Successful Nonprofit Board Governance. Resources and Research.

Building off the steam generated on the ARNOVA listserv several days ago with the question about Why Nonprofits Fail? I decided to ask the List for research and resources related to successful nonprofit board governance. My question was “What are some of the quintessential pieces on board governance or getting the board successfully involved in the organization?” The list responded with some great resources, which I have compiled below. They are presented in random order as they came into my email inbox ūüėÄ


Again, I understand that there is a lot of research out there on successful board governance so this list is in no way comprehensive. It may offer a good starting point or not, but I hope that it is helpful. I know as a member of a nonprofit board that I will be looking into these resources to help my organization (and board) become more successful in the future.



Why Do Nonprofits Fail?

One of the other jobs I perform is as a volunter for the ARNOVA Listserv. I act as a facilitator to help others with subscribing, unsubscribing, and posting to the list. Currently, the list has over 1,500 different Nonprofit and Voluntary Organization related individuals, professionals, scholars, and students. It is a great community that I would encourage you to become part of if you are interested in Nonprofit Organizations. The other day Jessica Sowa from the University of Colorado Denver posted a question on behalf of a student. The student was interested in quintessential research on Why Nonprofits Fail. The List responded with some amazing resources that I thought I would share here for anyone interested in the Nonprofit and Voluntary sector. The list may not be comprehensive and as some pointed out on the List, the question about why Nonprofits Fail is fairly broad. Therefore, what follows may or may not answer the question. However, I think provides a great example of how a community of individuals can help shed light on a particular issue. The references may not be complete (as in ready for a Reference list or Bibliography, or even in alphabetical order), but I hope you find this helpful.

  • Hager, M. A., Galaskiewicz, J., & Larson, J. A. (2004). Structural embeddedness and the liability of newness among nonprofit organizations. Public Management Review, 6(2), 159-188.
  • Mark A. Hager. 1999. Explaining Demise Among Nonprofit Organizations. Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology. ¬†¬†
  • Beth M. Duckles, Mark A. Hager and Joseph Galaskiewicz. 2005. “How Nonprofits Close: Using Narratives to Study Organizational Processes.” Pp. 169-203 (chapter 7) in Qualitative Organizational Research, edited by K.D. Elsbach. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing. ¬†
  • Mark A. Hager. 2001. “Financial Vulnerability among Arts Organizations: A Test of the Tuckman-Chang Measures.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 30(2): 376-392.
  • Mark A. Hager, Joel J. Pins and Cheryl A. Jorgensen. 1997. “Unto Thy Maker: The Fate of Church-Based Nonprofit Clinics in a Turbulent Health Care Environment.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 26(Supplement): S85-S100.
  • Mark Hager, Joseph Galaskiewicz, Wolfgang Bielefeld and Joel Pins. 1996. “Tales From the Grave: Organizations’ Accounts of their Own Demise.” American Behavioral Scientist 39(8): 975-994.
  • Keating, EK.,¬†Fischer, M.,¬†Gordon, TP., &¬†Greenlee, J. (2005) ¬†Assessing Financial Vulnerability in the Nonprofit Sector ¬†¬†
  • Lecy JD. &¬†Van Slyke DM.¬†(2013),Nonprofit Sector Growth and Density: Testing Theories of Government Support J Public Adm Res Theory ¬†23 (1): 189-214.
  • Joe Galaskiewicz and Wolf Bielefeld’s Nonprofit Organizations in an Age of Uncertainty is really the classic study. ¬†Mark, Joe and Wolf’s “Tales from the Grave” article in a special American Behavioral Scientist issue on organizational failure (8/96) is close to quintessential. The volume, edited by Helmut Anheier, also has takes by other leading sociologists on org failure in general.
  • The Pollyanna Principles: Reinventing ‘Nonprofit Organizations’ to Create the Future of Our World.¬† You can find those 4 chapters online here
  • Seibel, Wolfgang (1996): Successful Failure: An Alternative View on Organizational Coping. In: American Behavioral Scientist 39 (8), pp. 1011-1024.
  • Meyer, Marshall W.; Zucker, Lynne G. (1989): Permanently Failing Organizations. London: Sage.
  • Hall, P. D. (1999). Vital Signs: Organizational Population Trends and Civic Engagement in New Haven, Connecticut, 1850-1998. Civic engagement in American democracy. T. Skocpol and M. P. Fiorina. Washington, D.C.; New York, Brookings Institution Press ; Russell Sage Foundation: 211-248.
  • King, W. I. and K. E. Huntley (1928). Trends in philanthropy; a study in a typical American city. New York, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Kingma, B. R. (1993). “Portfolio Theory and Nonprofit Financial Stability.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 22(2): 105-119.
  • Chang, C. F. and H. P. Tuckman (1991). “Financial Vulnerability and Attrition as Measures of Nonprofit Performance.” Annals of Public & Cooperative Economics 62(4): 655.
  • Tuckman, H. P. and C. F. Chang (1991). “A Methodology for Measuring the Financial Vulnerability of Charitable Nonprofit Organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 20(4): 445-460.
  • Foster, W., B. Dixon, et al. (2003). Funding: Patterns and Guideposts in the Nonprofit Sector. Boston, MA, Bridgespan: 24.
  • Foster, W. and G. Fine (2007). “How Nonprofits Get Really Big.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 5(2).
  • Kim, P. and J. Bradach (2012). “Why More Nonprofits Are Getting Bigger.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 10(2): 15-16.
  • Chikoto, G. L. and D. G. Neely (2013). “Building Nonprofit Financial Capacity: The Impact of Revenue Concentration and Overhead Costs.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • Tuckman, H.P., and C.F. Chang. 1991. “A methodology for¬†measuring the financial vulnerability of charitable nonprofit organizations.”¬†Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly no. 20 (4):445-460.

So again, the list is not comprehensive, but I know when doing research it is always good to have a place to start. Best of luck in your research and feel free to share any other resources that you find.

New Article & an Excellent Journal

This is a really quick post to bring some attention to an article that was recently published in¬†Advances in Social Work. The article is title “A Conceptual Understanding of Organizational Identity in the Social Media Environment” and can be found on the publishers website. I also tend to keep a list of my work (and I try to keep it updated) over on my profile. Mainly, I wanted to draw other’s attention to this journal because I believe it is an excellent journal, and it is an Open Access Journal. ¬†Anyone can access the articles and use the information, which the main reason I really like this journal. Additionally, the peer review process and turn around time was excellent. I received some great feedback that I believe made the article much stronger, so thank you to the peer reviewers. Feel free to check out those links and let me know what you think about the article. It was definitely a process and result of several years of study and interaction in with social media. I think looking back at the structure of the article my main goal was to help those individuals unfamiliar with the idea of organizational identity, but who could understand individual identity and identity development, and to take them from the micro to the macro of identity. Situating this concept in the social media environment was certainly the main crux of the article, but I do think that these theoretical terms can help one to grasp the concept more easily. But again, feel free to let me know what you think by leaving a comment here, email, or connect with me on Twitter.


RVA Nonprofits & Social Media Survey Results

I have finally gotten to the point where I have enough time to post an update about the social media survey I conducted for my dissertation. If you have access to the Virginia Commonwealth University Library, then you can always go and access the completed dissertation there. Here on my blog, I am taking a bit of a different approach disseminating the results because I think they will be more useful to the #RVA nonprofit community. What follows is essentially the chapter four of my dissertation, and I will write more about the implications of the findings in another post. Before I get on with the results, let me provide a brief synopsis of this project.

The aim of the study is to understand the current status of social media use among nonprofit human service organizations by exploring and describing the social media platforms in use, associated practices with social media, the frequency of use, general satisfaction, and plans for the future use of social media. A cross-sectional research design was selected and a survey instrument was created for the study. Data were collected from 125 nonprofit human service organizations in the Richmond, VA metropolitan area that were identified from a sampling frame of nonprofit organizations. The sample size (125) was identified after pre-screening and cleaning the data. Initially, over 160 respondents participated in the survey, although many did not fully complete the survey, left a number of responses blank, or simply started and never finished.

This study represents one of the first of its kind to focus solely on nonprofit human service organizations or HSO’s. The study utilized a cross-sectional survey design to describe and explore social media use among these unique organizations. The study was guided by five general questions, which also formed the basis for the conceptual model (which I will detail in another post). The five questions included:

  1. What are the reasons HSO’s are using social media?
  2. What are they doing/using?
  3. How often do they use social media?
  4. What are the expected outcomes?
  5. What are the plans for the future?

The data for this study were collected using the email listserves of and the Southside Community Partners. The electronic survey was also posted to their Facebook pages and on Twitter using #RVA and #ConnectRVA to increase the visibility of the study. Individual emails were also sent out to 120 participants identified from several lists of nonprofit human service organizations over a 3-phase period. Once again, the theoretical basis for the study will be discussed in another post, but for now onto the results of the stud.

First, a quick description of the respondents participating in this study.

Nonprofit human service organizations were the target sample and the primary position of the respondent from those organization included Founders, Executive Directors, Assistant Directors, Program Directors, Marketing/Development Directors, Communications Directors, and others. Other was the largest category selected; however, a number of respondents specified Development or Program Director after selecting Other. The breakdown of primary position within the organization and the number of years of service is shown in the table below.

The Primary, secondary, and tertiary mission focus of the organizations were identified by the respondents to include: Education(1), Mental Health/Crisis Intervention/Health (2), and Youth Programs (3). Technically the last two were tied, and again the category Other was selected most frequently; however, respondents neglected to specify any mission focus. The bar graph below further demonstrates other mission foci.

The average annual budget was over 2 million dollars with the range being $2,500 to $42,000,000. ¬†Despite the broad range, over half of the HSO’s clustered in the range between $0 and $700,000 (55.3%, N=68).

Moving into some of the technology related questions, the majority of respondents reported having a website that contains links to their social media profiles (82.4%). Over 16% (N=21) reported having no such links on their websites.

A majority of respondents indicated their organization has no dedicated social media staff position (81%, N=101), and the remaining HSO’s that do have such a position have a variety of titles for that position (as demonstrated below).

Next respondents identified the social media platforms in use. Unsurprisingly, the most popular social media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. The table below indicates the most frequently used platforms as well as the year the specific platform was created. Respondents identified other social media platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Ning.

The trend of social media adoption in HSO’s was also explored with the majority of organizations reporting social media adoption around the year 2008. The graph below demonstrates the various platforms and the adoption trend. It should be noted that although the graph appears to indicate a drop off in the year 2012, it is not actually what is happening. The survey was administered in February, and I suspect that if the question were asked again in December, the trend line would continue to increase or level off near the top.

The next thing examined was organizational policies regarding social media. Social media policies included whether policies existed and when they were implemented.  Almost 85% (N=106) of respondents reported no policy existed prohibiting the staff use of social media. When asked if there was a policy with guidelines allowing staff to participate in social media, 56.8% (N=71) reported no. Additionally, 64% (N=80) reported there was no policy encouraging the use of social media, 80% (N=100) reported that social media websites were blocked from access on their work computers, and 65.6% (N=82) reported no policy encouraging social media access through the use of an HSO’s computers.  Additionally, HSO’s had a policy on how to handle comments posted to the HSO’s blog, Facebook page, or other social media platforms with 54.4% (N=68) reporting no and 45.6% (N=57) reported yes. The graph below illustrates the trend for social media policy adoption.

Social media allows individuals to share a variety of information and resources through links to rich content. Content involves videos, images, articles of text, or audio such as blogs and podcasts.¬†The content an HSO shares with followers varied with 88% of respondents identifying the top three as newsletters/information, links to our organization, and photos (N=110). Nearly 74% of respondents identified sharing links to specific information (N=92), and 64.8% reported sharing links to other organizations (N=81). A total of 14 respondents identified ‚ÄúOther‚ÄĚ content that their HSO shares. The text responses included: Pins on Pinterest and Tumblr, training information, legislative information, fundraisers, press coverage, program information, class schedules, studio recordings of youth projects, and general announcements of events (N=5). The remaining categories and their frequencies are reported below.

The survey also examined social media goals of HSO’s. ¬†Of the 125 respondents, 62.4% (N=78) stated no and 37.6% (N=47) replied yes. The respondents who replied yes were then asked to answer a sub question defining those goals. Of those who responded, 36% (N=45) reported the top goal for using social media was to “engage the community” followed closely by “promoting the organization or services” (34.4%, N=43). Respondents were allowed to select any of the six options that applied to their organization. The table below shows the goals respondents could select from along with their frequencies and percentages.

Moving into some more specific Territory, I was interested in understanding the reasons for using social media and what or who initially prompted the organization to use social media.

Seven options were available for respondents to identify the reason(s) why their HSO uses social media. Respondents were asked to select all the applicable reasons for adopting and using social media. The number one reason for using social media was to promote/advertise services or events (96%, N=120) followed by engaging with the community (92%, N=115). The least identified reason for using social media was to demonstrate transparency/accountability (48.8%, N=61). The graph below illustrates the total number of respondents selecting the particular reason(s) why the HSO uses social media.

The initial prompt for using social media question asked respondents to identify any and all of the 9 categories that prompted their HSO to begin using social media. Respondents selected enhancing relations with existing audiences as the top choice (72.8%, N=91) followed by rounding out their communications mix as number two (64.8%, N=81). The least identified prompt was to replace another communications channel used previously (11.2%, N=14). The graph below further illustrates the total number of respondents identifying what prompted the HSO to begin to use social media.

Respondents were asked to identify the number of updates posted to social media profiles in a given day. An update meant Facebook status updates, tweets, blog postings, or content that was generally shared via social media. Ninety-three respondents selected the range of 0-2 for the number of social media updates posted in a given day accounting for 74.4%. The second range of 3-5 accounted for 21.6% (N=27) of the respondents and 3.2% (N=4) selected the range 6-8. There was only one HSO that reported posting more than nine updates in a given day.

The time dimension asked for the number of staff hours distributed across the organization that are devoted to social media in a week. This was meant to include tweeting, updating, blogging, and the general posting or sharing of content. The average number of hours was 5.78 (S.D. 7.57) and the range of hours included 1 to 40. Only 19% (N=24) of respondents devoted 10 hours or more to social media in a given week.

The last few questions of the survey asked respondents to think about the acts involved in social media, such as commenting, sharing, or posting information, as well as the social media platform used by classifying the number of platforms into general categories. These categories included Social Networking sites, Video-Sharing sites, Image-Sharing sites, Blogs, and Location-Based social media sites. These questions used a Likert-scale to asses the general satisfaction or outcomes associated with using social media.

First, the survey asked whether experimenting with social network sites has enhanced the relationship between the agency/organization and stakeholders, constituents, board members, or the general community. Respondents were progressively less sure about the remaining categories as 37.6% (N=47) reported not knowing if video-sharing sites, image- sharing sites (40.8%, N=51), blogs (43.2%, N=54), and location-based social media sites (52.8%, N=66) enhance the organizations’ relationship with stakeholders, board members, or the community.  The complete list to this question is included in the table below.

Next, the survey asked whether social media offers the opportunity to interact with others.¬†The majority of¬†(89.6%, N=112) affirmed that social networking sites do offer the opportunity to interact with a¬†variety of people and organizations (41.6%, N=52 Strongly Agree and 48%, N=60 Agree). Responses were generally more agreeable towards the type of social media when asked about interaction (see the table below). However, respondents remained uncertain about location-based social media and whether it offers opportunity for interaction (46.4%, N=58). It may be possible that respondents are unsure what location-based social media are, accounting for the large percentage of ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Know‚ÄĚ responses.

One of the main questions of the study sought to understand whether social media helps the HSO. This question used a Likert-scale similar to the above questions but with different categories. The categories are displayed in the table below along with their frequencies and percentages.¬†Results are generally positive with most respondents strongly agreeing or agreeing that social media helps the HSO raise money (47%, N=59), increase donors (39.2%, N=49), increase membership (36%, N=45), increase new clients (42.4%, N=53), increase community awareness of programs and services (92.8%, N=116), increase trust and connections with the community (67.2%, N=84), share information (96%, N=120), collaborate with others (66.4%, N=83), and recruit volunteers (56%, N=70). The final¬†category ‚ÄúBe more successful‚ÄĚ was excluded as this category is also included in question 22. However, on this question 62.4% (N=78) of respondents generally agreed that using social media helped the HSO.

Another important question looking at general satisfaction with their HSO’s use of social media indicated¬†positive attitudes towards HSO‚Äôs use of social media. Twenty percent (N=22) strongly agree and 52% (N=65) agree that social media has been useful in achieving the mission of the organization. In addition, 19.2% (N=24) strongly agree and 58.4% (N=73) agree that information obtained from social media sites is useful to their HSO. Social media was evaluated as being important to the HSO with 20.8% (N=26) strongly agreeing and 56% (N=70) agreeing. Only 12% (N=15) strongly agree and 35.2% (N=44) agree that social media helps the HSO to empower their clientele, while 27.2% (N=34) neither agreed or disagreed.

In regards to the amount of time, 25.6% (N=32) strongly agree and 46.4% (N=58) agree that the HSO should devote more time to social media than they currently do. No respondents disagreed with increasing their social media use in the future, which indicates they are likely going to increase use in the future, and 26.4% (N=33) strongly agree and 56% (N=70) agree that they plan to do so. Just over 31% (N=39) of respondents agreed that social media has been difficult to use effectively. However, 23.2% (N=29) disagreed with that statement and 20% (N=25) neither agreed nor disagreed. Finally, when asked whether HSO’s are using social media only because the community believes they should, 45.6% (N=57) disagreed and 18.4% (N=23) strongly disagreed with the statement.

The last area this study examined was the resources and capacity to engage in using social media. The survey used a question that was adapted from the Marguerite Casey Foundation Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool, which was originally developed as a self- assessment measure of organizational capacity (Guthrie et al., 2004). This tool was adapted for this study using a Likert-scale to measure an HSO’s resources and capacities to engage in the use of social media across ten different categories.

The self-assessment generally scored well in the moderate to high range in all but three of the categories. Respondents indicated low (32.8%, N=41) to moderate (35.2%, N=44) support from board members, low (30.4%, N=38) to moderate (38.4%, N=48) access to outside assistance for social media pursuits from either individuals or their social networks, and low (23.2%, N=29) to moderate (48.8, N=61) knowledge of how to use social media to meet strategic goals. The existence of a website and broadband Internet were assessed the highest at 69.6% (N=87) and 68.8% (N=86) respectively. The existence of electronic hardware such as a computer, smart phone, or tablet was also rated high at 56.8% (N=71). Approximately 54% (N=67) of respondents identified high capacity for social media use because the HSO has a written mission statement with clear expression or reason for existence, values and purpose, followed closely by 24% (N=30) who rated this criterion as moderate. Knowledge of how to use various social media platforms was rated moderate at 42.4% (N=53) and high at 40.8% (N=51). Support from the community was rated by 42.4% (N=53) as moderate, and no HSO rated none on this specific criterion. Generally, HSO’s responded with moderate (48%, N=60) to high (20.8%, N=26) capacity and resources to dedicate to the future use of social media.

Okay, so this was a lot of information and I am incredibly grateful to the RVA nonprofits that participated in the study. I will follow up with this post writing about the implications of this findings and some other ideas/concerns I have regarding social media use among nonprofit human service organizations. However, in a couple of sentences here is what all this actually means…

The data suggests that HSO’s use social media to promote their organization and or services and programs, and to engage with the community to enhance relationships. Additionally, the evidence suggests that HSO’s are generally satisfied with using social media. 

The next post will have a bit more of a discussion to it, as this entry really was the meat and potatoes of the study. Thanks for stopping by to read and I hope this information helps you and your organization in some way. If you have any questions or want to know more, feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me via Twitter @JimmySW.

My Problem with the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report

Well I guess that something had to ignite the fire enough within me to finally come back and write a blog post again in the midst of dissertating. I’m nearly done with the dissertation and plan to post many results here on my blog. This is also the reason for this post, or the fact that NTEN/ Blackbaud/ Common Knowledge just released their 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. There is a wonderful Infographic, which sums up the report nicely and the link will also help you download the full report.

I have to say that the information is great. I am so glad that this data is being compiled and I have built a survey instrument using similar questions to these folks for my dissertation. I also compiled my data during the same time period, but with a much smaller sample that was focused on Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. I focus on these unique organizations because of their important roles in society and NO research has looked at how they use social media.

The Benchmark report and my dissertation have many things in common. This makes me smile because it indicates that my findings are generalizable. However, I do have some problems with the recent Report. The main problem is around their methodology. I understand they only solicited and primarily reported descriptive data, but they do not explain this in the report. They have a small section on their methods but nothing beyond that. This is critically important because of how the data is being used in practice. For all we know, the methods they used could be based upon incorrect statistical principles which would nullify all of the findings. I don’t think this has happened, but in a sector which promotes transparency I would think they would have no problem in divulging their methodology.

This is also important considering the new statistic they are reporting around the cost of a follower on Twitter and a Like on Facebook. They indicate that these numbers are based upon self-report and that respondents have different ways of calculating this cost. I would be extremely cautious when looking at this statistic and thinking about basing some budget decisions around this because there is no clear indication of how the number was developed. It is a good statistic, just not one I am very confident in.

I am defending my dissertation in a little over a week and will likely begin to disseminate my own findings after that date. This is mostly to help the community where I collected my data, but it will also help many other nonprofit human service organizations think about their own social media strategies, planning, and implementation.

The Twitter Community

I just have to send a quick shout out and BIG thank you to the many tweeps helping with my dissertation research by tweeting and re-tweeting my survey link. I am gathering data on social media use among nonprofit organizations in Richmond, VA. So far I have had a number of mentions and re-tweets which have helped to gain some headway in my data collection process. I still have a ways to go but I have some time as well. That being said, if you are or know of a nonprofit organization in Richmond, VA then I would really appreciate your help and or input on this survey. You can click the link below, which will take you to a secure site and you can answer the questions I have come up with for this project. The survey only takes about 10 minutes. Thanks in advance for your time and help. Also, if you can share the link with anyone else then that would be fantastic.

Defining Light, Medium, & Heavy Social Media users: Survey

I was hoping to get a bit of help from some of my readers and followers in defining social media use by the number of updates a user posts to their social media profiles. The results of this brief poll will actually inform a similar type of question on a survey I have developed for my dissertation, so your help is much appreciated. Also if you disagree with my scales of Light, Medium, and Heavy, then please leave a comment explaining what might be a more appropriate way to determine someones social media use in a given day.   Thanks!

The Growth of Social Media…My Response

The Infographic pictured below is one of the many great reasons I love Twitter. So much information and knowledge being shared from a multitude of networks is simply awesome. It should come as no surprise that I am a bit of a social media nerd. I am currently focusing my dissertation on the use of social media among human service nonprofits, and as I have just finished my chapter on theory, I found this infographic especially interesting. Continue reading below:

The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic
Source: The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic

One of the theoretical perspectives that informs my dissertation is that of Rogers Diffusion of Innovations Theory. A brief primer on the theory is that it’s mainly concerned with how innovations spread through society. An innovation can be almost anything from an idea, practice, or object that is seen as new by an individual adopter. That is to say the innovation itself does not need to be new, rather it is simply new to that individual. The key elements in Diffusion Theory include innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. Communication channels are how the innovation spreads. Time is both the rate of speed that an innovation is adopted and how much time has elapsed through the diffusion process. A social system is a set of interrelated units that are joined together in order to accomplish a common goal.

Okay, so looking at this infographic through the lens of Diffusion Theory, one can see how the various social media platforms have become so popular so quickly. The various graphs showing the rate of adoption, growth, or evolution mirrors the diffusion process. Rogers provides a graphic, in his book which I can’t necessarily reproduce here or find on the net, that illustrates an S-type curve of early adopters all the way through to late adopters. If I could overlay this curve on the infographic above it would basically tell us that most of the individuals who began using social media such as twitter or Facebook from 2004-2006 would be the early adopters. Seems to make easy enough sense right? Well what this theory tells us about those early-adopters is that some of them are critical in the diffusion process because they are what Rogers calls Opinion leaders and Change-agents. Opinion leaders and change agents influence their own networks by providing information to others. The main difference between the two is mainly in the language they speak. I don’t mean like English and Spanish, but rather that Change agents use more technical or professional language because of their training and they may usually hold university degrees, whereas Opinion leaders influence others attitudes and behavior more informally and are more accessible to others. I think the access part is a crucial element in why social media has diffused across so many networks. Anyways, these innovators help spread information through out their networks and spur on the diffusion process.

Rogers also highlights 5 dimensions that impact the diffusion process and whether or not an innovation is successful. Briefly they include:

  1. The degree to which an innovation provides a Relative Advantage.
  2. The degree to which an innovation is Compatible with the values and norms of the social system.
  3. The degree of Complexity of an innovation (whether its difficult to use).
  4. The degree of Trialability or whether the innovation can be experimented with or not.
  5. The degree of Observability or how easy it is for others to see the results of the innovation, which impacts whether they adopt it or not.
In my view, the infographic shows how twitter and Facebook have been successful innovations partly because they match these 5 dimensions fairly well. They provide an advantage over previous platforms, or at least the people using them think they do. They fit the established norms of society, or at least Facebook claims it does as the move The Social Network¬†so eloquently illustrated Mark Zuckerberg stating he wanted to take the entire social experience of college and put it online. Much of social media is pretty easy to use, I mean think about Twitter, it’s not very hard to write 140 characters about meaningless information as people do it every day. Of course I know that Twitter is much more than that, but I just had to say ūüėÄ Almost all social media are free to use, and I use that in a loose sense because much of the nonprofit sector is learning that the tools cost nothing but employing someone to manage them can be rather costly. However, social media is pretty much founded upon the trial use and anyone who has been on Twitter long enough can tell you a story of 1 or 2 followers who started out strong only to just fall away. Finally, there are hundreds and probably thousands of social media experts who will tout their results and expertise to try and get a consulting job with an organization. The point being that seeing how social media has impacted organizations and individuals is simple. Especially when great groups provide engaging graphics, such as the one above, to show results. It sometimes makes one think that if it works for them it can work for me.
Okay so that’s enough theorizing for one blog post, but if you want more information on Diffusion of Innovations theory click on over to Amazon and purchase <a href="Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition""“>Rogers book. I could go on to further explain how social network theory has also impacted the diffusion process but maybe another time. The fact is that as a researcher I am enthralled with this social media phenomenon and excited to be one of many to shed light and make sense of it all. Sounds somewhat boring, but I think the more we know about it the better we can use it for positive social change. This is also why I love these infographics because they help make sense but also are free to share. I’m so grateful to these folks as they have also given me permission to use this in my dissertation. Now I just have to figure out how to get it on one page ūüėÄ

Initial Impressions on Google+

¬† ¬†I spent the better part of my evening and much into the late hours of ¬† ¬† ¬†the night last night playing around with Google+¬†and my initial impressions of the social networking site are really favorable. I love the circles idea, for posting content to specific groups so you don’t have to share everything with everyone. I think this has some specific utility for Nonprofit organizations and maintaining their organizational identity in the midst of a diverse constituency. Many years ago organizations would send out letters or emails with tailored messages to engage their stakeholders and donors in a way that cultivated relationships. Facebook and Twitter help with this, but it can become somewhat cumbersome trying to decide what an organization wants to say to everyone at once.

I also really like the Hangout feature. Although I don’t have many friends or family on the site yet, I like the idea of engaging in video chats and being able to integrate things like YouTube so I can share funny or interesting videos in real-time. Perhaps one of the best features is the ease with which to share videos and photos. I found the drag and drop feature to work flawlessly when uploading a profile pic and I can’t wait to use this feature some more. Maybe that’s just the Mac person within me. At any rate, the more I play with the site, the more interesting thoughts I will have about how we can use this site in the nonprofit sector and in education. Be sure to check back for more information.

Why Your Organization needs Facebook. Even if you DON’T think it does!

Lately I have been talking with a few individuals about social media in the nonprofit sector. It seems that every conversation I have about social media always defaults to a discussion about Facebook, with Twitter being a close second. I myself am not a huge Fan (no pun intended) of Facebook, but I understand why organizations need to have their own profile page. The simple answer is:


I know, blue right. But seriously, the popular social media site has over 500 million users (according to Facebook itself), although other indications put it at over 600 million. Furthermore, from Facebook:

  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • That’s huge and I don’t think organizations can neglect that kind of popularity.

So why am I not a huge fan. Well I am a user myself, but the main reason comes down to how people use the site, or any social media site. Now I want to put in my asterisk* here because this is ultimately an individual decision that can be fairly value laden. That being said, Facebook to me is a place for friends and family, not so much so for professional associations. I don’t have a ton of friends on Facebook and I don’t do a whole lot with it. For me, Twitter or LinkedIn are sites where I go to do the things I might not do with Facebook and vice versa. Now I also don’t take myself too seriously on this note because I will occasional post something political, for example, on my Facebook profile which can cause some De-Friending or other interesting conversations. On the other social media sites I welcome that conversation, but Facebook is more of a place for my family members to catch up with what I’m doing. “But isn’t that what a blog is for?” Yes! But it’s easier for my family to view things on Facebook because that is where they go.


That is to say, the same reason why nonprofit organizations need to have a Facebook page even if they feel it’s not worth it, Because that is where users go! This also extends into the larger discussion about any social media site, but organizations also need to be strategic in choosing which sites to use that align with their mission focus. The fact is that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn are not going away anytime soon, and they offer incredible potential for organizations to implement creative and innovative ideas to further their work.

But I still wonder what you think? Should organizations be thinking about what these sites mean for building community before they begin using them? Where should an organization begin with social media? Are these questions even relevant or are we already past this type of discussion because of the vast adoption of social media within the nonprofit sector? Leave a comment and as always, thanks for stopping by.

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