Thursday, August 25, 2005

non-profit tech and philanthropy

My dear friend Keira McPhee sent this wonderful excerpt along from Marnie Webb at ext337...

It’s really my fault. I try to make the hook fundraising because I think that’ll pull people into the conversation. But utilizing social tools on the web—wikis and blogs and RSS—participating in web-wide conversations, all of that, it’s not about the fundraising potential.

Sure, I’m convinced that translates into engaged users and those engaged users are more likely to support your organization in a variety of ways. But if we think of it as only about fundraising then it’s only about marketing. And if it’s only about marketing, it’s a trick. It’s a slick new version of a postcard dropped in the mail to 10,000 of your closest friends.

It’s about turning over part of yourself. In two essays (1, 2) Peter Merholz argues that it’s not about the technology. He writes: “Web 2.0 is primarily interesting from a philosophical standpoint. It’s about relinquishing control, it’s about openness, it’s about trust and authenticity. APIs, Tags, Ajax, mashups, and all that are symptoms, outputs, results of this philosophical bent.”

And that’s true for nonprofits. It’s about opening up your organization so that you can achieve greater impact and create the change you seek by allowing your constituency to take pieces of your organization and make something out of them. It’s making the ideas portable and actionable. In the language of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, it’s about giving your constituency the power to figure out their own next actions and the tools to do them.

Saddhu. Well said. Sounds like Open Space to me. The only thing I would add is that the same is true for good fundraising... it isn't about the money either--or marketing. It's about creating an open and inviting organization. It's about connecting to people at the level of what matters to them...what they have a passion for. And then inviting them to step forward and take responsibility for that--and creating the opportunities (holding the space) for them to do so. To paraphrase the above, the money is a symptom, an output, a result, of this practice.

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