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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Thinking Strategically

Did you folks know there's another Michael Stein? Who also spends his days thinking about software for non-profit organizations? I was surprised too, but it's true... he lives on the West Coast instead of in D.C. - and we have different middle initials - and there are no doubt other ways to tell us apart.

I mention him because he turned me on to a book that I'd like to recommend to you: NonProfit Internet Strategies - it's by Ted Hart, James M. Greenfield, and Michael Johnstone. It deals in depth with a theme I'll no doubt be sounding over and over again in these pages: that technology is really not much use to an organization without a coherent strategy for how to employ it.

For example, an organization may have a general stratgey about home to increase volunteer involvement, and then say "oh, and we should let volunteers sign up on the web site". It's a good idea. But they are using technology as an add-on, instead of as a strategic tool.

What's the difference? In Alison Li's chapter on volunteer recrutiment and management, she starts by saying

Online tools are not just supplementing traditional methods of interacting with volunteers: they are challenging organizations to expand their conception of volunteers and volunteering activity.

Her example is that of the March of Dimes. In decades past, their campaign was carried our primarily by local voluneers ppunding the pavement. In more recent times the campaign wasmanaged in far more centralized way, with highly efficient direct mail. But they lost the fundraising impact of the personal networks of their army of volunteers. Today the internet provides a tool where you can build a campaign the capitalizes on the power of local volunteers using the global reach of the internet.

This is the principal message of all the authors' contributions: that the new technology has truly transformed many of the basic tasks of the nonprofit. Their central focus is on fundraising, but the book includes material on online community building, inspiring your constituency, volunteer management, online advocacy, and building a recognizable "brand". The authors come from a number of nonprofit organizations, technology firms and consulting groups, and the editors have a long background of nonprofit and philanthropy management. If you're hoping to jump start your thinking about your website beyond using it as an additional medium for allowing a supporter to make a donation or sign up for an event, this book is certainly good a a few sparks.

NonProfit Internet Strategies.
Ted Hart, James M Greenfield,and Michael Johnston
John Wiley & Sons, 2005

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