As part of my work as Visiting Scholar at the Packard Foundation, I’ll be heading to the Independent Sector‘s Annual Conference “Forging a Stronger Future Together” in Atlanta October 20-22 with over 500 leaders from from across the nonprofit and philanthropic community. On October 21, from 3:30-6:00, I’ll be leading a Networked Nonprofit workshop at the conference.
The conference highlights include honoring General Colin and Alma Powell with the 2010 John W. Gardner Leadership Award in recognition of their tireless commitment to young people, service, and advancing the common good. Darell Hammond, co-founder and CEO of KaBOOM!, which builds play spaces for communities, will receive American Express NGen Leadership Award. (Click here for an amazing guest post by Heather McLeod Grant about KaBOOM! network strategy.)
The conference participants will be mix of perspectives from long-time, established leaders in the field to the younger generation of nonprofit leaders known as NGEN which is intended to improve the nonprofit talent pool by developing the leadership opportunities and professional networks of emerging leaders under 40. NGEN leaders are committed to covering the NGEN track of the conference on a special blog set up for the conference.
Using social media at professional conferences to connect with peers in the room and online is simply a natural way of being for many NGEN nonprofit professionals. It’s the same for them at work, if the tools aren’t blocked. A few weeks ago, I was talking with a young woman in her 20’s who works for a large nonprofit — she said something to me that has stuck in my mind …. “At work, I’m often reaching out to colleagues and other professionals through LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter to get my work done and if our organization blocked access to social network sites, it would be like cutting off my arm.”
However, for the older generation of nonprofit leaders, many are not used to working this way and it feels uncomfortable or unnatural. However, many of these leaders have shifted from “Do we have to” when comes to social media to understanding that it is important for the organizations. In the for-profit sector, we’re seeing more and more senior managers turn to social networks to keep up with their employees as this study indicates. A recent study of foundation leaders use of social media, indicates that more leaders are personally using the tools, but there is a long way to go.
The question I often hear from this group is: How to get started?
The answer? Small proof of pilots with insights and learning as the initial outcomes.
At last year’s IS conference, some participants (mostly NGEN participants) used social media tools to share their learnings with their networks through tools like Twitter, Blogs, and Facebook. This year, Independent Sector is doing a couple of small pilots in integrating social media – scaled to the staff capacity as well as to address the different levels of interest in social media.
Taking small steps – focused pilots – with a learning curve that isn’t too steep, identification of key metrics, and reflection and learning time at the end. Here’s what their focused goals and objectives:
1. To create “buzz” about Independent Sector with “non-attending audiences” through attendees’ social media mentions
2. To capture summaries of the 2010 conference to show the richness of the content as a means to promote the event for 2011
3. To test pilot social media at the conference and to capture lessons learned and ideas for future social media efforts
Criteria for Success
1. Seven bloggers and seven Tweeters are identified and recruited to cover the event
2. Content from seven sessions is posted to the IS blog or other blogs
3. The number of retweets using the hashtag #ISconf increases from 2009
4. The team gains social media experience and identified key learnings
With focused goals and objectives that matched to the organization’s capacity and readiness for social media – and with an emphasis on learning, organizations can shape solid strategies, identify a measurement strategy, and a process for learning.