Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Radical Openness

This was a rough election. There's lots I could say about it, but very little of that would be germane to a discussion of social media and small nonprofits. One of the things I found most memorable, though, was Mitt Romney giving his concession speech. I'll remember it for a good while, I think, because it was the first time I thought I was seeing the real man. The speech was straightforward and unadorned - not one that will be held up as an example of oratory - but because it was so simple and so short, it impressed me as his true feelings. I wished that this had been the candidate I had seen all along. To me, this was representative of a form of what @JasonSilva has called radical openness.

Radical Openness

Granted, when Jason Silva talked about it for TEDGlobal 2012, he was talking about the dissemination - the sharing - of ideas that spurs innovation and evolution. This is something many geeks and nerds mean when they say, "Information should be free." But, can't it also mean when people and organizations are open about themselves to a degree not really seen before?

There is little doubt that smarter people will be interpreting the election results to try to divine the mind of the American voter (as if we were all thinking the same way), but I think I see a trend in politics that's been playing out in social communications for a while now: reputation counts. Honesty counts. Being vulnerable by being open counts.

Welcome To the New Reputation Economy

Imagine a world where your online reputation counts nearly as much as your credit scores. This is what Rachel Botsman posits on WiredUK. And startups are already working on it - a way to capitalize on your online standing and influence. And what this means is that people and organizations who are not online and haven't established a reputation may find themselves in the same position as those trying to get a loan without ever having established credit. The people you want to gather into the fold of your nonprofit won't be satisfied with your Charity Navigator report. They won't be as interested in what happened in your past, but will be looking at your current engagement level; with whom are you engaged, how, how long, and what you are doing now.

Honesty is a Valid Brand Strategy

In his article, Why It's Important to Integrate Honesty Into Your Brand, Daniel Baylis says, "We're weaning ourselves off uninspired corporate messaging. We crave honest brands." I believe he's right about that and also about the idea that we are promoting that concept by what we like and spend our money on, which is often about what we value. This year's election may show that most U.S. citizens value not spending money like water while trying to convince us that a particular candidate's picture is in Wikipedia next to the listing for Satan.

More of us are opting to be - publicly - the change we want to see in the world. And in the case of small nonprofits, this is better than a good thing, it's an opportunity.

No one expects you to be perfect. In fact, they probably would like you less if you appeared so. Being straightforward and sincere about what you're trying to accomplish, your mistakes, areas you need to work on, improving your process, that very vulnerability in the social web are assets.

This Is Your Time

In previous times, your small nonprofit would be struggling to find the money for a printed newsletter or trying to think up a low-cost, yet entertaining fundraiser while bigger organizations were holding black tie parties, telethons with celebrities, high-profile athletic events.

Thanks to the internet and modern technology, you have tools you didn't have, and thanks to social networks your investment in honest and sincere online relationships can return dividends in real life that you may never have expected.

The environment for small nonprofits has never been more charitable. Do your best.

By The Way

This article at NPQ by Steve Boland helps you think about writing your web pieces and responses from a slightly different viewpoint than what may be usual for you. It's worth your time.

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