Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Silent NonProfit Assassination Attempts

image via 901am New Media News

Sorry for the lengthy lag between posts - dealing with some personal stuff, so the sitch might continue a little longer.

Anyway -

The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County puts on one of the best known and most well-run artist studio tours every year. Called the "Open Studios Art Tour," it features nearly 300 artists. That is more artists than anyone can visit in the Tour's 3 weekends in October, but nearly every year, at least 100 to 200 artists more than that will apply.

We're talking about art, which is a reflection of the way the artist views the world and the way the viewer receives the artist's vision, so basically we're talking emotions here. And some people don't deal well with rejection.

A few years ago, this really became evident when a series of posts started showing up on Craigslist, accusing the CCSCC and its Open Studios Committee of being elitist and showing favoritism to a small group of artists. Then it segued into a really nasty diatribe that used a lot of phrases and terms familiar to neo-nazis and others and made the accusation that the Tour was being controlled by a particular religious group.

Fortunately, a local artist saw the posts and flagged them as being against Craigslist's policy about using their space for hate speech and they were removed fairly soon. Still, the posts were up for a few days. Whether they had any effect other than to incite disgust is unknown, but the situation points up the need for nonprofits to do two things:
  • be aware of possible negative spins others can put on your programs and services (in this case, elitism and favoritism and be able to address them in a positive way

  • keep an eye out for what others are saying about your nonprofit and be proactive about addressing it
Doing a search for the name of your nonprofit in Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, etc. isn't something that just the big nonprofits or for-profits need to do. In fact, I would argue that if you're a small nonprofit operating primarily for the benefit of your local community, bad social media press can hurt you more in the long run than the other guys.

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