Allison Fine and Beth Kanter led a thoughtful keynote conversation moderated by Shireen Mitchell during the first annual NonProfit 20 Unconference.
Fine and Kanter told attendees that nonprofits need to empower their free agents (volunteers who are passionate about your nonprofit) to help organizations further their mission.
Nonprofits should embrace free agents to raise money for your organization, said Fine and Kanter and Kanter. Kanter highlighted Roger Carr as a prime example. Prior to becoming a board member for the Arthritis Foundation he was an active volunteer (aka free agent) with the organization and spent his free time raising money for the organization. Why did Carr became a free agent for the Arthritis Foundation? Because he had a very personal connection to the issue.
Kanter and Fine also warned nonprofits to stop obsessing over control. “The one thing in this world that nonprofits can’t do is control free agents but you can build strong relationships along the way, educate them about your issues, and set them free.”
Before you engage free agents though it’s important that you listen to them first. “This allows you to distinguish between who are the real free agents passionate about your cause and who the trolls are, said Kanter.” You need to mentor and nurture the free agents.
Are Nonprofits Adapting to Social Media?
The shift is beginning to happen, said Fine. The organization and cultural change is extremely hard. It takes time, courage, and patience.
Fine cited a couple of organizations who have done a good job at changing the culture within their organization and leveraging social media. The American Red Cross has benefited from social media to connect with people out of crisises such as the earthquake in Haiti and has raised well over $30 million. Planned Parenthood has also been successful at using social media to leverage new donors and reach new members.
The Four I’s: Measuring Social Media Impact
At the end of the day, nonprofits want to be able to measure ROI. What are they really getting in return for investing time in social media? Kanter recommends looking at the four I’s.
Return on Insight: What you are getting back is learning about how people feel about your organization and the issues you work on. Sometimes nonprofits don’t value this enough.
Return on Interaction: How well you are engaging with people.
Return on Investment: Are you converting people into supporters? Examining conversions will help you learn how to do social media better and where to invest your time.
Return on Impact: Track all the results online and on land.