Trust Agents: Bestseller Good Fit for Nonprofit

Trust Agents: Bestseller Good Fit for Nonprofit

In the index to Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s new book, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, the words charity, nonprofit, and fundraising do not show up. I looked.

But still, Beth Kanter’s name is there. Through her blog (number one on the List of Change), Kanter has made a trickle of conversation about using social media for good causes into a river, the currents of which most of us now happily paddle.She has been a game changer, and is certainly a trust agent.

Kanter’s story shows up in Trust Agents within the context of "community." For that is the subject of Trust Agents. Not how to make money, not how to sell shoes, not how to raise funds, but how to build communities.

Trust agents, for Brogan and Smith, are the glue that hold communities together. They are the pioneers of the social web, digital natives who have learned to communicate with (not to) people.

Brogan and Smith say trust agents exhibit these characteristics:

  • Trust agents make their own game. They are comfortable enough to experiment, break the rules, and to fail.
  • Trust agents are one of us. They act like us, talk like us, and are straight with us.
  • Trust Agents know the secret to leverage. They build networks out of groups and markets out of niches.
  • Trust agents are networkers. They know more people, can open more doors, and know exactly where the resources are.
  • Trust agents are masters of soft skills. They work well with others, are empowering, and revel in social interaction.
  • Trust agents know they can’t do it alone. They build armies to move mountains and motivate people to achieve together what couldn’t be done alone.

Brogan and Smith provide dozens of examples of trust agents, such as Oprah Winfrey, Robert Scoble, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Trust agents also sound suspiciously like change agents, social entrepreneurs, and a growing number of people who are transforming their nonprofits.

Trust Agents isn’t just for the business minded. Community is a universal concept, and one that is particularly applicable to social change.

At the end of their book, Brogan and Smith name six "games" that anyone can still create. One of those is: Master leverage and use it for good. Their example? Beth Kanter, their "patron saint of nonprofits and technology."

Chris Brogan’s blog. Julien Smith's website. Other reviews include those by Kivi Miller Leroux, and Frank Barry.


Joanne Fritz has worked in the nonprofit world for most of her 30-year career beginning with teaching at the secondary, college, and university levels. Fritz has served on numerous nonprofit boards and was chosen to participate in leadership programs in two cities.

Joanne Fritz writes for Non-Profit Blog on