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5 Smart Reasons Why Nonprofit Organizations Should Not Hire Social Media Positions Based on Klout Scores

There continues to be buzz about the value of Klout scores in assessing social media savvy. There are even some organizations hiring (or not hiring) potential social media and online community managers based upon their Klout score. But using a Klout score as a lazy man’s cheat-sheet to assess social media savvy is really not-so-savvy at all. In fact, for nonprofit organizations – in which building a tribe of engaged online evangelists is critical – making hiring decisions based on a high Klout score may result in an inability to efficiently reach your target audience.

What is a Klout score? Klout is a website that attempts to measure social influence on a scale of one to 100 taking into account a (somewhat ambiguous) algorithm regarding the reach, amplification, and influence of an individual’s social network. Twenty is the average Klout score. A score greater than 50 indicates that you are in the 95% percentile of social media influencers. Klout seems to constantly tweak their algorithms as they are aware of the issues outlined below. However, there may still be a long way to go before one number can summarize and combine exactly what individuals, for-profit companies, nonprofits, and other organizations want from a social media manager. In particular, the metrics that make up a high Klout score are off for nonprofit organizations…

The metrics measured through Klout scores are not the most important measurements for nonprofit organizations- or any organization whose financial solvency depends upon an engaged, targeted crowd. In fact, the metrics and overall number are downright distracting.  In order for your organization to achieve the most success on social media, you’re going to need to hire a person who is…

  • knowledgeable and perceived as “expert” in the area of your social mission
  • can connect effectively with your target demographic
  • posts quality, mission-related content
  • is perceived favorably online, and
  • has some real-life “klout” outside of the online space

Here’s how taking Klout scores too seriously and relying on them exclusively (or even too heavily) could possibly land you the complete opposite type of what should be your ideal online community manager:


1) Having expertise or area of focus on social media will land you a lower Klout score – but you want someone who can form a targeted tribe of highly engaged individuals and contribute to your brand’s credibility online.

Klout scores are necessarily lower for people who are focused or have an area of expertise online because a smaller number than the general population will have interest in this area of focus. However, these focused evangelists may be the kind of people with whom you actually want to associate in order to lend reputation and credibility to your brand online. I’ll bore you all for a moment with a marketing 101 lesson from our college days: it is important to have a target audience, and organizational resources are better spent engaging folks who are likely to interact with your brand rather than sharing a smattering of information-vomit to the general, broad population. You just get more bang for your buck when your dollars are going toward engaging the right person at the right time with the right message. This is still – if not even more – true and difficult on social media (a platform supporting broad, public communication…but with users who demand individualized attention). Klout scores generally reward folks who are good at reaching more people while communicating about very broad topics. Don’t get me wrong: this is a good thing to be able to do. However, just like your number of social media followers doesn’t matter for your nonprofit, appealing to the masses by contributing to the crowd doesn’t matter nearly so much as cultivating a tribe of highly engaged individuals.

As a very focused communicator regarding nonprofit marketing, I run into this problem with my own Klout score. I’ve noticed that the more focused I am on nonprofit marketing in my communications, the more my Klout score drops and my Traackr score for nonprofit marketing rises (Traackr is another site attempting to measure influence, except Traackr does it by industry or focus area). For instance, at this very moment, I have a Klout score of 51 (In the 95th percentile, but low for me), and I’m listed as the third most influential voice online regarding nonprofit marketing (my highest listing so far). Coincidence? Nope. Not to mention, the bulk of my Klout score comes from my personal Facebook page, where I post the typical, unfocused splattering of information that makes up most personal Facebook pages. Bottom line: one measurement system awards me for expertise, the other for being random and broad.

The more focused and expert I become, the more my Klout goes down… but my “bread is buttered” with a targeted audience. I bet your organization’s is, too.


2) Frequent posters and online noise-makers are often rewarded with high Klout scores – but your organization needs someone who can contribute and interact thoughtfully online without inundating or alienating your audience.

Klout scores award quantity over quality. In his post, “Klout is Broken” Adriaan Pelzer found that a person can obtain a high Klout score simply by tweeting a lot. In fact, the more you tweet anything, the higher your Klout score. And perhaps the biggest kicker: bots (automatic twitter profiles that are computer-run) can achieve very high Klout scores. This very idea flies in the face of best practices for creating an engaged audience that is likely to translate into a visit or a donation for a nonprofit organization. Data suggests that these best practices may be especially true for marketing to millennials.


3) Klout Scores are not indicative of positive influence or actual, online public perception – and you want your organization to be perceived as an expert, positive social force with a significant mission.

Let’s revisit Adriaan Pelzer’s experiment. He found that more tweets resulted in more followers, but many of the followers were bots themselves. In other words, if your organization has calculated a monetary value for each Twitter follower, your organization is living on false hope because these may not all be real people. Does this mean that people with high Klout scores just have a bunch of bots following them? Absolutely not. But it does mean that the more you tweet, the more you increase your Klout score, and, in turn, the more bots are likely to be following you.  However, bots will not be donating to your organization or paying your museum a visit.

Also, (and again, despite Klout’s constant tweaking of the algorithm) Klout scores still don’t effectively measure perceived reputation or how “expert” someone might be. Controversial folks and celebrities often have high Klout scores but the thoughts and sentiments that are being retweeted, shared, or discussed online may not be entirely positive. One could selectively argue that it’s okay not to have entirely positive sentiment regarding your brand – it makes for conversation and opportunities for engagement. However, keep in mind that when you see a Klout score, it is based on an algorithm and not based on public perception or online credibility.


4) Klout Scores have (very little to absolutely) nothing to do with offline influence – and online influence needs to be part of a bigger package in order to secure actual donors, visitors, and supporters.

This has been called the “Warren Buffet Problem” and Klout itself has acknowledged that for someone like Warren Buffet to have a low score is a failure. One writer jokes that, based on his low score, Buffet might be passed over for an investment banking position … It’s funny because if hiring organizations are ignorant, it may just be true. Nonprofit CEOs, academic leaders, and folks in high executive leadership positions: think of your own mentors, most influential board members, and important donors. They likely don’t have a high Klout score but I’ll bet you that you’d consider them much more influential and relevant to your organization than a random person with a high Klout score.

The circulating screen shot that launched the “Warren Buffett Problem” discussion in regard to Klout scores.

It should be noted that, even if you’re not a frequent, broad tweeter, being famous will generally land you a high Klout score because you likely have many followers, already have an audience that knows you, and many people will be willing to spread your message. In this sense, Klout scores do have to do with offline influence, but this may be a side effect of the system.


5) Klout Scores can be easily manipulated and, thus, are not true measurements of capability.

Yes. There are seemingly countless ways to manipulate your Klout score.

At the end of the day, Technology blogger Diego Basch may have summed up Klout scores the best: “It’s simply a game that measures how good you are at it. Your Klout score measures how good you are at getting a high Klout score.”


Hiring managers may find themselves with a problem on their hands if they use Klout scores as a significant factor when hiring for a social media (or any other kind of) position because Klout does not measure the kind of engagement that necessarily makes for the best nonprofit community manager. But a high Klout score is not at all indicative of a bad community manager either. It’s simply a distraction.

Hiring someone who cares about their Klout score may even be a good thing in some cases. For instance, one social media manager for one of the client organizations I serve very frequently tweets and retweets her personal account (and those of her friends) from the organization’s account, which has a significant following. It’s pretty clear if not downright obvious that she’s doing this to increase her Klout score and improve her own online influence… but this may actually be benefitting the organization because she has a particularly strong, broad following in the geographic region where she and the organization are located. She has a great Twitter tone and she takes to the platform quite naturally. Not to mention, her offline “crew” seem to be engaged with the organization. Or perhaps her being associated with the organization drives their engagement? Either way, this symbiotic relationship works out well. She’s an evangelist who helps lend her personal brand to the organization – which is more than good. It’s smart.

Even if you don’t know much about assessing social media behaviors and creating online communities, please do your organization a favor and not hire an important resource based on something as relatively meaningless as a Klout score. Even as Klout continues to tweak and make changes, follow this number too closely and you’ll  likely end up with someone who has the wrong skill set to engage targeted audiences with quality content and perceived expertise.


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Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Digital Connectivity, Trends Leave a comment

3 Smart Reasons Why Nonprofits Should Hire Candidates with Personal Brands

Recently, there’s been talk among nonprofit millennials about how personal branding might negatively influence the potential for an individual to be hired…. even though personal branding will make you better at your job. The idea is that nonprofit HR folks may note the strength of a candidate’s personal brand and take it as an indicator that a candidate may be more concerned with their own brand than the organization’s brand. Overlooking a candidate with a strong personal brand because you’re worried that they will care more about themselves than the company is like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Some of that worry is practical. Members of Generation Y (a large portion of those with personal brands) don’t feel the same level of personal connectivity to their jobs as Baby Boomers and Traditionalists that came before them. In fact, members of Generation Y aren’t as likely to consider their organization of employment to be as integral an aspect of their personal identity, and Gen Y has different workplace motivators. Is that a bad thing for organizations? Maybe. But the world keeps moving and we are entering a future that is ruled by information, ideas, and an entrepreneurial mindset. A big part of that is keeping a fresh perspective.


1. Personal branding is indicative of an Institutional Manager– which is the kind you want to hire. In the popular Harvard Business Review article, Power is the Great Motivator, David McClelland and David H. Burnham identify three types of motivation: power, achievement, and affiliation. Arguably, of these three, candidates with a personal brand fall into the desire for achievement category (there are over 50 million blogs so power isn’t as direct, and personal branding doesn’t necessitate a need-to-please, especially since controversial posts often get the most traffic).  The Institutional Manager is identified as the most effective organizational leader and is someone who is highly motivated by both power and achievement. On top of this, the authors found that for folks with balanced power and achievement motivation, then “stories about power tend to be altruistic.” This is more than an ideal manager; it’s the ideal nonprofit manager. This ideal leader is driven by achievement motivation; the same kind of motivation driving those with personal brands.

The opposite of the institutional manager is the personal-power manager. This is the kind of manager that people think they are weeding out if they cut out candidates with personal brands. These candidates are only motivated insofar as the organizational operations result in personal power. The personal-power manager has high power motivation like the institutional manager, but has low achievement motivation. Not only is personal branding indicative of an institutional manager because it necessitates achievement motivation, but it is directly at odds with literature on the personal-power manager.


2. Personal branders allow you to tap into a tribe. Speaking of power motivation, we nonprofiteers have that, too.  According to popular blogger and author, Seth Godin, what we all want is to change things. Nonprofit employees, arguably more so than private sector employees, want to change things. Many of us believe strongly in large-scale change or we wouldn’t be working in the sector. What Seth Godin argues is that leaders spread ideas about change by leading tribes. Tribes are silos of interest and Godin argues that tribes will change the world; “It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas.” People with (good) personal brands and a message usually have a tribe– or a group of similarly interested folks who are interested in or agree with their message.

Especially for those interested in nonprofits, personal branding is often about connecting people in order to create change. When you hire a person with a personal brand, you’re signing on their tribe. Your organization will be a key part of their ideas and learning, and that person will share their lessons and passions for your organization– and likely its mission. As a slightly related side, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful kinds of marketing.  Social media is a mecca for word-of-mouth marketing and if you’re signing on someone and your organization is becoming part of their personal brand, then they are recommending you to their tribe.


3. Personal branders are social-tech, brand, and community conscious– and you likely need these areas of expertise in your organization. People on social media are constantly connected to other people, and they often know what’s going on in an industry thanks to their networks. A successful personal brand utilizes social media. If you hire someone with a strong personal brand, then that candidate is likely knowledgable in at least three areas that are important in the business world right now: social technology, branding, and community.

  • Social technology: This person knows how to utilize Facebook, Twitter, and other sites to spread a message– or at the very least they’ve had experience with spreading a message.
  • Brand: If the candidate has built a strong brand on their own, then they’ve developed branding skills that can be utilized by your organization. There’s a lot to learn here: the proper amount of transparency, tone, and the way to think about brands in this era of the social media revolution. Hire someone who knows and you’ll save time on trial and error.
  • Community: As mentioned above, a good personal brand is about building a strong community and getting the attention and respect from the right tribe. This person knows how to connect with other people through the Internet; a skill that will become increasingly desired.


While there may be a tendency to think that job candidates with personal brands may be personal-power managers, the tendency is often unfounded. This is not to say that there aren’t a few bad apples in the bunch, but if a person would be a personal-power manager, there are likely hints of this in their personal brand. Instead, it may be helpful to think of personal branding as a resume of the future; folks can often control their personal brand much like they write their own resume. Social media is already helping organizations hire employees more intelligently. Looking for candidates with personal brands that match your organization’s goals and mission may be a key indicator that the candidate has the characteristics your organization not only wants, but needs in order to survive.

And if you don’t have a personal brand, what are you waiting for?

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends 12 Comments

When Hiring Nonprofit Executives, We Only Get it Right 50% of the Time

Last week, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly published an article by David Suarez, PhD. titled, Street Credentials and Management Backgrounds:Careers of Nonprofit Executives in an Evolving Sector, in which Dr. Suarez identifies four types of nonprofit executives categorized based on management skills and nonprofit experience.

The nonprofit sector contains many executives who are oriented toward mission-driven nonprofit work, but only half have a management background.

Suarez finds that in nonprofit organizations, it is more common for executives to have nonprofit experience, while management experience remains relatively uncommon. After considering this finding and examining Suarez’s four types of nonprofit executives, one cannot help but wonder: are we hiring the right people? If we’re not hiring skilled managers and we’ve obtained a reputation of inefficiency, perhaps a solution lies simply in hiring more well-versed managers.

I’ll go over my take on Suarez’s four type of executives briefly below, but for much more information and to read about his other findings, check out the article.

The Nonprofit “Lifer” (high nonprofit, low management) – Suarez calls these folks stereotypical nonprofit leaders. They are drawn to a social problem(s), but are more interested in direct work with the organization’s clients than organizational management. With their mental divide between the nonprofit sector and other sectors, I’d guess these leaders might lean toward a more conservative view of sector evolution than the Substantive Expert.

The Substantive Expert (low nonprofit, low management)– These leaders are less concerned with their sector of employment, and are specialists in specific disciplinary areas. Despite having minimal management backgrounds, they usually have significant academic credentials. We see these kinds of executives frequently in museums and similar institutions. (As a surprising side, much of the art world was upset recently when MOCA appointed a Social Entrepreneur as Museum Director instead of a traditional Substantive Expert)

The Social Entrepreneur (high nonprofit, high management)– This person is not to be confused with the definition of the rare social entrepreneur made popular by Martin and Osberg. In fact, this type of executive is nearly as common in the nonprofit sector as the Nonprofit Lifer. These folks, however, have more of an interest in the organization’s plans for scale, replication, and sustainability than Nonprofit Lifers- according to Suarez. They are high on nonprofit experience, ascribe to a nonprofit ethic, and have management training.

The Professional Administrator (low nonprofit, high management) Like the Substantive Expert, the Professional Administrator is not married to the concept of working in a nonprofit environment. These folks have management experience, but do not have a particular draw toward the nonprofit sector over the for-profit sector– or are at least more flexible in their sector of employment than other types of executives.

I believe that we should continue to aim to hire Social Entrepreneurs. They are, after all, skilled managers with an orientation toward social missions. The problem, perhaps, may lie in how we are employing executives that fall in the other three categories. Though it may not make sense to deny Nonprofit Lifers the “hands-on” jobs that they desire, hiring managers should consider that sometimes the right kind of employee is more dependent on the position than on the candidate’s sector of preference.

For instance, we often hire Substantive Experts (low nonprofit, low management) to take on heavy nonprofit management jobs without question. Or we hire a right-brained drama-aficionado to manage the budget for a nonprofit theater without considering a more suitable candidate for this left-brained task. For some reason, we let the bond of a shared desire for social good fuzzy up our judgement.

After all, who wants to say ‘no’ to a job candidate who desires to make a difference? I don’t think we always have to. But I do think that if we want the sector to evolve, we must hire folks that can help our organizations grow.

Another possible solution for nonprofits? Invest in more professional development and create managerial opportunities for current employees so that even Nonprofit Lifers who are comfortable with the sector feel the need to push the boundaries of sector constraints and encourage organizational growth.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Trends Leave a comment