Seth Godin Is Wrong about Nonprofits and the Web

Last Updated Sep 19, 2009 12:23 PM EDT

I enjoy tech pundit Seth Godin's blog and have referenced a post of his in the past on BNET. Godin doesn't shy away from telling it as he sees it and that's what keeps his blog thought-provoking. As you might imagine, one of his latest entries, which takes aim at nonprofits for supposedly resisting social media tools, is causing quite a stir in the advocacy community.
According to Godin, nonprofits exist to create change but actually "abhor" change. His proof? None of the top 100 Twitterers (according to Twitterholic's top 100) are nonprofits because Twitter is too "scary" for the direct-mail crowd.

No doubt, on the surface, it seems crazy that Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian have more followers than any group looking to protect human rights or improve healthcare for the masses. But this metric doesn't prove anything. The celebrities and news organizations which dominate Twitter have wide fan bases. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are usually focused on solving local problems. Even the groups with global agendas work within coalitions fighting for the same cause. Therefore, no global warming group will hit Kutcher's numbers because there are many groups splitting the follow population.

Furthermore, most nonprofits do, in fact, "get" social media and have invested their resources to develop Twitter pages (one Twitter account is tracking more than 9000 nonprofits) and Facebook fan pages. Some groups like the Sierra Club have even launched their own social networks.
Finally, one last point needs to be made. Godin is wrong when he claims that social media tools are free and that nonprofits have the volunteer resources to build up these networks (but refuse because they don't want to give up control). Twitter may be free to use but it costs tons of time and money to craft a plan, develop these pages, train staff and monitor the community. And as Godin said, the goal of any nonprofit is to create change. If none of these "slacktivists" end up donating their time (in the real world) or money to the cause, then what's the point of having 100,000 virtual fans?

@Jeff De Cagna My oversight: here's the link to Seth Godin's original post.

  • Stefan Deeran

    Stefan Deeran helps environmental nonprofits and green businesses develop and execute their new media campaigns. He also publishes The Exception magazine, a nonpartisan news platform serving his home state of Maine. You can follow him on Twitter @RStefanDeeran or via Facebook.