Contributed by Anne
I spent the morning yesterday talking with an Executive Director on a range
of topics from board development to physical plant planning to...social
networking. Our discussion focused primarily on how to
manage/nurture/control the presence of the organization within the social
networking space. As many of you know, the "buzz" of nonprofit
bloggers is to "get online, develop your online marketing, connect with
your donors and constituents, be a part of the new Web 2.0
revolution"...but does it make sense for every nonprofit organization?
In this case, as a youth-serving organization, their staff work with
children from the ages of 8 - 18. Many of these children are already
using Facebook or MySpace to connect with their
friends and have integrated social networking as a key component of their
communication and interactions with their social set. If a relationship
is established, the children may send friend requests to the staff member
following the completion of the program. The organization, due to
concerns about liability, has instructed staff to not accept these requests and
to not pursue online friendships after the completion the program.
Additionally, program participants start groups on the social networking sites
as program alumnae - wanting to stay connected with their bunkmates or
teammates - using the organization's name to find fellow participants.
Without any control over these groups, the organization must monitor their
activity -- and should inappropriate content be posted, intervene. It is
a sticky situation.
I also had the opportunity yesterday to listen in on a compelling conference
call with Seth Godin
about his new book - "Meatball Sundae". (Thank you to Edith and
the team at SFEntrepreneur
for putting it together!) Seth spoke primarily about the revolution of
permission marketing over the last five years and its impact on business.
He stressed that in fact, organizations (even non-profits) have the
"obligation to take advantage of the revolution versus fighting
it." Seth noted numerous trends that are part of the revolution but
one struck me as pertinent to the challenge facing this particular ED. In
the marketing revolution that is occurring, every consumer is a critic,
which in this case, would include program participants. These
consumers have the ability to shout from any variety of rooftops - including
Facebook or MySpace profiles or groups, blogs, Twitters - the good and the bad
about their experience with not only any retailer...but any nonprofit
So where does that leave this Executive Director? How can this
organization both embrace their consumers and in doing so create advocates for
their organization through social networking, while simultaneously protecting
their own liability? Your thoughts?