Page SnowSocial Media Helps Take the “Private” Out of Foundation

By: Page Snow In: 2012 Family Philanthropy Conference| Family Philanthropy| Social Media| Social Networking

14 Feb 2012

The first day of the Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference is now officially in the books and one word seems to arise again and again in conversations and sessions: transparency. Nowhere was this topic more front and center than at the Council-sponsored session about social media. But allow me to digress for a moment and first set the scene for those not in attendance.

On a beautiful, sun-drenched Miami Beach afternoon, 70-80 people-many of whom hearken back to the Johnson administration and beyond-filled a windowless room to near-standing room capacity to learn the nuances of social media. Facilitated by Mark Carpenter, public relations manager at the Council, the one-hour session was led by two dynamic speakers, nonprofit consultant Rosetta Thurman and Sam Stern of CAP Brand Marketing. Conventional wisdom once held that blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter are the exclusive province of the under-40 set, but studies now show that those of us hailing from an older demographic are quickly joining the party.

It was encouraging to see so many conference attendees making a serious effort to understand the potential benefits of social media for private foundations. Despite the constraints posed by a one-hour session (they had to repeatedly dim the lights to prompt us to leave), the questions were engaging and the responses equally insightful.

One comment from the audience really got me thinking. While discussing the barriers to launching a social media program in a private foundation, one person shouted out “privacy!” Ms. Thurman made the salient point that social media by its very definition is about transparency, soliciting feedback beyond one’s walls, and openly sharing information. But reading between the lines, what she was also saying was that organizational privacy is in many respects as antiquated as the fax machine. The mechanisms through which we communicate today-especially social media-may make the insular, opaque, enigmatic foundations of the past relics of a bygone era.

Indeed the general thrust of the conversation, and the overarching feeling in the room, was that attendees are at least curious about embracing the transparent nature of social media-particularly if it will help open up their foundations to new constituencies, new ideas, and new ways of working. For me, this was the real juxtaposition of interest about this session. It’s not the fact that Boomers are madly embracing Facebook. It’s the fact that, despite lingering stereotypes, a new group of donors value and seek organizational transparency.

Have we reached the point where social media is a ubiquitously needed tool, like a telephone and computer? If so, how will it improve philanthropy?  I look forward to your thoughts and I look forward to a jam-packed Day 2 of the conference.

Page Snow is the chief philanthropic officer at Foundation Source.

1 Response to Social Media Helps Take the “Private” Out of Foundation

Blogging as Thought Leadership: Three Foundations Doing it Right | Rosetta Thurman

July 3rd, 2012 at 10:11 am

[...] important barriers to foundations adopting social media – limited time and resources, fear, perceived privacy issues, and lack of in-house technical [...]

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