Everywhere you look these days, there are courses on, readings about and how-to’s for nonprofits on social media. While virtually every individual you know is on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, and/or on and on, does every nonprofit need to be there?

Should nonprofits be in the social media game?

According to a September 16, 2011, post on the go-to social media website Social Media Today, 65% of all U.S. adults using the Internet are now using social networking sites. That is up from:

  • 61% last year
  • And  just 5% in 2005!

But, the source is Social Media Today. So, some might be inclined to probe a bit deeper.

And I did. What I found is that those statistics were actually generated by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The study also included the surprising statistic that 50% of the entire U.S. adult population uses social media – even if they don’t use other online platforms. So, nonprofits do need to focus on social media, because our constituents are there!

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Personal Responsibility, Really?

Have you noticed that the phrase personal responsibility has begun to resurface as the country discusses the looming debt crisis, major budget cuts and the word “taxes,” which seems to have become profane? The last time the phrase personal responsibility was used this much by those inside the Beltway, progressive causes were under attack, and progressives appeared to be on the ropes.

When Meanings Become Meaningless

As a communicator by trade, I am still awed by the power of words — and still amazed at some people’s willingness to manipulate them until the original meaning is almost meaningless. As a nonprofit communicator committed to advancing justice, I pledge to work hard to keep the denotation of personal responsibility front and center in my own discussions and writing. I hope to help keep the connotation that some less-then-progressive people are trying to yoke to the phrase from becoming the norm.

I intend to write and talk more about the personal responsibility of politicians to tell the truth about what it costs to run the world’s largest economy. I want to call them on any obfuscation about who is paying for what, and who is not paying their fair share.

Do You Have to Be a Person?

Now that corporations are equal to one human being, I’d like to ask companies to demonstrate personal responsibility in caring for the environment, employee health and well-being, and customer satisfaction as much as “s/he” ;-) cares for the bottom line.

I would like those of us with jobs and who make a living wage to demonstrate personal responsibility in ensuring the health and well-being of those in our communities who are not so lucky right now. I would like us to demonstrate personal responsibility for our youth, modeling this behavior to help them figure out what being a good citizen means and calling young people out (instead of hurriedly walking away) when we see them being irresponsible.

What About Everyone Else?

Mostly, I want progressive nonprofits and their staff to use the phrase personal responsibility in ways that illustrate how crucial taking responsibility for oneself — and one’s community — is for ensuring the kind of communities and world for which we are working so hard.

AND, I think it is time to co-opt some language. What about civic engagement and encouraging democratic principles?

For more than a year now, I have pledged to blog more frequently. That shouldn’t be very hard. Geez, more than once a month would be more frequently.

But it suddenly hit me a couple of weeks ago. I was listening to the radio and heard the lyrics, “Who died and made you king of anything.” And it all fell into place: I don’t blog more, because I can’t figure out why anyone cares what I have to say.

Maybe I have low self-esteem. Or maybe, as a Boomer, I’m of the generation that was told bragging is impolite. And it seems to me that telling the world what I think — even if I do have a few decades worth of experience — is similar to bragging.

Folks 10 to 15 years my junior were grown when social networking changed the rules on what you did and did not share. But many learned to embrace the new medium. Of course, those coming of age today assume that you use the Web to share pretty much everything. So, blogging is a natural pastime for these folks.

But it takes a lot to “rev” myself up to write about what I think, what I do and what I would do on a blog.

So, now that I’ve figured out why I have not blogged more, let’s see if I can just “get over it” and let my fingers do the walking. (Although that phrase means something very different to me as a Boomer than it might to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials.) But I’ll try not to let my age get in the way.

Are any of you other Boomers blog-shy? What do you do to keep at it? For my more youthful colleagues, what helps you get the fingers flying? And for those of you wishing not to reveal your age, just give me general advice (wink, wink).

As always, thanks in advance.

Denise M

A recent Boston Globe article suggested that the nonprofit merger rate has increased due to the economic downturn. In a letter to the editor, TSNE’s Hez Norton, who oversees our new Organizational Transitions program, suggests that there are many other — and often more effective — ways for nonprofits to share resources to better serve constituents.

In “More nonprofits engage in mergers for survival” (April 15, 2009), The Boston Globe examines one way that nonprofit organizations are collaborating – through mergers. While this may be a viable alternative for organizations with compatible missions, it is important to understand that merger is just one of many ways nonprofits are collaborating across the sector.

Third Sector New England was privileged to play a role in the two merger situations profiled in the article. Through our Executive Transitions Program, we placed the interim executive director at Dorchester CARES, who supported that merger process. We also placed the interim executive director and helped lead the transition process with Concilio Hispano that led to merger.

It is critical that nonprofit organizations explore an array of options as they look to meet their mission and best service constituents, especially during these difficult economic times. These options include joint ventures, shared services, merger, shared administration, shared programs and fiscal sponsorship.

The bottom line: Nonprofits need always to be creative in serving their constituents effectively – while keeping mission front and center. Looking at new models of collaboration and partnership has always been important. Now it is more important than ever.

Hez Norton, manager
Executive and Organizational Transitions

Unless you’ve been circling the earth on the International Space Station for the past six months, you know that President Barack Obama signed the 407-page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, better known as the Stimulus Plan, into law on February 17.

We all know about the huge cost of the act – $787 billion dollars in spending (16) and tax and related provisions (7), the political wrangling before and after its passage and signing, and the large number of funding opportunities (34).

Nonprofits Need to Act Now

All stimulus funding is scheduled to expire in fiscal year 2011 – as stimulus funds are, as the name suggests, intended to be temporary, one-time injections of cash aimed at reviving the economy as quickly and efficiently as possible. The funds have been allocated to help people through the current economic meltdown and are not intended to morph into ongoing governmental assistance programs.

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I’m in the thick of creating a 2008-2009 annual report, and the question I pose to other nonprofit communications professionals is, Why do we keep producing these things, and does anyone bother to read them anymore anyway?

Why do I pose the question? Well. if you enter the question, Does anyone still read nonprofit annual reports? in a Yahoo or Google search, some of the items that come up suggest that annual reports  are so last century. BUT, and this is a big but, the writers of these posts tell us that donors still care about what you are doing, who you are serving and your impact.

So, the question is, How do you provide this critical information to funders in a way that keeps the information lively and informative.

My colleagues tell me to consider a video annual report. Or you can try the four-page, keep it short and only discuss impact report. I also saw a report earlier this year that chronicled one young man’s journey thanks to the help he received from a nonprofit.

What advice can you folks give me and each other on the best way to create a relevant annual report in the “keep it simple and short” era? I’d love your help!

OR What If You Held a Three-Hour Webinar and Nobody Stayed?

Third Sector New England is offering a new training series to help nonprofits navigate the economic downturn — and use this time of change to decide if they need to retool and refocus their strategic direction. The trainings, which are three hours in length, are being offered for free to people anywhere in the country.

Therefore, we are offering these sessions as both an in-person opportunity and as a hybrid webinar or conference call. Obviously, webinars are rarely more than an hour in length. So we are grappling with how to:

  • Make this venture affordable for us (as the minute plan could break the bank quickly).
  • More important, make the webinar experience useful, educational and enjoyable for remote participants.
  • Make sure the remote feature adds to and does not detract from the experience for in-person attendees.

Have any of you dealt with turning a long training workshop into a shorter webinar or call-in experience for remote participants? How have you structured these trainings, so that the remote folks could sign off in a place that gave them a fulfilling experience and caused the least disruption for the presenter and in-person participants?

Or have you found that people were willing to participate for a two- or three-hour training?
I look forward to your insights.