engagement, presentations

The Personal Organization: The New Mix

1 Comment 01 June 2011


I’m heading next week to present at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New Orleans. One of the sessions that I’ll be participating in is the Interactive Strategy Forum, which features more than 20 discussion tables, staffed by nonprofit technology leaders, offering timely discussions and Q&A on a wide spectrum of topics. My discussion topic is “Creating an Action-Ready Online Tribe by Getting Personal.” This is really a discussion about creating personal organizations; getting the organization out from behind the logo and creating relationships personally online. I’m really looking forward to talking about why organizations must create personal connections online, and discussing how to implement this concept.

One concept I’ve discussed before is that of The Social Media Funnel. It is simply the idea that, in order to move people to take an intended action online, you have to start by engaging with them personally and building trust. Nonprofits invest in social media so that they will see a return on engagement. Online fans will share, donate, and create something on behalf of an organization because they feel connected to a person or a cause – personally.

A huge question for implementation is: can the organization bridge the divide between logo and person? In other words, how can an organization be personal enough to create online friendships and meaningful relationships with individual fans and enthusiasts? The concept of The Personal Organization emerged from this consideration.

I’ve coached a lot of nonprofit organizations on how to use social media, and I’ve implemented social media for organizations. The implementation is never as effective as when it’s done personally. Most organizations are afraid of getting too personal. However, there are a wide variety of choices available and implementation examples. There are nonprofit CEOs that tweet, organizations where much of staff blogs, organizations that create private Facebook groups for online evangelists, and organizations that encourage staff to spend time participating in Linkedin groups. Florence Broder, formerly of The Jewish Agency, wrote a guest post for this blog on the difference it made when the Jewish Agency got personal on Twitter.

Each organization must decide how to be personal, and who within the organization will be doing that. Will the executive director tweet? Will the entire staff tweet? Should staff members “friend” online Facebook fans? Will each department head blog? The answers depend on your goals and where you want the entry points for personal connection to be located. The truth is that organizations make it much harder on themselves by forcing their logos to act like a person on their behalf. There is a reason why the UN High Commission on Refugees has Goodwill Ambassadors that are the public face of the refugee agency.

A critical factor in organizational success on social media is making the organizational presence personal.

For the Interactive Strategy Forum, I prepared a handout of ideas for making the organization personal on Linkedin, Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. I also prepared a supporting slide deck that participants will be able to view and download from slideshare, and a shared Google doc that summarizes tips and ideas for how to create a personal organization. I am embedding it here, prior to the conference, because I know I have not captured all of the ways that organizations are already personal online. There are so many choices and iterations! I look forward to hearing about them in the ensuing discussion and comments.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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