Tag Archives: social capital

Building social capital for non-profits

By Stephen Rhodes

Non-profit organizations need to build social capital to ensure a long life.

Social capital is about creating value for your community. Moreover, the community has to agree you bring value.

sally-annMany non-profit groups work in a cocoon, where internal comfort and support provide validation. Often managed by a volunteer board, there is great personal social capital from contributing in a meaningful way to a good cause.  Too often non-profits stop there; satisfied that they have a cadre of good people doing good things for their organization, when they really need to engage the whole community in the same way.

The Salvation Army has great social capital. Typically they have strong community support because most of us  believe the Army does great things for our community, probably without really knowing what it is they do.

Some years ago the local Sally Ann contingent dared to dream about the possibility of everyone in our city  contributing a loonie to the Christmas kettle campaign, which in effect would raise $400,000. Reasoning that not everyone could contribute, they thought if half the population would “Toss a Toonie” they would meet their target.  In the first year they raised $230,000.

The community  was mobilized- service clubs, churches, the city and a brigade of volunteers. Why? Because the community at large believes the Army provides a benefit to the citizens of our city. They have social capital. They are about community.

Other not-for-profit organizations need to learn this simple lesson. Build social capital – create that feeling of reciprocity between the community and your organization and you will be successful. The community needs to know who you are and why you make a difference.

Social capital to a non-profit organization is like market share to a business. Without it, you don’t succeed.

What organizations do you believe have great social capital?

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Filed under No-for-Profit, not-for-profit, social media, Stephen Rhodes

Giving back at Twitter

twitter-badgeBy Stephen Rhodes

In the late 90s I was a daily newspaper publisher and head of new media for two other dailies in Southwestern Ontario, when new media was all the rage. Newspapers were still struggling with the notion of free content and many set up websites simply because … they didn’t really know.

Last week the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stopped printing the newspaper in favor of its online version. It wasn’t a strategic decision. The newspaper lost $14 million and couldn’t find a buyer.

Newspapers around the world have survived on the strength of the social capital they build within the community they serve.  Good newspapers serve their communities well and not just providing local news and  information. They are catalysts for change and reviewers of local fare. They also give back.

In September I set up a Twitter account. I had read a little about micro-blogging but remained skeptical about its business application. The idea of following thousands of people who text in 140 word bites seemed inane to me. I searched a few friends and added them to my list. Nothing happened.

In March, I read a piece on community building through Twitter. I  searched online for more information and discovered a whole world, literally, of people out there who were talking to each other in 140 word increments about emerging trends in marketing, public relations, media and social media. I found some interesting blogs and realized all of these people had Twitter accounts. I added them to my follow list. Within a few days I had 50 people who wanted to follow me.  Go figure.

I watched quietly the exchange of dialogue, discovered some tools to make my new-found voyerism easier, and learned a lot. Twitter is interesting because you can follow, for the most part, anyone you want. You can build your own community. If you don’t like someone, you can simply stop following. I started to participate.

What hooked me was a campaign called the  12for12k Challenge,  a 12for12k-banner3-1Twitter Tweetathon that raised  more than $14,500 in 12 hours to support Share our Strength, an organization that helps hungry children. 12for12k seeks to raise $12,000 per month to support a different charity each time.

It’s the brainchild of Danny Brown of Mississauga, or @dannybrown in Twitter lingo. The March campaign yesterday was organized by Toronto’s Scott Stratten at @unmarketing.

I gather this isn’t the first charitable venture on Twitter.  What is striking to me is how  this simple online tool has matured into full-blown community status. Twitter is about sharing. To be successful on Twitter, and you can define that any way you want, you need to give back.

Yesterday Danny and Scott and friends helped Twitter come of age as a community.

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Filed under Marketing, Online marketing, Stephen Rhodes, Uncategorized