Posts about nonprofit


I love it when people speculate in public about taking the tenants of What Would Google Do?, to a greater or lesser degree, into their worlds. A few recent examples:

* With nonprofits, Marc Sirkin does some incredible brainstorming (he laments that I didn’t cover nonprofits; so do I; it was because I didn’t have the experience and good ideas he has):

In any case, those same traits and behaviors that Google uses are polar opposite of how many traditional non-profits operate. Like most traditional business models, many non-profits have are caught in an odd spot – it’s clear that something big is happening, but there hasn’t been a forcing function like Napster demolishing the music business for example that has created a need for massive, fundamental change. Unfortunately for many large non-profits, I believe it’s about to happen and is going to really surprise and destroy a lot of well known and traditional institutions.

For example, in the international aid and micro-lending space, organizations like Kiva have been literally exploding out of the woodwork, using business models that traditional aid agencies either can’t or won’t embrace create massive shifts in how donors think about, and interact with both the institution and the recipient of their donation! . . .

New Relationships: Give people control

Over and over I’ve seen it happen. Donors say to a non-profit, I’ll give you money but you need to focus on this or on that. The non-profit’s response (rightly so in the “old world”) is we’ll take your money, but we’re the experts on what we fund, not you. Sorry. . . .

In a “Googley” non-profit, the organization would open up and let folks have a say where their money is going. Non-profits could start by allowing patients, researchers, donors and more rate and rank what is being funded. As Jarvis points out, this doesn’t mean they give up total control, but it does mean that the non-profit starts listening closely. In the future, someone is going to listen, and that’s where I’ll (and everyone else) will donate. Think Yelp, but for what to fund, what programs to create, etc.

How else could non-profits give people control? How about in fundraising? It already happens organically and primarily offline, out of site of the “brand police,” but why not allow donors to create, publicize and promote events that they create, run and manage on a technology platform that supercharges these small, long tail events. . . .

New Architecture: Be a Platform

. . . [S]ay you have a great volunteer in a remote location where you do not have a chapter or an office. Why not empower that donor (with proper training of course!) to use your platform to serve the local community? . . . . Think CafePress or Blogger.. or hell, for volunteers to create, manage and run their own “chapter” on your behalf. Chaos? Nope, that’s what we call trust baby!

Connect the dots like Best Buy does with their Blue-shirt nation, or like the Red Sox do with their online community to provide guidance, collaboration, support and the help they need to help you succeed. Can you imaging a site like Starbucks or Dell’s idea site that allows both internal and external folks to help redesign everything from structure, policies to fundraising campaigns? If you work in a traditional non-profit, I bet you can’t.. but you’d better.

Radical? I think necessary. . . .

New Society: Elegant Organization

Non-proftis can use community for just about everything under the sun. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head…
* Testing ads with mission affected patients
* Collaborating with donors on how to raise more money
* Collaborating with patients on how to best deliver services locally
* Talking openly with families about policies and program services
* Connecting patients to other patients in similar situations
* Connecting families to families
* Allowing patients and families to rate hospitals, doctors, treatments and more (gasp!)

One more… Get Out of the Way

This is a big one for me and is at the heart of why I think non-profits are headed for big trouble in this new world. Non-profits, like many traditional businesses and business models live for control. They love controlling messaging (you MUST breast feed!), and because they aren’t last I checked under CAN SPAM laws, love spamming and blasting out direct mail, email and more. They rely on controlling the event experience at walks, runs and dinners. They simply think that because they’ve been successful in the past, that they know best.

Those days are over. It’s time to flip things inside out and let your true fans help redesign your organization from the ground up. Have you really talked to donors, patients and families about what they think about those controversial policies? Have you asked your event participants to collaborate with you on how to make the event suit them better? Have you done anything that would indicate that you are actually listening?


* User-generated health care:”Doctors repeatedly say that patients are one of the most valueable sources of information. Yet the gathering of information from patients is typically restricted to the 15 or so minutes you get to discuss your situation.”

* Short-term social networks (like the Twitterflight) built around hospital stays: “Patients might enjoy meeting others in the same hospital for companionship or finding support from those with similar diagnoses. . . . Or those patients being treated in academic medical centers could find others with similarly rare conditions across the country. ”

* A remade cartoon gallery.

* Will PR replace advertising?

* Making buildings Googley by making their data transparent.

* WWGD shipping. This one’s beyond me, I’m afraid.

Meanwhile, I hear from companies like Best Buy and 3M and Wowowow that they’ve discussed how to implement some of the ideas.

Please keep them coming. I’d love to hear more – about what works and also what doesn’t work, testing the ideas in reality.