Monthly Archives: November 2014

Corporate support for voluntary organisations – does it ever feel uncomfortable? does it matter?

I was interested to read on about the Starbucks ‘neighbourly christmas’ campaign which according to the details reflect’s their mission to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.”

Via the Neighbourly platform Starbucks are pledging money to support voluntary organisations but the catch is who gets the money is determined by the amount of support each particular campaign receives on social media.  What is not clear is how the organisations seeking money might be actively campaigning or asking their volunteers to campaign for this support on their behalf.  Though there are lots of tweets with the hashtag #neighbourlynoise with pleas from various organisations to help them “win” either £500 or £1000.

Speaking personally this ‘competition’ seems rather unnecessary.  Starbucks is a rich enough organisation to support these causes without this # business.  Is it really necessary to have a virtual begging campaign by those seeking support?  It seems that the amount of support will be measured in the number of tweets for each organisation although the way this will be calculated is not exactly clear on the website at this point in time.  We will keep an eye on this as the campaign goes on until 12th December.

Social media by nonprofit orgs: our summary of a recent review

The latest issue of “International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing” is a collection of papers on the topic of “Broadening the Horizon of Nonprofit Marketing Communications”.   This includes a range of papers investigating how nonprofit organisations use social media and the challenges this poses (here to orgs in the US)

Patel and Mckeever use content analysis to look at the tone of messages on nonprofit’s websites and discuss the importance of ‘positive’ messages, though they do not distinguish between different groups of stakeholders (donors, volunteers and advocates are all discussed).    Auger also discusses the importance of positive messages, highlighting the importance of ‘optimism’.  This was an interesting analysis of the use of twitter though  I am not sure I was entirely convinced by the application of content analysis to unpack rhetoric.

Both papers prompted me to wonder more about what being ‘positive’ actually meant and indeed whether it was possible to be too positive – thus making it a negative!

Kinsky et al. look at the use of social media in a crisis, with an analysis of stakeholders responses to communication.  Although volunteers were mentioned there was a primary emphasis here on intention to donate (using the theory of planned behaviour as a theoretical frame).  In contrast, Saxton and Guo propose the constructi of “social media capital” as essential to nonprofit organisations while Maxwell and Carboni’s paper was (I think) the only paper to unpack the issues associated with communication to different stakeholder groups.  Branigan and Mitsis’s paper looked at the use of celebrity endorsement on social media and interviewed the decision makers in the organisations to unpack how and why these had been used.  The inclusion of generation y as a rationale for this focus was not however convincingly explained (readers of my posts elsewhere will not be surprised by this view – see also Pritchard and Whiting 2014)

So overall a really interesting special issue and I noted the following questions that are of relevance to our own research interests here:

– why do nonprofit orgs only see social media as a form of one-way communication?  (this was a common theme across all the papers)

– how are volunteers different from other groups of stakeholders in their use of social media?  do they feel that they are just on the receiving end? is being a volunteer and being a social media user connected in anyway and if so how?

– what is a positive message and can it ever be a bad thing?

– and as all these researchers and the organisations they studied were in the states, what is the experience of UK based not-for-profit orgs?

(Somewhat ironically I tried to include a link to the journal’s twitter account and it appears to have been hacked by someone promoting quick ways to earn money from home! Nothing not-for-profit about that).

Maxwell, S. P., & Carboni, J. L. (2014). Stakeholder communication in service implementation networks : expanding relationship management theory to the nonprofit sector through organizational network analysis, 313(November), 301–313. doi:10.1002/nvsm

Saxton, G. D., & Guo, C. (2014). Online stakeholder targeting and the acquisition of social media capital, 300(November), 286–300. doi:10.1002/nvsm

Kinsky, E. S., Drumheller, K., & Gerlich, R. N. (2014). Weathering the storm : best practices for nonprofits in crisis, 285(November), 277–285. doi:10.1002/nvsm

Patel, S. J., & Mckeever, B. W. (2014). Health nonprofits online : the use of frames and stewardship strategies to increase stakeholder involvement, 238(November), 224–238. doi:10.1002/nvsm

Auger, G. A. (2014). Rhetorical framing : examining the message structure of nonprofit organizations on Twitter, 249(November), 239–249. doi:10.1002/nvsm

Branigan, E., & Mitsis, A. (2014). Reach for Generation Y : using celebrity endorsement to communicate about nonprofit causes with young people in Australia, 321(November), 314–321. doi:10.1002/nvsm

Top 30 Charity CEO on social media: what do they do? why do we need a list of them?

You can now read a list of the top thirty charity CEO on social media for 2014.  For the competitive you can also compare the 2014 top 30 against the 2013 top 30 to look at movers and shakers.  The list was judged by a panel of experts – though the criteria to be nominated or used to decide on the top 30 is rather unclear.  (This becomes somewhat ironic when we read in the more detailed report available to download that a key driver for social media use is transparency.)

The list is interesting – though there is very little detail provided on how or why these individual feature on the list and what might distinguish each of them.  The list is presented alphabetically so there is no ‘top dog’ as it were.

Accompanying the list is a briefing which provides some more detail in the form of cases studies and additional advice from sponsors.  In fact these aren’t clearly separated.  A word of caution, some of the advice here needs further checking out before readers follow through.  For example, the CIPD provide more specific briefing on the issues associated with the use of social media for recruitment and I was surprised there were no caveats on caution in this regard.

The CEO case studies are more interesting, not least because they offer some insight as to whether they consider this to be ‘work’ or, as one CEO puts it, ‘play’.  This might have an interesting impact on their expectations of others use of social media within their organisations.  It seemed that many of the CEO’s had significant support from communications teams or other trusted advisors within their organisations.  What are the issues for those without this dedicated support?  What are the leaders expectations of others use – including volunteers?  What is the volunteers and service users perceptions of this?   More discussions of potential risks and challenges would have been useful to share.

So while the list is sort of interesting and the personal stories offer some insights, the report certainly raises more questions than it answers.


Samaritan’s ‘Radar’ launches to mixed reviews

Summarized in the Guardian, The Samaritans have launched a new app which monitors twitter feeds and according to their website “turns your social net into a safety net”.  An individual must sign up to have their twitter feeds monitored so that ‘alerts’ can be generated according to significant words or phrases that might imply someone you are following on twitter is in need of support.  Theses  “phrases include “tired of being alone”, “hate myself”, “depressed”, “help me” and “need someone to talk to”, although Samaritans admits that the algorithm is likely to evolve over the coming months, to avoid false positives”.  As well as the alert, the recipient will get email advice on how to offer support.

However the Guardian now reports on the many concerns that have been raised – including by volunteers – about the app.  Indeed the BBC reports that a petition has been raised asking twitter to take action and concern has been raised that the app does not meet appropriate user consent requirements.  But at the same time there has been praise for a digital innovation that is mission related rather than just about fundraising.  Reports suggest that several thousand have already signed up to the service and it will be interesting to see how the story develops.