Nonprofits have special opportunities as well as special challenges in taking advantage of social media. Beth Kanter, a consultant and author in the field of nonprofit training, says that the key is to meet the organizations where they are and guide them through the first steps.
In a Q&A, author and consultant Beth Kanter explains the special opportunities as well as special challenges nonprofits have in taking advantage of social media.
The key, she says, is to meet organizations where they are and guide them through the first steps. In her newest book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit (Jossey-Bass, 2012), Kanter and co-author Katie Delahaye Paine write, “Affecting social change is, of course, the ultimate goal for non-profit organizations. But you can’t get to any destination without a road map and some signposts along the way. Measurement is your map, and metrics are your signposts.”
“Like a small business, smaller nonprofits often don’t have a lot of staff time allocated to doing social media,” says Kanter. She uses a social media spectrum of Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly and helps non-profits move from one stage to the next. Small operations, she says, are often stuck at the Crawl stage because of limited resources.
Nonprofits and foundations are also subject to IRS guidelines around lobbying, which can lead the more cautious ones to shy away from Twitter and Facebook.
“In my work, once I’ve diagnosed them, the key is meeting them where they’re at, so they can get the most out of it,” says Kanter. “If I have an organization that’s at the Crawling stage and I start talking to them about data visualization, it’s not going to help them.”
Often her work involves introducing very basic measurement metrics to a nonprofit’s use of social media, such as tracking what kinds of results it gets when it posts to Facebook at certain times and days of the week. “I take them very incrementally to develop a habit and a practice,” she says.