Book Review: Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Beth Kanter's first book, The Networked Nonprofit, taught us how to use social media tools. Her latest book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, which is co-authored by Katie Delahaye Paine, teaches us how to measure what we've done.

The whole idea of measurement and insight has been on my brain for two reasons.

First, During Pinktober Megan Strand and I interviewed the author of Pink Ribbons Inc. on CauseTalk Radio. I initially thought we'd be on opposite sides of the argument, but I found myself nodding in agreement throughout our conversation. She wasn't against cause marketing, as I had wrongly assumed. But she did have some good questions on measurement and insight within the pink ribbons movement. What was the real value of breast cancer awareness? How was success being measured? What goals have and haven't been achieved? You can listen to the show yourself, but I concluded Pinktober needed less emotion and ribbon-waving and more measurement and insight.

My second run in with measurement peaked after the presidential election. How could so many people say for so long that the race was so close only to have Romney lose in a landslide? They're now saying that Romney will get two to three million fewer votes than McCain did in 2008. How is that possible as no one ever called that race a close one? What was and wasn't measured and why did pollsters draw different conclusions from the data?

Lastly, who the hell is this wicked smart guy Nate Silver that everyone is talking about?

Obviously, I have a lot to learn about measuring the success of just about everything.

That's why I want to finish Beth and Katie's book so I can better teach my clients how to measure the success of their social media efforts. What I've really liked about the book so far is it has a ton of case studies. The authors also don't assume you've read Beth's first book (or even her blog) and implemented all the things she suggested.

This book has something for everyone. Even if you're still crawling when others are walking, running and flying (the four stages of becoming data informed in the book), you'll learn something.

A book like this raises the bar for everything you do. Sure, it teaches you how to measure your effectiveness on social media and how to make better decisions. But It also challenges you to do everything better through measurement and insight. For nonprofits, the result will be a better world, which I'm sure Beth and Katie are eager to measure.

CauseWorld: Location-Based Cause Marketing

Beth Kanter recently wrote on CauseWorld, which is essentially a "cause version" of Foursquare.

Like foursquare and gowalla, you open the application on your phone and see local businesses (instead of showing everything around you, CauseWorld only shows businesses that you can check into for karmas). Enter the store, check in, and get the karma points offered to you. Once you’ve collected enough karmas you can donate them to a variety of causes. And, of course, you get badges for various activities.

You should definitely read Beth's post and check out the TechCruch interview with the founder. I've been using the iPhone app for over a week and I like it a lot. The interface is very slick and you learn a lot about the charities CauseWorld supports. (Charities that are currently being funded by Citi and Kraft Foods.) But I have my doubts that this niche cause service can really compete against mainstream players like Foursquare.

  • Right now I'm checking in with both CauseWorld and Foursquare. That's not going to last. One of them will win out. If Foursquare adds the cause component to it, I'd rather do ten things on Foursquare than one thing on CauseWorld.
  • Niche cause services never seem to take off. I'm not spending a lot of time on GoodSearch, are you? Remember all those portals we could visit before going to sites like L.L. Bean and Amazon, and good causes would get a few pennies every time we bought something? Are you still using them?
  • Thus far consumers prefer to include their causes within a mainstream activity or vehicle. Take Facebook, which has a cause component. While supporting causes via Facebook is still in its infancy, it will grow. I'm not sure the same will be true for a standalone product like CauseWorld.

Think of it in terms of Product RED and its retail partners. Would it be better for RED to have standalone stores filled with cause products? Or is RED better off selling a few products in Starbucks and Apple and Nike? The answer is clear because the mainstream consumerism these retailers offer drives charity sales and RED is the big winner.

Alas, I'm not sure people want a cause world.

But I do think they want a world with causes. And if they can get that on Facebook, or on Foursquare, or in their next visit to Starbucks--things they do everyday for reasons outside of philanthropy--that might preclude a separate tool like CauseWorld.

What do you think?