NTEN’s Katrin Verclas has a very thoughtful piece on social networking and why it matters here. I like it because she shows that while the social networks are over-hyped at times, there is some real value for nonprofits if we use it as a tool to find supporters efficiently. My thoughts exactly. She also includes some eloquent thoughts from the Agitator, a blog well worth your time.Read Katrin’s whole post but here are some highlights, in her words:Simply put, social networks are where there are a lot of people in one place. So, good place to go recruiting. Nonprofits also need to communicate and engage with greater authenticity in order to survive and thrive in this age of ‘sousveillance’, increased transparency, and accountability. This is much needed now when professionalized advocacy has worn thin and email advocacy is becoming increasingly less effective. Dialogue – and not monologue – is the name of the game. Positioning and spin, particularly in fundraising and marketing, is trickier than it used to be. For example, one man’s blog post criticizing Heifer’s fundraising methods resulted in a widely-watched YouTube video and a conversation with the organization about the best ways to support people locally. Anecdotal evidence suggests that smart social networking results in increased supporters, but the return on investment is still unclear. MySpace does not yield fast list growth for the average organization, but some nonprofit’s activities have resulted in increased “community brand” support and growing contributions, sign-ups, and participation – albeit usually only when part of a comprehensive engagement strategy. Here’s what the Agitator said, as quoted by Katrin:We believe marketers must study their current and potential audiences, understand the communications habits and preferences of those targeted, and then experiment to test explicit marketing hypotheses relating to reaching and moving more effectively those targeted. For most nonprofits, I’ll wager that less than half your current supporters have visited your website, that less than 10% of your current donors have contributed online, that less than 5% of prospects visiting to your website are “captured” by any means of registration or conversion. And a miniscule number have posted MySpace or Wikipedia entries or YouTube videos. This is not to be critical. Rather, it’s to underscore the strategic and tactical challenges presented by the online medium. Nonprofits are just starting to get good at the basics of marketing in this medium.Yes, I agree completely.