3 min Read
October 19, 2009

Social Media and Technology: What Nonprofits Need To Know

Yesterday, I attended — and live tweeted (#baruchnp) — an interesting panel discussion at Baruch College here in New York, “Social Media and Technology: What Nonprofits Need To Know.” The panel featured some great nonprofit social media heavy-hitters:

  • Allison Fine, Speaker and Author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age
  • Andrew Rasiej, Founder of Personal Democracy Forum
  • Deanna Zandt, Media Technologist, Consultant, and Author of the forthcoming book: Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking

There were lots of good gems shared and discussed. While most of it was not particularly new for those of us who have been following, studying, working in social media for nonprofits, it all bears repeating. This is still such a new field.

(L to R) Kyra Gaunt (@kyraocity) speaking, with Allison Fine (@afine), Andrew Rasiej (@rasiej) and Deanna Zandt (@randomdeanna). Oh, and that woman typing away on the right in the audience is me (@farra)–tweeting it up.

Here are a few takeaways I wanted to share with you, oh loyal fans of the Duck Call Blog:

  1. You are an adult now — it’s okay to talk to strangers. Panel moderator Dr. Kyra Gaunt set the stage by reminding us to forget what we learned as kids. Social media — and in particular Twitter — is great for talking to strangers. You can learn new ideas and share resources with people around the world.
  2. Take the walls down and embrace a ‘social culture’. Allison reminded attendees that social media tools are just that. If you want to create change, your organization needs to shift how it thinks about social media–from a mindset of fear and control to one of listening and sharing. Several times she said we need to ‘tear down the walls’ and allow the lines to blur between what happens internally and externally.  Having a social culture is about opening up and sharing; letting go of the content and giving more credit than you take.
  3. The Internet is not an ATM. Success is about building relationships–not building numbers. For those people and orgs particularly interesting in raising money via social media, Deanna shared a helpful way to think about this: Just like you can’t walk into a bar, say how awesome you are and then ask someone for money… you can’t expect people to give you money, hand over fist, via Facebook and other social media sites. You have to build relationships and follow the tried and true practices of fundraising — the same ones that have been around since before the web — share your story, interest the potential donor by giving them something to do other than donating (cultivation), share more about your work and invite them to see your programs in action (stewardship), and then ask them to join you/invest/donate (solicitation).
  4. Being everywhere is nice, being relevant is best. Andrew spoke about the huge access the Internet offers — citing stats from how the presidential candidates used social media in the 2008 election. Where radio, TV, and print are economies of scarcity, he said the Internet is an economy of abundance. Deanna asked a great question in response, “How do we move from abundance to being relevant? How do we make info relevant and interesting in people’s lives?” I think this is one of the most important questions to ask and consider right now.
  5. Logos don’t talk, people do. Another hot question at this seminar and others on nonprofits + social media is about walking the line between your professional and personal brand, especially if you are the one tweeting, blogging, status-updating, commenting, texting, etc. for your organization. Allison made a great point in response to this topic and reiterated her earlier comments about taking down the walls and letting it blend.  People want to talk to other people. “Social media is not a spectator sport–it’s a contact sport.” If you are not sure if social media is for you, start small and experiment.

Next seminar from Baruch College will focus on ‘going mobile’ on November 12, 2009. To watch footage from this event or find out more about the next one, check the Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management.

Did you attend? What I’d miss? Comment away…