The Networked Nonprofit Theatre: A Manifesto & A Book Review

Last week I attended The Networked Nonprofit book launch in New York City, at this cool little joint called Demos. It was great to see Beth again, and finally meet Allison. I read about a book a week, so just a few hours after this event, I had torn through this one, dog earring most of the pages, scribbling notes in the margins, underlining like mad. In the mean time, I’ve been mulling over what I really thought about the contents, and probably more importantly how I could use it.

Then yesterday I woke up realizing I wanted to write both a manifesto, and a book review, all in one post! So here it goes.

The Networked Nonprofit isn’t a how to book. It doesn’t lay out a ten point plan for how to run your nonprofit, or even update your Facebook page. It doesn’t go into super detail about a particular case study. Because duh, that’s what the blog is for. Instead, The Networked Nonprofit asks a lot of questions, introduces you to a ton of awesome nonprofits each being networked in their own unique ways, and reminds you that social media has infiltrated every pore of our institutions. But I’m writing a manifesto here, not a book, so I’m going to break it down to my

10 Key Action Items.

  1. I declare these social media myths to be busted. Our audience is online, but we will strive to meet every one of them face-to-face. We will let social media’s influence seep into everything we do, but we won’t let it suck up all of our time.
  2. As a Millenial, I hold these truths to be self evident. “Millenials [are] passionate about causes, but not passionate, necessarily, about nonprofit organizations…[They will] jump from organization to organization as a particular effort moves them…[They are] a powerful new force for social change as free agents.” As such, we’ll stop cultivating Millenials and just focus on engaging them. We won’t bemoan failure when a Millenial only buys a ticket once, or only donates $10. Because every ticket and every dollar counts. And we know that the word of mouth Millenials are spreading are worth so much more than their filthy lucre.
  3. We have been endowed by Ward Cunningham with the incredible tools to work wikily. We will work in a hive structure (not a fortress!), engendering our culture with “real conversations intended to persuade people to behave or act in certain ways, not window dressing with an ulterior motive.” We will open our doors, and our website, and our board meetings, and our accounting books to the curious and enthusaistic public.
  4. Whenever any fear of social media becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people (be they employee, employer, or constituent) to rebel. We will reveal unfinished plans and projects. We will make typos with abandon. We will graciously accept criticism. We will make staff of all level and manner available to the public. We will encourage employees to establish their own personal brands using social media. We refuse to be overwhelmed by the firehose of information.
  5. We assert the unalienable rights of The Intern. We understand that The Intern might be a high school student, an MBA, a retiree, or anyone in between. The Intern will be taken seriously, given real work to do, be respected for their opinion, and will be patiently taught the things they don’t yet know.
  6. In light of previous sufferances, repeated injuries and usurpations, we immediately establish Social Media Guidelines. Don’t be stoopid. What you say matters. We trust you.
  7. We therefore solemly publish and declare that our planning strategies will be a living roadmap to a sustainable future within our means, with clearly actionable items which our constituents should hold us accountable for.
  8. Our fortress ought to be totally dissolved, and that as free and independent people, our constiuents (hereafter named, The Crowd) have full power to levy their honest opinions of us, conclude that their collective wisdom is greater than our singular knowledge, contract with each other to create great art, establish a system of voting to select the best of our potential ideas, and to do anything else which helps us raise the necessary funds to do business. In short, we hereby conclude that a crowd of thousands can do innumerably more and better work than a paid staff of 10.
  9. In order to form a more perfect union, we will measure engagement and connections. We will look at trends in data, not just a snapshot in time. We will compare ourselves to others. We will measure things that matter to our mission. We will endeavor to map online engagement to offline actions.
  10. We hold it resolved that governance should be by the people, for the people. Not by a closed Board room, nor for the exclusive benefit of the staff. [nb: Ok, here's where you're just going to have to buy the book. The imagined example Beth & Allison used is just too good. It's page 154. It took my breath away.]

I’d work for that networked nonprofit. I’d go see their art. I’d give money to them. I’d sit on their board. I’d advocate for them in my community, IRL, and online. But there’s one quote I left out, that I just couldn’t figure out how or where to fit into the manifesto. Maybe it’s our tagline instead. People are not ATMs.

There was a lot more to the book, but I think this manifesto could use a little work. So here’s the scoop: I bought 2 copies of The Networked Nonprofit. Mine’s a mess, but copy #2 is pristine. I’d like to give it away to someone who was inspired by these ideas. So give me a shout out in the comments below. Put forth a new idea. Make an argument. Ask a question. Just say hello. Do whatever you want. On Friday July 16th I’ll randomly choose a commenter, and I’ll mail you my extra copy. If you ever run into Beth or Allison, they’d probably even sign it for you.