Even though we hear a lot more about national and international organizations such as the Red Cross, in the U.S.A., most nonprofits have fewer than ten staff members, and annual operating budgets of less than US $500,000. (It used to be possible to look up the numbers for free on GuideStar and see this for yourself; now, you need a paid subscription to their service. Alas.)
An amazing number of nonprofit projects are run by one noble soul, working with great dedication from the coffee table in his or her living room. This person hardly has an information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure - never mind an ICT specialist to maintain it!
We don't exactly agree about whether it would be a good thing for these small nonprofit organizations to die out, but I won't attempt to do justice to John's point of view here. However, I will admit that I worry a lot.
I really like small nonprofits, and I don't think that answer is wait for harsh reality to force them to choose between shutting down and being assimilated into the Borg. (In the latter scenario, they would be consolidated into a much larger nonprofit entity with a substantial technology infrastructure.)
Surely there's some way for small nonprofits, especially those of the one-person-plus-coffee-table type, to consolidate their technology infrastructures and back office administrative processes, even while each organization retains its hand-tailored (or even quirky) approach to services and programs?
For example, here in Massachusetts, Third Sector New England offers its fiscal sponsorship clients a very full complement of accounting, business planning, and human resources services. One of my other clients (who is not yet ready to unveil its plan) is working on new model for delivering remote technology services to small nonprofits in the region. Naturally, I have taken great cyber-yenta joy in bringing folks in these two organizations together to talk about how their plans can dovetail. The timing may be especially auspicious here in Massachusetts, since another project in progress is the formation of our state's first association for nonprofits. The folks who are thinking about the shared needs and interests of the nonprofit sector in our area are starting to mobilize.
But this isn't just about Massachusetts. It's about best practices throughout our profession.
Globally speaking, I'd like to see those noble souls in very small nonprofits focus their efforts on what they do best - which could be saving the whales, feeding the hungry, organizing youth soccer leagues, ensuring access to health care, or keeping German opera alive in Montana - rather than on tasks such as contract management, accounting, or maintaining a file server. I'd also like to see employees of one-person-plus-coffee-table organizations enjoy some of the benefits that Red Cross staffers can take for granted - such as membership in a group health plan, access to professional development opportunities, and use of up-to-date information and communication technology.
Sam Bower is the Executive Director of the Green Museum, a virtual online virtual art museum. Sam talks about the inspiration and mission of the museum as well as some of the web technologies used to make the museum run.
Sorry that it's taken so long to get these up, but I'm finally getting these up. The presentations listed below are on the netsquared website. I expect to get the rest of them up next week. Please note that many speakers did not prepare a formal powerpoint presentation, so we don't have files to post for them.
Ruby Sinreich is the Web Maven at Netcentric Campaigns, a division of Green Media Toolshed. She is also the founder and editor of OrangePolitics.org, a progressive multi-author blog about politics based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Previously, she was the Online Organizing Manager in the Public Policy Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Ruby and I talked in the following interview about Netcentric Campaigns and building an effective on-line strategy to support off-line, real world political organizing.
Our fabulous volunteer podcaster, David Collin, recorded Mike Linksvayer's presentation on Cultural Environmentalism during the last San Francisco Net Tuesday, along with an interview with him. You can hear it now on our
When I asked Partha Sarker from BytesForAll.net if I could interview him at the NetSquared conference, he suggested that we instead set up a round table discussion with a variety of people in attendance from around the world about their experiences in facilitating online community. I thought it was a great idea, and I hope you'll enjoy reading my summary of the discussion below as much as I enjoyed being present for it.
Partha Sarker, originally from Bangladesh, now living in Canada, a co-founder of the online organization BytesForAll.net and member of Telecenter.org