Fundraising Blog

GiftWorks Book of the Month

Looking for a new book to dive into? Join Sheela Nimishakavi for her monthly book review which may be of  interest to your nonprofit organization.

“The Networked Nonprofit” – A Must Read for any Nonprofit Leader

These days it is more or less common knowledge that nonprofit organizations need to use social media to engage volunteers, donors and constituents. Yet, many nonprofit leaders still shy away from using the Internet to connect with the public. In their book “The Networked Nonprofit,” authors Beth Kanter,  Allison Fine and Randi Zuckerberg make a solid case that will convince any social media naysayer to actively take part in online conversations.


“The Networked Nonprofit” first delves into a discussion of why many nonprofit organizations have been hesitant to use social media. Although the authors bring up a variety of reasons, the prevailing  theme seems to be that nonprofit leaders are afraid- afraid of losing control of their organizations and  afraid of receiving negative feedback from the public. An excellent point made by Kanter, Fine and Zuckerberg is that nonprofit organizations have become accustomed to one-way communication. Nonprofits write and release their own promotional material, they organize volunteers to complete a set of tasks that the nonprofit dictates, and agencies send out donor appeal letters. Throughout this process, there is little input from the volunteers, donors and constituents that nonprofit organizations are trying to engage.

Kanter, Fine and Zuckerberg encourage the use of social media to employ two-way conversations with the public and provide compelling evidence to assuage the fears nonprofit leaders may have about public criticism and loss of control. The authors present cases of highly successful organizations such as the Red Cross and Planned Parenthood Federation of America that used social media to combat criticism and turnaround the public’s view of their organizations. Moreover, these cases show that giving up some control and allowing volunteers to organize their own projects and promote the organization can actually be extremely beneficial to the nonprofit.

The authors accurately describe a transition occurring right now in the nonprofit sector in which organizations are changing from being “silos” that operate on their own, to becoming “networked nonprofits” that engage the public, share good news and bad news, and enlist the expertise of not only nonprofit staff but also the public and other organizations in order to best serve their target populations. “The Networked Nonprofit” goes on to discuss how to monitor comments on social media sites, how to properly respond to public criticism online, why social media should not just be handed over to the summer intern, and points to a wide variety of resources for nonprofit organizations to use in their transition to becoming a “networked nonprofit.”

As the title states, “The Networked Nonprofit” is absolutely a must read for any nonprofit leader who wants to keep their organization afloat in an increasingly online world.

Have you read “The Networked Nonprofit?” What did you think? Leave your  thoughts in the comment section below!

Amazon Link     Kindle Version

SheelaSheela Nimishakavi, MA, MPH is the Founder and Principal of Sector 3 Associates, LLC, a firm that offers low-cost consulting services for nonprofit organizations and President of Women Innovating the Third Sector, a professional network for women involved in the nonprofit sector. To connect with her, please email

photo credit: HowardLake via photopin cc

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