Marketing maven Seth Godin often discusses the nonprofit sector in his books, blog entries, and speeches. He created a nice little uproar yesterday in the nonprofit social media world with a blog post called "The problem with non" that said:
"Did you start or join this non-profit because of the non part? I doubt it. It's because you want to make change. The way the world is just isn't right or good enough for you… there's an emergency or an injustice or an opportunity and you want to make change.
These organizations exist solely to make change. That's why you joined, isn't it?
The problem facing your group, ironically, is the resistance to the very thing you are setting out to do. Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change."
This quickly got a lot of tweets on Twitter and follow-up blog posts by various people. The Chronicle of Philanthropy fired back with a blog entry titled "Followers and Friends Not the Only Measure of Nonprofit Success Online" and CauseWired author Tom Watson chimed in with a post called "Why Seth Godin is Wrong." Frank Barry over on the NetWits Think Tank blog added some additional thoughts to the conversation. Even Beth Kanter did a quick recap of the day's events in her "Deer in the Headlights" article.
Seth Godin has written 11 books, most of which have been best sellers, and his blog is considered one of the best by AdvertisingAge. He didn't become a change agent by endorsing the status quo. And he has a reputation for getting passionate people ignited. He called one of his books "All Marketers are Liars" — that's going to get a reaction.
This reminds me of when Jakob Nielsen said "Flash: 99% Bad" back in 2000. It irritated a lot of web people. It got a lot of web people talking. And there are some parts of his article that are still true today. Nielsen wasn't bashing Flash — he was talking about the importance of usabilty principles. Godin isn't saying that all nonprofits must use Twitter — he's talking about the importance of change management in the nonprofit sector.
Seth Godin knows how to get a reaction. He's made a career out of talking about how to start conversations, getting attention, and being remarkable. His blog post yesterday, like many others, is a Purple Cow. He got people fired up. He got people talking about the types of changes nonprofits are making. The comments and tweets are full of people talking about organizations that are embracing social media and other tools. Mission accomplished.
"Markets are conversations." I read that somewhere, once. Seth Godin did nothing more than shout "fire" in a crowded nonprofit chat room. Those taking most offense to his comments probably aren't the ones he's concerned about. And keep in mind that this isn't the first time Godin has said something similar about the nonprofit sector. Thanks for the conversation starter Seth.