Britt Bravo, author of Have Fun Do Good and community builder for NetSquared, graciously invited me to participate in a new monthly community blog called Net2ThinkTank. This post will be one of many entries. Check out the others here on Tuesday.
Britt's question is: What is needed to facilitate more nonprofits' adoption of the social web? In other words, how do we get more nonprofits to blog, use social networks, share video, etc. so that they can raise more money, recruit more volunteers, win advocacy campaigns - change the world?
As far as I can tell there are 4 obstacles which are key barriers to online entry and success:
1) no time
2) no money
3) no online ambassador
4) no clear ROI
Let me elaborate.
It's obvious that time is a finite resource and anyone who has ever worked for a nonprofit knows it is THE precious commodity. For human services organizations, in particular, the mission - creating more educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth, eradicating homelessness, enabling people to die with dignity, etc. - is an urgent matter. Because of this and because of the nature of the issues they address, program managers become overwhelmed by the crises they face every day. Thus, for many leaders, focusing on marketing and communications (online or offline), instead of taking care of people is seen as a distraction at best and a frivolity at worse.
Just because most of the social media tools are super cheap doesn't mean they're free. After all, nothing is free and again, no one knows this more than the ED who is used to stretching every dollar bone thin. People cost money, time is money. Any responsible leader must ask herself every day, what is the best and highest use of our organization's resources? Most would be hard pressed to say blogging.
No online ambassador
It's critical that more young people become employees, volunteers and donors of the causes they care about because we need more online evangelists! All of the younger folks I have met in the past 2 years have a natural affinity for the social web. Their expertise and enthusiasm for all things online will propel more nonprofits into this new medium.
No clear ROI
Although case studies are popping up which show how nonprofits are using the social web to raise money, get new members and do successful advocacy campaigns, etc. more research must be done to demonstrate the ROI of social media tools. This information will help bring the skeptics on board.
Finally, since it's not my style to end on a down note, I'll end this post by pointing out that while there are barriers to nonprofits' use of social media, lack of passion is not one of them. On the contrary, PASSION, the key ingredient of any successful communication campaign, is in abundance in this crazy industry we call The Nonprofit Sector. Once we address the challenges I've outlined above, we'll be able to let our passion to shine through!