearance of party fealty?

A new construct of post partisan participation for citizens has to be created. The Sunlight Foundation is at the forefront of this movement. Mechanisms for holding lawmakers accountable to the public through transparent data is one need. And above all we need an educated citizenry fully engaged in public policy and able to use the social media toolkit to gather support or build opposition to policies.


KaBOOM! Goes Social

Katherine Fulton and Heather McLeod Grant of the Monitor Institute have written a fantastic case study about an extraordinary organization, Kaboom!, and its efforts to scale its programs.

Darrell Hammond started KaBOOM! in 1996 with $20,000. Today KaBOOM! has 81 employees and an annual budget of close to $20 million. After steady growth for years, Darrell and his team were frustrated that they really hadn’t scaled their efforts as much as they hoped.

They began to reconsider the barriers to scaling their efforts and made a critical decision to lose control. This is one of the key issues we explore in The Networked Nonprofit. The need for organizations to overcome their fear of letting go of their people, processes and materials.

KaBOOM! like many organizations felt that the pathway to success and growth was holding on tight to its programs, processes and people. They needed to control the KaBOOM! process from soup to swings entirely to ensure that they could maintain quality and get credit for the effort – they thought.

But it wasn’t true. Once KaBOOM! learned to let go, trust people in their networks to use their materials and processes well they became friction-free, able to scale their efforts faster and with fewer resources than before. And letting go felt good.

Here are the seven lessons that KaBOOM! learned as a result of letting go:

  1. Keep it simple and concrete.
  2. Treat your online strategy as mission-critical.
  3. Build your own technical competency.
  4. Nurture your online community via its leaders.
  5. Create incentives for action.
  6. Give up credit to increase your impact.
  7. Care more about real-world outcomes than online metrics.

Download the case study and give a read (Full disclosure: Beth and I commented on a draft of the paper), I’d love to hear what your organization thinks about losing control.


Copyright © 2019 Allison Fine