Book Review: The Networked Nonprofit

If you're interested in non-profit work or any kind of social change as an extracurricular adventure, you'll want to read The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine. Beth Kanter in particular is an author you'll want to follow.

I took this home over the weekend from our rather large Leadership & Non-profits library here at Leadership Victoria, and zoomed through it faster than I get through most non-fiction books. The writing style is snappy and concise, and the authors know whereof they speak.

The first couple of chapters are what I'd call "how to get over your fear of the internet and start living in the 21st Century" - stuff about how it's okay to take risks, and how you shouldn't leave your organization's social media strategy to the intern in the small office down the hall. When this book was written in 2010, there was still some debate as to whether social media was going to change the world. I think we can safely say that the world has changed a great deal, and social media is part of that, so if you think your non-profit can thrive without a social media strategy, you may want to think again.

The main concept, the "networked non-profit", identifies that our organizations no longer have fixed and firm walls around them, where we can tightly control the flow of information. Nor would we want to, because attitudes towards transparency, mobility and employment have shifted. The networked non-profit is not just about being "On The Nets" (har har) but about thinking of your organization as existing in the relationships between people - e.g. board and staff, clients, partners, donors, media, and those wonderful people out there called "free agents" who can make your wee fundraising campaign go viral (or not).

Fundraising professionals have long identified these networks (often called "circles of influence") as a way to analyze who is giving to your organization, but we now need to analyze and massage those networks for more than just magnetizing dollars. The book shares case studies of organizations like MomsRising.org which have very small staff but very wide reach, States-side, for social change.

The relevance for emerging leaders in any sector is that you need to think of the networks around you and the influence they will have (or not have) on the message(s) you want to spread. If you want people to take action, you'll need to tap in to wider networks, and take into account the needs and interests of the people in your web.

As the puff by Seth Godin on the cover of the book says, "you don't have to do every single thing these seasoned authors have to share, but you certainly have to know what you're missing." I don't mean to trigger your Fear Of Missing Out, but since the book can be read rather quickly, I would say it's worth picking up a copy and having a go at it.

There is a copy here in the Volunteer Victoria library which you can sign out to read for a week or two. First come, first served!


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