Net2ThinkTank: What is the Return on Investment of the Social Web for Nonprofits?

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This month's Net2Think Tank question was, "What is the ROI (return on investment) of the social web for nonprofits?" Net2ThinkTank Bloggers answered the question from very different perspectives:

In Return on Investment (ROI) of the Social Web for Nonprofits, Dan McQuillan of Internet.Artizans describes three dimensions to the ROI of the social web for nonprofits: metrics, paradigm shift and the new enclosures.

Elizabeth Dunn of Small Dots writes in The Only ROI is the ROI of Ice Cream that nonprofits can determine the ROI of a social web tool by using it to solve a problem that another tool isn't solving and to use the problem (i.e. lack of attendance, funding, volunteer recruiting) as a baseline to measure results.

She also feels that the the most immediate return on investment is internal, not external: "It's often felt most strongly in terms of professional development, and even empowerment, on the part of the individual staff member and the organization as a whole."

Joitske Hulsebosch at Lasagna and Chips writes in What is the Return on Investment of the Social Web for Nonprofits?, that, "the social web can lead to changes in the way of working at various levels," can empower organizations in the global south, and can bring about more equal ways of collaborating.

In What is the Return on Investment of the Social Web for Nonprofits, Wendy Harman analyzes it Master-card ad style:

  • Number of comments on the org blog: 23
  • Number of photos added to the org Flickr pool: 228
  • Feeling of having a voice in, being heard by, and participating in your favorite cause: priceless

She also offers an evaluation process:

  • Start with a light-handed project that won't take much time. [Invest a little]
  • Write down your successes and put them in an important place. [Examine the investment]
  • Write down your challenges and put them in that same important place. [Examine the investment]
  • Ask the people you want to connect with whether they think your outreach and listening is valuable and keep their answers in the special spot, too. [Examine the investment]
  • Watch other nonprofits and copy and remix for your own purposes. [Research other investments]
  • Rinse, repeat.

Care2's frogloop has created the super practical ROI Calculator for Social Networking and analyzes the pros and cons of The Long, Long Tail of Facebook Causes.

Emily of Emily's World offers possible metrics in Ways Nonprofits are Using the Social Web and Measuring Success:

* number of friends
* number of friend requests each day
* number of visitors that visit your profile
* number of members in a group
* seeing if people in your group are discussing your organization and issues with others
* amount of money raised online

David Collin of FI Space looks to how business is evaluating the effectiveness of the social web in, ROI of the Social Web, where he points to a McKinsey global survey of company marketers that evaluates how businesses are using the web for marketing. In a follow up post, More on the ROI, David references the post, Innovation Key for Social ROI that observes the importance of having, "a reciprocal connection between a marketer and a user to have a successful campaign."

In Social Media and Nonprofits: The Line Between NGTD and ROI, Beth of Beth's Blog discusses whether or not nonprofit blogging increases productivity, what productivity means, and whether or not there is a point to trying to measure the results.

She quotes Jeremiah Owyang, in his post, "The ROI of Blogging? Intangible who wrote,

"I could do an ROI report, convert to time spent, opportunities gained, and business won, but I think I'd be missing some of the point. Why? I already see an ROI in blogging, I don't need to measure, it's brought me so many friends, so many contacts, it would be silly to measure."

Albert Ruesga of White Courtesy Telephone imagines the challenges of, "Joe Sector" an environmental activist trying to use the social web to create an advocacy campaign in, The Problem with the Internet, Part 1: The Story of Joe Sector.

Sally complements his post with The Problem with The Internet, Part 2: The Internet and Social Change. She sees the benefits of the social web, but states, "I'm convinced the brunt of this work can best happen offline."

Finally, Ivan Boothe of The Quixotic Life and Genocide Intervention Network writes about his experience using the social web to organize, "an educated, active movement of people interested in preventing and stopping genocide." In Organizing Rather Than Mobilizing: Using Social Networks for Constituency Building, he advises:

"There's a mentality shift required to fully engage with social networking and community content sites: sometimes, you have to let go

. . . . If you just need bodies at a rally, names on a petition or donations in your coffers, mobilizing through traditional means will work great. But if you need an active, educated and effective movement, organizing through social webs has the potential to create much more lasting change."

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Look for the next Net2ThinkTank question on Friday, November 2nd. If you have suggestions for Net2ThinkTank questions to ask the Net2Community, send them to