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Why Seth Godin Is Wrong (Updated)

By Tom Watson on September 15, 200939 Comments

Online marketing guru Seth Godin takes aim at nonprofits in a widely-quoted blog post “The problem with non” today, a diatribe of sorts that repeats a meme that’s been active in American philanthropy circles for at least a decade: nonprofits are afraid of change.

And it’s true, of course – at least on the surface. Most organization, especially large ones, do not race to take risks. But Godin’s piece is both simplistic and under-reported. Sure, it’s easy to say – as he does – that “non-profits, in my experience, abhor change.” Yet in my experience, they hate a change a lot less than failure – and they also hate change less than vast swaths of the corporate world (Wall Street and big insurance leap to mind).

It’s dismissive at the extreme to lob this kind of question: “When was the last time you had an interaction with a non-profit (there’s that word again) that blew you away?” Besides, Godin’s “success” metrics are wacky:

Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you’re doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I’m betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change? Is there too much bureaucracy or too much fear to tell a compelling story in a transparent way?

[snip]

If you spend any time reading marketing blogs, you’ll find thousands of case studies of small (and large) innovative businesses that are shaking things up and making things happen. And not enough of these stories are about non-profits. If your non-profit isn’t acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you’re failing in your duty to make change.

Twitter followers? Digg counts? Pitching Silicon Valley VC’s? It doesn’t ring true. Sure, passion and the willingness to take risks matter – but I don’t think a simplistic techno-capitalist argument can be spread across the vastness of 501c3-land.

For one, I’m impressed every week by the work of nonprofits – work that does indeed, blow me away. And for another, there is some risk-taking out there – more and more capital directed toward experimentation – and some terrific advances in story-telling, organizing, fundraising, and activism. My book spent much 200 pages covering those stories. You want Twitter? Social change bloggers often dominate the serious discussion of social media’s impact.

This comment is particularly wrong-headed: “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.”

Undoubtedly, control and bureaucracy can be big problems with nonprofits, large and small. But does anyone now living believe that the most philanthropic nation in the history of the world should devolve its nonprofit and service sector into a crowd-sourced cyberlibertarian throw of the dice at utopia? Yes, $300 billion annually is less than 2% of GDP – but it’s a vital 2% for those who rely on the services and support that nonprofits provide.

I don’t – and I preach digital change to nonprofits every day. Change ain’t easy when the world keeps moving and you have the keep the lights on – ask the President.

Besides, nonprofits are way, way down the list of sectors that really abhor change. Wall Street, big insurance, government – now they really hate change. More nonprofits need to adapt, to experiment, to take risks, to embrace change. But they need to keep on providing services while they’re doing it.

I think the “non” in Seth’s post relates to its own currency frankly – it’s an old bromide that’s getting kinda stale.

UPDATE: Wow, lots of discussion in several interesting places. Let’s start with comments here. Seth responds to my post, and argues:

My point about VCs wasn’t that non profits should be raising money from them. It’s that we expect ‘real’ companies to be innovative risk takers, but somewhere along the way, the status quo for non profits has become to be boring.

And Seth’s basic point – that nonprofits accept a state of stasis too often (which I also agree with and have worked on for a decade) – won some positive comments, including Brad Rourke’s:

Seth’s description of the board meeting with the silent leaders felt eerily similar to meetings I have been in, where an uncomfortable proposition — perhaps as simple as “let’s eat our own dog food” — gets killed through inertia.

But others accused Seth of not tasting his own cooking – here’s Hildy Gottlieb:

I read the title and prepared to agree with Seth Godin on his post. Instead I laughed out loud. Why? Because Seth Godin is not on Twitter! He has a blog so he can blast out, but no way for readers to comment – no way for Mr. Godin to participate in the “social” part of social media.

And Sheva Nerad argued (persuasively, I think) that consumer marketing rules simply aren’t the same for nonprofits:

Godin’s rant about nonprofits completely ignores history of nonprofit institutions as petitioners as well as change agents. There is a different kind of risk taking involved when you’re marketing a luxury item, and social change is, alas, a luxury. NGOs have to be diplomats.

Further, says Kevin Williams, nonprofits (especially community-based organizations) have to adapt to survive, even if the pace isn’t always what we’d like it to be:

I work for a non profit and we embrace change. In face we have to in order to keep our advocates happy. The point that Mr. Godin missed is that non profits are constantly in the community talking and interacting with their advocates and donors. That’s where the real “change” happens.

Lots of other interesting comments – please read them and post your own. Elsewhere, some interesting commentary. At Beth Kanter’s place, there’s a great conversation around this – read all the comments and jump in – and here’s Beth’s take:

Change is hard for people and for people who work in nonprofits. Social media can also inspire timidness.  Seth’s painted a untrue picture of ALL nonprofits as deer frozen in the headlights. While there are many examples of nonprofits embracing social media and getting results with only a fraction of Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter followers – there are organizations that are not engaging.  If anything, Godin has got the attention of those who work in the nonprofit sector and are engaged in the social media conversation.  Whether or not that is only a small percentage of the nonprofit field or not remains to be seen.

Sean Stannard-Stockton did a special post on the controversy with lots of links, and takes the thoughtful middle road in judging the merits of the argument:

…we’ve come full circle. Tom, Beth and Seth are all right in my mind. Change is hard. Too many nonprofits (and philanthropists!) find change scary and by hunkering down instead of accepting uncertainty, they are wasting an opportunity to make a difference. Wasting an opportunity in the social sector means more people in poverty, fewer children with access to education, a quickly deteriorating environment. Seth is right to be pissed off.

But all is not lost! We are in the early stages of a technology and demographically driven Second Great Wave of Philanthropy. Books like Tom’s document the ways that more and more social change agents are getting comfortable with change and embracing new approaches.

Seth’s post was cranky, but he’s right. The work of nonprofits is too important for them to become paralyzed with fear.

Tom’s post was right as well. Everyone hates changes, not just nonprofits. And every day, more and more nonprofits are learning to overcome fear and more capital is being devoted to experimentation.

Geoff Livingston says Godin didn’t delve deeply enough before broadly characterizing nonprofits, and offers some examples of innovation:

My response to this is when was the last time Seth Godin did actual work in the field? Because I work with both nonprofit and commercial entities, and I can tell you which sector is getting it faster: Nonprofits. Much faster. If Seth did actual field work — instead of promoting his personal brand and ideas — he might have practical experience to cite in his lament. Instead, we have an uninformed opinion.

Consider the Humane Society’s efforts or LiveStrong’s or Live Earth’s and the National Wildlife Federation. These are all big brands that I’ve talked to in the past two weeks! Then there’s the CDC actively engaging to combat H1N1.

In any case, the conversation’s a worthy one. Sean’s right when he says that “we need to get comfortable with discomfort.” The blog/Twitter argument is a good one, so it’s fair to recognize Godin’s spark. As Beth says (in comments, above): “Anyway, he got us all blogging, twittering, and Facebooking about it …” Exactly. Thanks, Seth!

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39 Comments »

  • Rick Birmingham says:

    Well said. Thank you!

    Nonprofits should and do use social media more and more every day, but their focus still needs to be on their mission.

    There are strong arguments for more innovation, however that innovation may need to happen in other areas (board governance, mergers, restructuring of services and partnerships) that don’t immediately touch Twitter, Digg or Facebook.

    Rick

    Rick Birmingham

  • [...] On the one hand, I wouldn’t take Godin’s comments to seriously. Some of his markers of success for a nonprofit seem silly. (e.g. having lots of Twitter posts; to read someone who disagrees with Godin’s post, click here.) [...]

  • Brad Rourke says:

    Nice retort, Tom. I was one who shared Seth’s piece. While you make very good points, there IS, I believe, a grain of truth in the Seth argument. It actually has nothing to do with “abhorring” change — indeed, most community benefit organizations see themselves in the business of change.

    But here’s the thing. I have worked with, and for, a number of “nonprofits” in my career. In my observation, there’s a powerful lack of self-scrutiny when it comes to operations. This is just my experience, not something I can show you a study on. However, the disconnect between rhetoric (of change) and willingness to change work patterns can be vast.

    Yes, the same can be said of other sectors. But I believe that there are factors in the community benefit sector that conspire to make it a fertile ground for this kind of self-blindness. Perhaps predictably, it is all about funding. The typical funding cycle of many not-for-profits is annual. While the budgets are tight, and people ARE working hard, there is a higher built-in tolerance for inefficiency and wasted effort with this setup — because the consequences of inefficiency come far later. (This is a generalization and I know I can be taken to task for it. Again, this is just my experience.)

    Seth’s description of the board meeting with the silent leaders felt eerily similar to meetings I have been in, where an uncomfortable proposition — perhaps as simple as “let’s eat our own dog food” — gets killed through inertia.

    Wow, I did not mean to type so much.

  • Seth Godin says:

    Sorry to hear it didn’t resonate with you.

    I was actually overwhelmed with mail (about ten times more than I usually get) and every single piece from a frustrated person inside of a non-profit.

    Here’s a simple example from my day job: on a regular basis, Squidoo writes $10,000 checks to charities. And yet, virtually no “major” causes have sent their volunteers over to use it as a fundraising or attention raising or action generating tool. I never said (re-read it) that we should turn over “service sector into a crowd-sourced cyberlibertarian throw of the dice at utopia.”

    Again, sorry that I’m stale. I’ll try to do better!

    Here’s another example: the non-profits I’ve given money to in the past (and you’ve heard of many of them) continue to spam me with direct mail tactics that are 40 years old.

    My point about VCs wasn’t that non profits should be raising money from them. It’s that we expect ‘real’ companies to be innovative risk takers, but somewhere along the way, the status quo for non profits has become to be boring.

  • Ryan Quiel says:

    I read this post by Seth as well today, and I do agree with some points, but not with all.

    I think we need to continue to compare ourselves with Silicon Valley in terms of online innovation, as that is were more and more donations will come from in the near future. We also can’t point at big gov or insurance, and say, well, they are moving slower than us, so we are not the worst, yet….

    What I didn’t like about this was Seth’s reference to Twitter and saying that we as non-profits are not in the top 100. That will always be the case, no matter what, as I don’t recall seeing a non-profit on a gossip rag last time I was in line at the store. It is a popularity contest of individuals for the first 100 or 1,000. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of low hanging fruit that non-profits can still obtain and convert in the longtail of Twitter or other social platforms.

  • Beth Kanter says:

    I don’t agree with his metrics – and comparisons to celebrities — but I do agree with the change management issue.

    Anyway, he got us all blogging, twittering, and Facebooking about it …

  • Tom:
    Thank you for this. As someone who has campaigned aggressively against the label “nonprofit” for years now, I read the title and prepared to agree with Seth Godin on his post.

    Instead I laughed out loud. Why? Because Seth Godin is not on Twitter! He has a blog so he can blast out, but no way for readers to comment – no way for Mr. Godin to participate in the “social” part of social media. He has a Facebook page where he (or his staff) posts links to his uncommentable blog posts, but I can’t remember even once seeing him engage with the fans who mostly just tell him how smart he is.

    And yet this is a guy who has the cajones to say, “When was the last time you had an interaction with a non-profit (there’s that word again) that blew you away?”

    Truth be told, when is the last time Seth Godin encouraged interaction, period?

    Unless you have the pre-existing fan base of a Seth Godin, using social media to engage in a way that creates any kind of ROI takes a ton of time (Don’t we who use it for our work know that!). Sure, if you’re Seth Godin, you don’t need to interact – you can lob out blog posts and have people RT them and say how brilliant you are, which sells more books and produces more fans. For the rest of us, though, Social Media is work.

    And when you’ve had funding dramatically cut in the same year that Social Media has taken off like skyrockets, the opportunity cost of that work is – well – people being fed or sick people being treated.

    In the old days, Seth Godin was a guy who had been there, done the work, and taught from what he learned on the ground. When that Seth Godin returns and once again walk his own talk – when Mr. Godin begins participating seriously in social media rather than sitting on his high horse lobbing his purported wisdom down at the rest of us – I may take seriously his suggestion that we use social media as an indicator that Community Benefit Organizations are resistant to trying new things. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    (And yes, Mr. Godin, there are those of us within the sector who have not only lobbied against the word “nonprofit” but have actually come up with a positive, affirming alternative.)

    Sorry – spent the whole day on a plane and it seems I lost my “nice” filter somewhere over Texas…
    Hildy

  • Jon Husband says:

    Yup !

  • Jesse Luna says:

    I don’t think that non-profits are any less innovative (in the way Godin describes) than most of corporate America. Unfortunately that’s not a good thing, especially in a very tight economy. ~@Jesseluna

  • Shava Nerad says:

    Well, I’ve flipped again and I’m working on a for-profit startup — but I’ve gone back and forth for 30 years now, and I think I’ve seen a few of the issues. I started bringing nonprofits online with early free-net/community network efforts in the early 90’s, and I’ve seen a lot of early/middle/late adoption.

    Godin’s rant about nonprofits completely ignores history of nonprofit institutions as petitioners as well as change agents. There is a different kind of risk taking involved when you’re marketing a luxury item, and social change is, alas, a luxury. NGOs have to be diplomats.

    Marketing people (and, I’m one of them in my for-profit hat) don’t have to be diplomats in the US. They get to be brash risktakers, and early adopters, if they seek general audiences.

    What I’ve seen is that reputation management in Internet early adoption has led to more unrecoverable reputation damage for nonprofits than for profits.

    This isn’t because nonprofits aren’t as good at it — it’s because their market is more sensitive to reputation mars.

    Reputation is a nonprofit’s greatest asset. If a sales guy is an ass, fire him. If an ACORN receptionist is an ass, it could kill your organization.

    The law made nonprofits into a different animal than for-profits with intent, and oversees their behavior with an eye to protocol that for-profit companies simply never see (whether they should or not!).

    Ignoring that just shows a radical illiteracy in the cultural context of nonprofits. It sounds more like Godin feels squidoo is spurned, than that he has any depth literacy in the operating environment of nonprofit organizations.

    I often like his stuff, but not this. We know our tribe, and he doesn’t.

  • @metaMeerkat says:

    Indeed. Seth Godin stirred up a (very needed) conversation in the same way as Beth Kanter often does.

    In my opinion, we should be mindful that we are really comparing entire SECTORS – the private, public and civil society sectors (also referred to as ‘the third sector’). A wide brush of generalisation is not going to paint everyone guilty of not adopting social media in the ‘nonprofit’ domain- in the same way as slow adoption of ‘democracy’ is not true for all countries in the public domain, or ‘irresponsible financial greed’ cannot be on the heads of ALL profit-driven companies.

    It is just not as simple to say that ALL ‘nonprofits’ are slow adopters, by ONLY looking at standard new marketing metrics. It would be the same as saying that ALL companies are slack on creating public benefit without any social conscience, whilst ONLY social investment metrics are applied. Surely, there are more viables to consider WITHIN the constraints and realities of each sector itself?

    Having said all of this: I have always thought that the term ‘nonprofit’ is fundamentally flawed and indeed, defining an organisation as such cannot be good. I understand its intention to say that ‘we are not into this for the profit’, but prefer the term ‘public profit’ as tweeted on 4 September:

    “RT @metaMeerkat #SocEnt I don’t believe a development org SHOULD be ‘nonprofit’ – rather ‘public profit’ (as oppose to shareholders’ profit).”

    Luckily, a rose by any other name is still a rose. The profit (financial gain) are used in programmes for social good.

    Organisations in the civil sector SHOULD be making a profit and they should really be using social media to get their messages across. And many do. I also agree there are enough seeing the potential of a changed marketing environment yet. And yes, some of the (bigger and smaller) organisations are very much still baking ‘meatballs’ when they should be making ‘ice cream sundays’ (refer Seth Godin’s book). Or trying a mix that does not work at all.

    In South Africa, it appears that we have the reverse (of what Seph Godin says) happening, where the bigger public benefit organisations and NETWORKS embrace social media. At least, to an extend. They – in turn – are starting to build the capacity of the smaller organisations. Here and there in Africa a thought-leader with savvy techie in their midst would put toes in the social media waters, but overall – social media as we know it is not adopted rapidly by ANY sector. I am not talking about organisations working FOR Africa (no offense intended) but those IN Africa.

    Now, if we talk about MOBILE technologies – closely linked to social media – we have a different story. So, I also think that regional and digital CONTEXT is important. And yes, it is very MUCH about resources. Seph Godin says, “Please don’t tell me it’s about a lack of resources. The opportunities online are basically free…” but are our beneficiaries online and using social media?? In our case, social networks are very real, but not tied to technology – not online. Networks and social capital are entrenched in communities we serve and our best way of embracing social networks are by linking mobile telecommunications to actual community gatherings and steet-talk. NOT so much a FaceBook page or Twitter account. As access and awareness and skills improve, we will meet our social networks online as well.

    So, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water – I DO agree that some organisations appear to be ‘paralyzed in fear’. And that leaders’ rigid adversity to change some times gets wrapped in terms like ‘accountability’ and ‘good governance’. Innovation is essentially part of organisational culture – or not! However, it is not so much SECTOR specific (as implied by some in this debate) but rather LEADERSHIP specific – and intimately linked to the sustainability (and feasibility) of an organisation OR company OR government.

    If organisations need a different way of generating income, they will explore social media. If the current ways are working and have so for ages, they may not. (So maybe it is more about organisations that do not NEED to change – despite our best efforts to convince them otherwise?)

    Seph Godin asks: “Where are the big charities, the urgent charities, the famous charities that face such timely needs and are in a hurry to make change?”

    Organisations are where are beneficiaries are and need them most. They ‘face timely needs and are in hurry to make change”. Maybe just not the change Seph Godin (or you or I) may be looking for…?

  • I’ve been working for some large non-profits for 20 yrs, 15 of which as ceo. I then started NABUUR, an internet platform that links local communities directly to people that would like to connect and collaborate. The reason for leaving the non profit sector has much the do with the phenomena that Seth Godin describes. But my analysis differs. The non-profits that i know well are full with highly skilled professionals, dedicated to making a difference. They often embrace change.

    However, there is an anomaly between the actual work and the implicit promise to the world, the members and the staff . The promise is that they will save the rainforest, learn kids how to read, feed the poor, or whatever the mission of the organization is. The actual work is that they finance and manage 50 or 100 projects.
    To manage those projects you need to set up a solid organization. In ‘Here comes everybody’ Clay Shirky describes very well how that organization comes at a cost, how it takes care of its own survival first and foremost.

    Many ceo’s realizeat the same time that the social media are a fantastic tool to bridge the gap between the limited impact of their projects and the implicit much larger promise: with the help of their constituency they could achieve so much more. They then falsely assume that their organization should somehow incorporate the social media in their day to day operations. That is not possible. Hence the discomfort of the ceo’s. A hierarchical organization, whether it is a corporation, government agency or ngo, is designed to carry out its own plans with its own people and it own money. Engaging large groups of people outside the organization to contribute their own bit, in direct contact with one another and at their own pace, is an entirely different ball game. What is needed is a porous interface between the organization and the crowds. Separate from the organization, so that it can continue to do what it is so good at. Connected to it so that the crowds and be engaged nevertheless. NABUUR and several other internet platform provide such an interface.

    There is a striking analogy with the way the VISA card was eventually set up. In the late sixties, the banks were suffering massively when the credit cards were first seen as competitive service. Only when it was eventually set up as a general service for all banks to offer to their clientele, did it take off. Spectacularly! Similarly, the use of the social media should not be seen as something oneorganization should incorporate as a competitive advantage over another, but rather as a general service for the local communities in the south and for the citizens of the world. Much of the collaboration architecture has already been developed in the past five years. Now it is a matter of connecting them up so that the users experience a seamless service. The ngo’s will be able to fullfill more of their mission by offering this general service to their constituency as a dependable and effective way to engage directly with the work that needs to be done.

    Much more could be written about this subject. My main point is that ngo’s are not afraid to change, but that their analysis of the situation is wrong. They fail to see their common interest, i.e to stimulate the further development of the collaboration architecture which the social media offer. In doing so they achieve much less of their goals than possible and let their constituencies down.

  • Donna says:

    Thanks to all the super smart people who have commented on this. You have covered, collectively, all of the concerns I have with Seth’s post. To underscore the celebrity comment Beth made, there is a more interesting (and not surprising) story in analyzing why a resume-building, job hunting website is the number one followed account on Twitter. Perhaps Seth could turn his attention to advising/supporting organizations working on efforts to create more jobs.
    Donna @
    GlobalGiving

  • [...] of Nonprofit Success Online" and CauseWired author Tom Watson chimed in with a post called "Why Seth Godin is Wrong." Frank Barry over on the NetWits Think Tank blog added some additional thoughts to the [...]

  • I work for a non profit and we embrace change. In face we have to in order to keep our advocates happy. The point that Mr. Godin missed is that non profits are constantly in the community talking and interacting with their advocates and donors. That’s where the real “change” happens. And I find it simplistic of him to mention Twitter with all the automatic follower software debates and celebrity broo ha ha that happens within that channel. If we spent most of time wondering if we have followers or not, then we couldn’t change the world. Facebook fans and Twitter followers don’t change the world or enhance your brand, people do. It seems he lost site of the people that fact. And to think, this was the guy who raves about having “tribes”!

  • [...] defense in a comment on a critical post by CauseWire’s Tom Watson : I was actually overwhelmed with mail (about ten times more than I usually get) and every single [...]

  • greenmeetupnews says:

    I think a large aspect of what he skipped over is what types of non-profits there are and how they react to change – his analysis is overly simplistic and relies on the assumption that all non-profits are cash strapped and have unclear or non-guaranteed funding streams, which makes them fearful of change. This isn’t the case for a large percentage of non-profits who have the backing of federal agencies, large charitable orgs, or corporate-issue based nonprofs who have the backing of investment professionals and CEOs, like Securing America’s Future Energy, for example. Too simplistic!

    Robb Hughes
    Head of Sales & Marketing
    Green Meetup
    Find Green Eco-Friendly Products Here

  • [...] — kgilnack @ 1:15 pm I recently read a great post on Cause  Wired Communications blog on why Seth Godin is wrong about nonprofits and social media, and wanted to add a few of my own [...]

  • [...] Watson writes “Why Seth Godin is Wrong” on CausedWire Communications. The comments there are worth the read and I applaud those that left [...]

  • Jeff Hurt says:

    Tom:

    This is a great discussion indeed and well overdue.

    Here’s a spin on the discussion. According to the US, IRS, there are 1.8 million nonprofits in America and there are another 70,000 in Canada. Are all of those nonprofits using social media? There are 26 million people that serve on nonprofit Boards. Do all of them tweet for their nonprofits?

    Yes, I agree Seth used the wrong metrics, didn’t do his research and caused a lot of nonprofit social media specialists to be alarmed. His approach was wrong. His intentions were good.

    But the reality is that there are a lot more nonprofits not using social media than those that do. Thanks for being one of those champions out there leading the way for nonprofits. We need more people like you!

  • [...] On the one hand, I wouldn’t take Godin’s comments too seriously. Some of his markers of success for a nonprofit seem silly. (e.g. having lots of Twitter posts; to read someone who disagrees with Godin’s post, click here.) [...]

  • [...] a stellar roundup of the naysayer’s to Mr. Godin’s “non”-logic. A couple of my favorites: Tom Watson says “nonprofits are way, way down the list of sectors that really abhor change. [...]

  • My comment here is to repeat what I wrote when I took issue with Godin in 2006 for slamming nonprofits for not using Squidoo: http://bit.ly/06Godin

    Given the history and his comment above, one can’t help but wonder if the nonprofit execs that Godin cites in this week’s post were rejecting Squidoo, rather than online fundraising and social media in general. In fact, a friend from a large nonprofit told me his org was treated arrogantly by Seth and company when they refused to get involved with Squidoo — the nonprofit leaders were made to feel stupid.

    And if we’re talking about blowing people away, you know what would blow me away? If Seth would publish exact figures about how much each nonprofit in the Squidoo program made from Squidoo, and case studies of the time and resources they expended. That would be the best thing Seth could do to help nonprofits use Squidoo effectively.

  • Chris Noble says:

    Tom: (and Seth and Beth):

    For me the key issue is less about resistance (or not) to change, and more about the staggering untapped opportunity that NPO’s have online. in 2008 $6 billion was raised for charity online in the US. BUT that number only represents about 5% of total US giving. It’s the room for growth that makes adopting new tools so compelling.

    Anyhow, This topic has clearly struck a chord with the non-profit and social media crowd. Any chance we can encourage you three to come to Vegas for blogworld and discuss it together on a panel session? We’re running the first Cause / Activism track this year on Oct 15th (17th also an option). Attendance should be over 4,000 this year with an audience, and last year the 2,000 attendees had a media reach to 100 million readers.

    Would love to be sharing stories of what’s working for non-profits online and challenging them to do more. I can be reached at noble (at) kompolt (dot) com

    best,

    Chris Noble
    CEO Kompolt

  • [...] And the overwhelming amount of debate about the post  (Beth Kanter, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tom Watson, to name a few) , has focused on whether or not nonprofits have embraced social media, whether they [...]

  • [...] Tom Watson, another blogger, went further than Beth, arguing that the charitable sector is one of the most innovative. [...]

  • [...] his latest entries, which takes aim at nonprofits for supposedly resisting social media tools, is causing quite a stir in the advocacy community. According to Godin, nonprofits exist to create change but actually "abhor" change.  His proof?  [...]

  • [...] to) the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Sean Stannard-Stockton of Tactical Philanthropy, Tom Watson of CauseWired, Steve MacLaughlin of Blackbaud, and Geoff Livingston of the BuzzBin. I might add, that I follow [...]

  • [...] this week, she commented that even Seth Godin, the Seth that we’ve all learned so much from, doesn’t allow comments on his blog. How is that serving his [...]

  • [...] And the overwhelming amount of debate about the post  (Beth Kanter, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tom Watson, to name a few) , has focused on whether or not nonprofits have embraced social media, whether they [...]

  • [...] Non-profits abhor change? Tom Watson takes it up against Seth Godin’s idea that “non-profits, in my experience, abhor change” in Why Seth Godin is Wrong. [...]

  • [...] First up, Godin took an ill-informed swipe on nonprofits. My criticism of his post was that it demonstrated a lack of market expertise and field work. How [...]

  • Non-profits understood the power of advocacy and community long before there were any tools called ’social media,’ and Godin is right when says, generally, that they’ve been slower to experiment with the technology than come corporate types.

    Where he’s wrong is where all of the social media gurus tend to miss the boat: there’s nothing inherently good or effective about technology tools, whether social media or technicolor movies. Successful campaigns and relationships are based on shared PURPOSE, not engagement or conversation.

    Non-profits are uniquely positioned to bring that meaning to the social media world, which sorely needs it.

  • nommo says:

    “nonprofits are afraid of change” – the ones I work with are all about change!

  • I believe one key mistake is to assume that what is true for one organization in a sector is true for all organizations in that sector. Good, innovative organizations can be for profit or nonprofit. One can’t really generalize that one is more efficient, or more meaningful than the other. There are well-run for-profits. There are poorly run for-profits. Similarly, there are well-managed and poorly managed nonprofits. Some for-profits are heavily engaged in social media, and so are some nonprofits. Others of both aren’t. Often it comes down to leadership. When working with and for a good leader and leadership team, that’s when risk-taking and innovation become most possible–whether in social media or in other areas, for for-profits and nonprofits alike.

    Sincerely,
    Pamela Hawley
    Founder and CEO
    UniversalGiving.

    http://www.universalgiving.org
    Blog: http://www.pamelahawley.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @pamelahawley

  • [...] The uproar in the non-profit marketing world over his screed a few days ago against the timidity of non-profits is just dying down, and more diligent professionals than I have taken him to task. Suffice it to say that it’s breathtakingly dismissive and shallow and arrogant — everything Seth Godin was not supposed to be. [...]

  • [...] wrapup of a recent controversy in which he made some blanket generalizations about the nonprofit sector [...]

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