Why the Net changes how nonprofits must operate
In an interview with Amy Sample Ward, Clay Shirky really pins down what any organisation relying on members or supporters for its life must do if it is to stay in business as people increasing network online. That means change for campaigning charities, trade associations, and membership bodies who may have worked in the past through a mix of newsletters, events and perhaps not very special services. If they don’t offer more value, members and supporters will stop paying their subs.
In the video Clay tells the story of a campaigning organisation - the American Civil Liberties Union - that tried to stop members using the organisation’s name when arranging get-togethers through meetup.org. They were saying, in effect, you may have shared values and concerns, but you can’t organise around them using our name. The story has negative and positive aspects.
The negative aspect is that organisations must accept that their members can link a brand and their cause and use tools like meetup.org to get together face-to-face, and then Facebook, Twitter and other online tools to keep connecting. Or vice-versa: connect online, then meet.
The positive aspect is that smart organisations can realise what’s happening, and revise the offer that they make to members and supporters to add more value than DIY networking can offer.