Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seth Godin Is Totally Right About Nonprofits and Social Media

Ok, well maybe not totally right, but certainly not as wrong as the droves of bloggers who are taking issue with his post are expressing.

Seth says:

  1. "Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change." I've worked in and/or with associations for almost 20 years now and it's been my experience that they do abhor change. Isn't the unofficial association credo "Because we've always done it this way"?

  2. "It's easy to buy more stamps and do more direct mail, scary to use a new technique." It's not their fault, but many associations' budgets and staffs are very limited. When resources and time are tight, there is often both no room for error and no budget/time for ongoing professional development. The thought of doing something new and having to explain to the board why it didn't work IS scary. And finding time to stay current on new techniques when it's all you can do to do the work in front of you on a daily basis just isn't realistic for many nonprofit employees. Not an excuse, just a reality.

  3. "The only reason not to turn this over to hordes of crowds eager to help you is that it means giving up total control and bureaucracy." For better or for worse, associations are built on the notions of control and bureaucracy. In associations, nothing is "turned over to hoards of crowds eager to help"; you have to wait months to put the idea of creating a new committee on the board's agenda, then they have to discuss it, then they have to vote on it, then a needs assessment has to be done about whether or not this committee is necessary, then the results have to be reported back to the board, then it's voted on again, then you have to put out a call for nominations for the new committee, then they need to meet...and so on. Is it the right way to do things? Of course not, but it's an unfortunate reality of associations.

Am I defending associations? No--I agree with Seth--I think that there are way, way too many associations staffed by people who couldn't care less about mission or members who are just happy to be sitting in the same chair they've sat in for 10, 20 30 or more years, not being held accountable for anything. And for each one of those people, there are probably two more who care deeply about the issues and people their association represents and would love to shake things up, be innovative, and be agents of positive change. And those are the people who ultimately get frustrated and move on when they realize that trying to change the world from inside one of these organizations is often an exercise in futility.

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