Monthly Archives: December 2010

Book review: “The Networked Nonprofit”

Book cover from Most of the organisations I’m working with are pretty pushed for time. There are always new issues and opportunities to grapple with.

So when it comes to the entry of social media into the mainstream people have barely enough time to experiment with how social media could practically help them achieve their immediate goals, let alone understand the underlying, often fundamental changes social media is bringing in its wake.

There is no shortage of people grappling with this, and writing freely too. But the analysis often lacks context, it’s little more than hype (of the gee-whiz look what’s new and shiny) and arguments can be poisoned by hidden assumptions.

The timing is good for Beth Kanter and Alison Fine to capture their considerable experience and thinking about online technologies in a new book released in June 2010. As the subtitle states “The Networked Nonprofit” is about connecting with social media to drive [social] change. The book is aimed aimed fairly and squarely at people involved in good causes.

There is a challenge at the heart of the book for those working for social change to grapple with the inherent openness of the Internet, and the rise of a generation that’s lived online, virtually from birth. Rather than fighting this, Kanter and Fine argue there are benefits for organisations making it easy for people to get close and contribute in different ways. The authors also critique ossified leadership structures and practices afflicting some nonprofits in the USA, something that is not uncommon in Aotearoa too I suspect.

This is not presented in a threatening light, but it’s suggested as a way for people to strengthen their organisation across a range of areas. Those discussed include funding, engagement and governance. 

The book is not about how social media works (well, who would really want to know how printing presses work), so even after you’ve read it there is still learning to do. The book itself provides questions for reflection and handy checklists. The resource section is short, pointing to carefully selected texts for further reading.

Understanding the world in which you organisation operates seems like a particularly useful thing to keep on top of. The chapter which walks through concepts and the practice of mapping an organisation’s social network is one I’d most like to explore in depth. This insights garnered will extend beyond the online world to the real one.

One of Beth Kanter’s hallmarks is sharing, so of course this book is no exception. Material associated with the book, including workshop materials/ presentations the authors are running based on the book’s contents, are listed on the Networked nonprofit wikispaces site.

This is a short book, which is good for leaders within organisations open to challenges, but packed. There’s no excuse to delay learning about social media any longer. Reading this book is likely take your organisation’s social media strategy ahead leaps and bounds.


According “The Networked Nonprofit” listing on the book is currently available for loan (or interloan) from Auckland City and Auckland University Libraries. I’d be happy to loan anyone in Aotearoa a copy as I’ve got a spare.