The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change – Book Review

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The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change (2010) is aimed at high-level executives, board members and entrepreneurs in the non-profit sector.

Although it does contain some basic explanation of how to use social media, the crux of the book expands well beyond this into a thesis on how non-profit organisations should be run and how they should engage with each other, both as similar but separate organisations working towards the same goals, and as a whole sector. It also serves as a guide to the culture engendered by social media and the ways in which organisations can connect and engage via these new media.

 

Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine have both written extensively on non-profit organisations and new technology. Kanter is the author of Beth’s Blog (http://www.bethkanter.org), a popular blog in the non-profit sector and Fine has is the author of the award-winning book Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (2006).

 

The informal and inclusive style of Kanter and Fine’s writing is perhaps a product of their background as bloggers and represents a definite shift from many traditional reference texts. In their hands this style’s requisite openness is appealing and The Networked Nonprofit is engaging and easy to read. Many of the case studies are expressed conversationally, like the writers are introducing us to personal friends.

 

The Networked Nonprofit demonstrates the wealth of Kanter and Fine’s experience of the workings of the non-profit sector and social media through the abundance of case studies and real-world examples that they bring to the text. These examples are evidently the result of extensive interviews with social media users and innovators in the non-profit world and bring an added layer of depth evidence to the book.

 

Kanter and Fine go far beyond encouraging the use of social media as a means for advertising products or services, fundraising and awareness raising. They envision social media as a powerful tool for cooperation, engagement and network building and actively promote the virtue of their model for non-profit organisations.

 

The first part of the book explains how to become a networked non-profit, covering how to use social media and creating a social culture, and the second part addresses what to do as a networked non-profit. This structure highlights the intrinsically practical nature and attitude of this book. Although it has a conceptual framework and encourages an examination of the way that organisations are organised and managed, it is also a call to action. Kanter and Fine want readers to embrace their model for change and use social media as the impetus. Each chapter closes with a list of “reflection questions” that are designed to encourage discussion of the ideas and tools addressed in the chapter.

 

Kanter and Fine encourage organisations to see themselves as part of a greater network of similar organisations and to relinquish the inclination to operate independently and distant from others in the sector. They also argue that non-profit organisations should be simpler and simplify their operations by relying on their networks to offer some of the services or products that are ancillary to their primary purpose. This model, however, may not be suitable for all types of organisations and not all readers will approve of some of the assertions that the authors make or the conclusions that they come to.

 

The Networked Nonprofit is an American publication and as in other reviews of international texts we would once again like to caution readers not to take at face value any regulatory or legal advice in this book nor assume that the local non-profit sector will operate in precisely the same ways as Kanter and Fine suggest that the US one does.

 

The Networked Nonprofit offers an excellent overview of social media and is an ideal introduction for those who are unfamiliar with social media and want to know how they can use it to energise and advance their organisation. For the complete novice, the glossary featured at the back of the book is an ideal starting place. The glossary describes the various different types of social media referred to in the book and the specific tools, processes and terms relating to each of them.

 

There may be aspects of The Networked Nonprofit that some people will object to. Kanter and Fine are endorsing a collaborative and non-competitive model for non-profit organisations that not everyone will agree with. However, this book will still be valuable aid for leaders as an insightful discussion of the value of social media to non-profit organisations and an instructional guide to its effective implementation and use.

 


 

The Networked Nonprofit is available for $43 through Better Boards Resources.

About Julia Duffy

Julia is a writer and researcher at Better Boards. She has a passionate interest in the non-profit sector, particularly its legal and regulatory complexities and she follows all news and developments in this area keenly. Prior to joining Better Boards, Julia served as an intern at Philanthropy Australia. Julia has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne, majoring in Political Science and English Literature.

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