Tag - Nonprofits

The Bots are Here: Nonprofit Friends or Foes?
Everyday Nonprofit Corruption
Use of Social Media by Top 50 Nonprofits
Welcome Back to Social Media
More on Branding
Crowdsourcing Nonprofit's Good News
Social Citizens is a Top 10!
How Nonprofits Need to Use Connectedness For Survival

The Bots are Here: Nonprofit Friends or Foes?

That long awaited moment is here: robots have become a regular part of our daily lives. But are they here to help or hurt us? Beth Kanter and I explore this question in a post called: The Robots Are Here: How Nonprofits Can Make Sure They Save Rather Than Kill Us.

 As Beth mentions in her personal post, last year was a struggle for people like us who invested so much time and energy on ways to use social media for social good over the last decade. Our assumption was that the good parts of being connected and in conversation with other people online and on land outweighed the bad parts of filter bubbles and trolls. But last year didn’t feel that way. Last year made me want to abandon online life.

In December, Beth and I began to talk about what’s next and how it might, or at least could, feel better. And that’s how this first article about the Age of Automation. We are cautiously optimistic about the power of robots to help people. But we also recognize the real possibility that we may make the same mistakes again; leaving too much unchecked power in the hands of private corporations to own public spaces and our lives.

So, give a read and let us know if you have any thoughts on where we go from here.

I remain cautiously optimistic than when our backs are against the wall – as they are now – we will fight our way to a more just world.


Everyday Nonprofit Corruption

The Washington Post analyzed 990s from large nonprofits and found an astounding number that had serious financial irregularities. This isn’t the category of overpaying for a copier or even overpaying a CEO (which still happens too often) this is outrageous, egregious, large-scale corruption within organizations.

The Post examined organizations that checked the box that indicated that assets had been diverted. Diverted is a polite way of saying stolen. The Post has created a database of the 1,000 organizations that reported diversions on their 990s.

From my cursory review of the organizations, here is a typical disclosure:

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 11.18.24 AM

The story is: We had an employee or a contractor who stole money from us and we reported it to counsel and we’re done. Basically, it’s the cost of doing business for many of these organizations.

And it’s appalling. Not just the practice of it, but the lack of transparency on the part of these organizations. Of course, if they were privately owned businesses, we wouldn’t know anything about this. But, they aren’t, they’re using public funds and are accountable to the public for how those funds are used.

It comes back to board leadership – as it always does. You can just hear the conversation at the board table, “Holy cow, we had better get counsel on this thing and hope it doesn’t get out.” This is why remaking their relationships with their communities, becoming more transparent and more accountable to their publics.

Too often, we confuse bad management with the circumstances those bad practices create. For instance, when City Opera closed in New York this fall a sad lament arose about the death of cultural institutions because of generational shifts. City Opera was a horribly managed organization that should have gone out of businesses years ago. It’s demise has nothing to do societal cultural shifts.

Until the boards of these organizations are accountable for lax internal controls, bad auditing practices and too willing to sweep these kinds of activities under the rug with their fingers crossed that it won’t end up in the Washington Post (although it usually does) then these bad practices won’t end.



Use of Social Media by Top 50 Nonprofits

NetWits Think Tank has a great post on the ways that the largest nonprofits are using social media.

The original data set for this post comes from Craig Newmarks CraigConnects Infograph, here. Fun stuff organized by the folks at Rad Campaign.

(Just one slight definitional quibble: this graphic uses the phrase, ” highest earning nonprofits” and “highest income nonprofits” interchangeably, and then ranked by “budget” later on in the graphic.  Since I’m not sure what “highest earning” means I’m not sure they’re the same thing. But, again, just a quibble, these are the big kahunas of the sector, I got it.)

Here is the guts of the graphic:

Basically, the largest nonprofits have links to Facebook, followed by Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn on their websites. What is interesting here is that there does not appear to be a correlation within the 50 of their size financially and the size of their communities on the social media channels. For instance, #46, Shriner’s Hospital, has a Facebook community of nearly 100,000 people, while #3, United Way, has about 37,000 people.

So, now we’ve got this fun, rich data set. No what, so what? I’d love to get my hands on this (perhaps they can open the whole set up to the public for playing around?) to see if what the results of being social are for these large organizations, how and why an organization like PBS is so successfully social and how it affecting their organization, how and why others aren’t. Thanks, Craig, for getting us started!


Welcome Back to Social Media

After the most lovely August-off, I’m back to the social media world. I wanted to share my thoughts published in a recent edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy on where we are regarding social media and nonprofits. The article is behind the pay wall at the Chronicle, so here’s the full text:

It’s Time to Get Serious About Using Social Media

It’s official – we’re all social now.Nine in ten nonprofits use Facebook, smaller but significant numbers have Twitter accounts and their own blogs, and the amount charities raise through social networks is the fastest piece of the overall giving pie.

But now that nonprofits are pinging and poking, friending and following, liking and tweeting, it’s time for them to take the next step.

Nonprofits must stop simply experimenting with social media as if it were a pair of shimmering, five-inch Manolo Blahnik high heels and integrate the tools throughout their organizations like a pair of sturdy Timberland walking shoes.

As the media-pundit Clay Shirkey wrote in Here Comes Everybody, “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

Social media as tools have reached the boring stage. It is time to cut off the tags and acknowledge that the warranty for social media tools is up. What changes is what we do with them.

As Beth Kanter and I wrote in The Networked Nonprofit, organizations immersed in social media look and behave more like social networks than traditional stand-alone organizations. These organizations look outside and see a world filled with networks of individuals and organizations ready and able to help them, an abundance of smart people of good will ready to be activated for a cause.

Within these organizations social media tools aren’t a department, a function, one staff member’s job or a hammer for every nail. The tools are integrated into every department and every function of the organization.

Social media plans or departments don’t live separate and distinct from the rest of an organization is a mistake. Every functional area of the organization, communications, development, programs, even administration and finance, has use for the power of conversation that comes from social media. Staff dedicated to social media spend as much time coaching their colleagues in other departments as manning the social media channels themselves.

One such example is Atlas Service Corps, a very small nonprofit organization that has social media built into its DNA. Social media makes it possible to expand the reach of the organization, which brings nonprofit leaders from developing countries to the United States for one-year fellowships.

By using social networks, it is able to recruit fellows from abroad, raise money, share their success stories, identify host organizations and stay connected to its alumni with a staff of just nine people. What would have taken thirty or forty staff members to accomplish in an analog world, says Atlas’ founder and CEO, Scott Beale, can be done with a small, agile staff leveraging their networks to share, learn, and enlarge their efforts.

But even organizations that were created long before blogs were part of the lexicon can still transform their operations with social media. The National Wildlife Federation learned how to take advantage of social networks under the leadership of its social-media manager, Danielle Brigida. Now more than 90 of the organization’s staff members have been trained to use Twitter to share their work with the world, in their own voice, using their own identities.

The default setting of many organizations is to think of social media as a new box on the organizational chart. However, that is too narrow a definition for social media. It isn’t a thing for a small group of people to do, it is a way of being for an entire organization. It would be like restricting the telephone just to the telephone department.

Social change happens through conversations between real people. Not between logos and people, but through authentic conversations between supporters of causes. Encouraging these conversations and participating in them has to be a top priority for all nonprofit organizations. And the best ambassadors are the people already hired to carry out the organization’s mission. Of course, this means giving up some control of both the message and the messengers.

When nonprofits embed social media throughout organizations, they will allow the best ambassadors for their causes, staff members and key volunteers, to talk about the work they know best, ask for help and advice, and make new friends and supporters across networks. If those networks help all nonprofits stretch their resources, think about how much more good organizations could do for the world.



More on Branding

Carlo M. Cuesto asked readers to comment on an article he wrote about six years ago entitled, “Building the Nonprofit Brand from the Inside Out.” He asked for input to help update the article to today’s reality. As you know, I started to think about nonprofits and branding last week and thought it would be fun to continue the conversation.

It’s a great article, and here are my reactions

I was first stopped short by this sentence: “With growth of field twice that of for-profit businesses in the United States, competition among nonprofits is rapidly increasing across the country for contributed support and, in certain sectors, for participants (customers) who impact an organizationís earned revenue.”

It’s not a surprising sentence. A common refrain in the sector is the presumption that there are too many nonprofits and that they are all in competition with one another. Lucy rightly dismisses the fallacy that there are simply too many nonprofits. We need to begin to drill down to understand what the growth in nonprofits really means for communities, and whether the growth is in advocacy organizations more than services.  (I don’t ever recall anyone in a community saying, “There are just too many darn nonprofits trying to serve poor people here.) The blanket statement that the growth in the number of nonprofits is automatically a bad thing doesn’t hold water.

But, I digress.

The more important part of the sentence is the presumption that nonprofit organizations are in competition with one another. And here is one place in particular where I would urge Carlo to rethink the idea of branding based on the advent of social media. Social media makes social networks visible through channels like Facebook and Twitter. Once they’re visible they can be energized to work on behalf of causes and organizations. Nonprofit organizations are part of this landscape of networks. In a networked environment, organizations aren’t competition with one another but resources. This might make sense if one is an arts organization and another is an after school program where they can envision working together to create a program.

But, how would it work if they were two after school programs, presumably in competition with one another for the same population? Beth and I think it comes down to a question of organization’s getting back to the fundamentals of what they are trying to accomplish. If there are two groups serving the same population, it would make sense for them to figure out which one does which parts of that service better, which one has the capacity to do what and serve whom. Or perhaps they ought to merge, although that doesn’t happen often in the sector. These organizations need to focus on what they do best and then network the rest.

OK, onto the rest of Carlo’s article. He has a beautiful diagram that I unfortunately couldn’t replicate of branding. It is a large circle with mission in the center and then consecutive outer rings of Promise, External Factors and the outer ring is Participant Perceptions. Within the ring on External Factors is also results.

I think that what is missing now that wouldn’t have been possible for nonprofits several years ago is the opportunity to use social media for conversations with large numbers of people about their organizations. What was the realm of market researchers with their toolset of surveys and focus groups only then, is now the commerce of sites like Facebook where large numbers of people are there and available for conversations. Carlo’s old diagram feels like a series of activities that an organization pushes outwards. I’d love for it now to represent a more open and porous two-way street of conversations. It’s still the same end goal of building to organizations that are trusted by the public to do good work and raise funds and other resources. But the process of getting there now doesn’t happen from the inside out, but from outside in and inside out.

Organizations need to focus on relationship building online and on land. This comes from listening and talking with their communities. Every day, as a fundamental part of the way that organizations work. When relationships are strengthened so are brands.  Thanks Carlo, for giving me a chance to think about this more!


Crowdsourcing Nonprofit's Good News

Who doesn’t need good news these days?  I sure do.  In a nice bit of crowdsourcing, Heather Carpenter is using Delicious to tag articles, web sites, blog posts on the positive ways that nonprofits are surviving, even thriving, in these tough economic times.

As a riff on the Homeland Security signs, if you see something, tag something.  In this case, tag anything positive you see about nonprofits npoeconomy using Delicious!


Social Citizens is a Top 10!

Blogs.com published it’s top ten nonprofit blogs last night — and wahooo, the Social Citizens blog that I blog for is listed!  We are very grateful to our friend, Beth Kanter, for including us on this list of outstanding blogs.  Here is the entire list:

Top 10 Nonprofit Technology (NPTech) and Social Media for Social Change Blogs

Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NPTech


Have Fun Do Good

Katya Andresen: Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Laura’s Notebook

Qui Diaz – Evange.list

Social Actions

Social Citizens Blog




How Nonprofits Need to Use Connectedness For Survival

I was in Los Angeles yesterday visiting with the Southern California Grantmakers.  They shared with me that there are whole blocks in LA with foreclosures signed up and down.  It’s gonna be ugly for a while, I fear.

To that end, I posted a column on Opportunity Knocks yesterday on the critical importance of nonprofits focusing on their connectedness with their constituents to survive — and maybe even thrive — in this bleak economy.  Feel free to read the entire post, and here are the highlights:

  1. Focus on What You Do Best. It is critically important for nonprofits to go back to basics and ask yourself what you are fundamentally in the business of accomplishing – and get rid of the rest.
  2. Rethink success. Did we add more revenue/staff/programs this year? That’s the question that boards ask year after year, as if the only way to serve communities better, or have a greater impact, is to do more of the same – at the cost of doing whatever you do really well. We need to rethink this, and educate board members about the difference between impact and growth.
  3. Live Within Your Ecosystem. When each organization is focused on what it does best, not becoming sprawling growth machines themselves, then they can connect with like-minded, collaborative partner organizations to serve their communities and constituents better.
  4. Nurture Your Networks. Connect with your constituents in real, meaningful ways. Too often, communications between organizations and constituents has devolved into a one-way ask for money. We’re not really interested in you, most organizations are saying, unless and until you write us a check. People have lots to offer organizations in terms of what they know and who they know.  This is the giving up control part – and if your organization isn’t ready to give it up, don’t bother asking people for advice.
  5. Trust yourself. In trying times it’s important to remember why you do the work that you do – to make our corner of the world a better place. We need to reject the Phyrric belief that success will come from being closed, competitive, opaque and hard of hearing. If it ever worked, it certainly won’t now. The elixir is to be your best self; open, transparent, connected and courageous.

Copyright © 2018 Allison Fine