The Networked Nonprofit: Let the friending begin

This month CausePlanet is pleased to feature “The Networked Nonprofit” by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. We love this book and think you will too. Here’s an excerpt from our Page to Practice book summary, which looks at Kanter and Fine’s definition of a networked nonprofit.

About networked nonprofits

Kanter and Fine set the stage for their book by looking inside a highly networked nonprofit called the Surfrider Foundation whose culture is open among 70 chapters throughout the country. The CEO and small staff follow and support their chapters rather than direct and control them; share typically internal documents such as annual reports; and engage followers with a unique, purposeful model that begins with granular participation. The result is more than 145,000 volunteer hours dedicated to the mission and an engaged community. In other words, this nonprofit is networked!

Kanter and Fine attribute the following characteristics to networked nonprofits:

Simple and transparent

Easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out

Supportive of people shaping and sharing their work to raise awareness, organize and advocate

Efficient–don’t work harder or longer, but differently

Comfortable using social media tool set to engage two-way communication

Aware they are part of a much larger ecosystem of organizations

Not afraid to lose control of programs, logos, branding and messaging

Naturally willing to work with “free agents” or individuals who passionately identify and advocate online

Able to use many tools to engage in different kinds of conversations with different kinds of people

What struck me most about this book was its orientation toward establishing a philosophy of transparency and openness before launching into the social media planning process. I recall working with a nonprofit organization that wanted to “get on the Facebook” (thanks, Sarah Durham, for calling out those well-meaning folks who like to add “the”) and they wanted Twitter accounts but they didn’t want to actually interact online themselves.

In fact, they wanted to approve all the posts! This is where organizations can do an about face. If the leadership can engage in social media personally, they can empower their staff to follow their lead and develop an open policy for communication online. It’s actually very liberating to let go of the old ways and not have every message approved by three levels within the organization. Interaction becomes dynamic and fun for followers. Let the friending begin.

For more information, purchase a copy of the book at Jossey-Bass or subscribe to our Page to Practice book summary library, which features our author interview. Learn more about Kanter and Fine’s services and books.

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