When Culture Eats Your Foundation’s Social Media Strategy for Breakfast | Beth’s Blog

When Culture Eats Your Foundation’s Social Media Strategy for Breakfast

Organizational Culture

Council on Foundations  

View more presentations from Beth Kanter

Yesterday, I had the honor of facilitating a workshop on culture change and social media at the Council on Foundations Conference for Community Foundations in San Francisco.      John Kobara, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, California Community Foundation, was the session designer and introduced the session with a famous quote from Peter Drucker,  ”Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Instituting a new strategy that is not within the cultural norms of an organization has a very difficult job being supported by the existing culture.    And working a networked way and using social media requires a shift in mindset – and that’s a change for many nonprofits (and nonprofits.)   My overall advice is embedded in another Drucker quote along the same lines reinforces the struggle, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.”

Photo by Christine Beddia

I was lucky enough to have 90 minute session and I used my model for sharing content but also using it to leverage a peer discussion that shares insights and experience.    It requires round table set up, a wireless mic, and a good set of reflection questions related to the topics.    The questions we explored were:

  • What needs to change in your foundation in order to scale a networked approach or use of social media?  What’s holding you back?  What move your forward?
  • What does your foundation need to do to open to free agents or how do your grantees need to change?  Is the concept of working with a free agent out of the question for a foundation?
  • What do you need to do less of to make time for social media?
  • How does your foundation translates mistakes or social media strategy that didn’t work into learning and improve what it is doing?   What keeps your organization from learning and improving social media strategy?

How Is The Connected World Changing Your Work?

I started with a story about this crazy world of networks and Facebook is changing our personal relationships and the way we work within organizations.   I asked for examples from the group.     Several participants observed that with recent natural disasters the people they want to provide support to are organizing faster than their institutions through the use of social networks.    This help inspire change.

Does it take a natural disaster to change a culture?

Thankfully no.   But it does take work and a strategy based on behavior patterns and perceptions.  It is also important to expectations.    The magic thinking of “everyone on social networks” may not happen over night.   There has to be a social change process within the organization.

Trust Is Cheaper Than Control:  The Message House

We discussed the importance of a social media policy – not just cutting and pasting from another foundation or nonprofit.  And while almost 1/3 had policies,  there were still questions such as “How do get social media out of the silo of one person’s job description and encourage others to participate.”

Marc Fest from the Knight Foundation shared the story of how they use “Message Houses” – which includes the main bullet points and people can use that as a resource for talking about the Foundation’s work on social networks.  Susie Bowie from the Sarasota County Community Foundation talked about making it easy for people who are not used to tweeting to provide examples they use as a base.

Free Agents and Foundations

I think I was the person to coin the term Free Agent back in 2008 when I first wrote about Shawn Admed’s work.   My book, The Networked Nonprofit, helped shine a lot on the work of many free agents such as Mark Horvath and others round the world.

The Pittsburgh Foundation told an amazing story about “The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project,”  a project that got launched as a result a single tweet.    Someone was watching a person leave a food pantry with food and vegetables, including cabbage, in a plastic bag.  The bag broke and the cabbage when rolling down the hill with the man chasing after it.   She tweeted,  ”why don’t we provide tote bags to food pantries?”    The Pittsburgh Foundation noticed the tweet and helped with the launch of Tote Bags for Food Pantries where thousands of bags ended up being donated.

Sidney Hargro talked about an effort work with free agents as a philanthropic advisors who connected with the foundation through LinkedIn.

The discussion about failures and mistakes was quite insightful.     The takeaway is that if failure can be connected to learning – that it becomes an opportunity.     As I was headed to a session on Failure at Compasspoint Nonprofit Day in the afternoon – I’ll go into more depth in my next post about failure.

How has your nonprofit or foundation avoiding having your organization’s culture eat your social media strategy?  How have you made able to make change from the inside out?




2 Responses

  1. I don’t remember where I know you from, but I have the feeling I either linked to your blog from my personal blog years ago, or met you in real life.

    This blog is just what I needed. I’m a 1/2 generation digital native (started online in ’95 before most digital natives were born, but as an adult) and have had twitter for years but never enjoyed it. Now I need to use it to communicate with people who love it. This is very helpful. Thanks.

  2. [...] When Culture Eats Your Foundation’s Social Media Strategy for Breakfast Council on Foundations   View more presentations from Beth Kanter Yesterday, I had the honor of facilitating a workshop on culture change and social… Source: http://www.bethkanter.org [...]

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