Consultantspeak for please buy my product? Or how non-profits ought to be?
Sonny Cloward has an interesting post from 10/13/2005 called Nonprofit 2.0. He discusses this trend:
…the organization that provides the greatest access to information, organized in way that allows it to be displayed and used in ways that are meaningful to the individual user, will be able to get the greatest amount of attention.
I think Sonny is trying to sell a product called Salesforce.com – another application in a sector already dominated by Kintera, Convio and increasingly, Raiser’s Edge. What he’s trying to say is that a CRM (perhaps his) will elevate a non-profit into uber-moneymaking mode. It’s funny but I’ve always had that little phrase in my head for quite some time and to see someone in the blogosphere echo it too is very stimulating. However, I never thought of Nonprofit 2.0 in the same way Sonny has.
Let’s take the idea of Cloward’s Nonprofit 2.0 and appropriate it for those of us who get paychecks from 501c3s. Let’s turn it from an exhortation on how to grab even more mindshare from your average citizen to something like this:
…the organization that provides the greatest access to information, organized in a way that allows it to be displayed and used in ways that are meaningful to the individual user and the organization as a whole, will be the most effective in measuring outcomes and creating the knowledge and practices to better those outcomes.
What would that mean to nonprofits that followed such a rubric? It would have a tremendous impact on the self-image of those who worked in the non-profit industry. For the first time, non-profit workers would be in the same knowledge worker sector as accountants, sales reps, and financiers. Most non-profit workers see themselves as something separate and away from the for-profit sector. However, the minute you start equipping non-profit workers with the accoutrements of your typical knowledge worker then I believe that many of the work practices from those industries would start to infiltrate its way into our sector.
It would also change the way we hire workers (and at my org, indeed it has). My org doesn’t just look at a prospective employee’s soft skills (merging into our “culture”, dealing with our clients, etc.) but their hard skills as well. The ability to at least handle the Microsoft Office Suite (we run 2k3) is considered paramount. We’ll eventually implement one of those Prove It! tests as part of our screening.
And eventually, it will allow an org to do much more with the same number of employees. I’ve got around 25% of our users running around on Palm 650s or Palm 700Ws and they swear by those PDA phones. We’ve never had so much connectivity with our most distant or busy employees. From the point of view of hours worked for money paid (thinking like Mr. Burns here), we’re making money like crazy. Ok, it’s not salesforce.com money but the hidden value shows up all the time. When our employees are running events, they’re always able to communicate as long as they’re in cell range. EVDO-enabled phones synchronizing with our Exchange server in near real-time are actually more valuable to us than a mobile laptop and for many of our employees have become the de facto mode of communication with other staff.
But ultimately, non-profits live or die on one thing: “It’s the clients, stupid!” If our clients aren’t better served by our whizbang gizmos, then Nonprofit 2.0 is just another silly notion. It’s an ironic function of technology in the social services sector that the level of technology needed to implement a given initiative is usually in proportion to the amount of actual need within the client population. We serve homeless clients – perhaps the toughest sector of non-profit clientele to serve with technology. With little money and no permanent shelter, technology for our clients is usually limited to a pay-as-you-go cell phone or a quarter in a pay phone.
However, if you serve those clients with knowledge workers, you may end up with a more cost-effective outcome for that client. If the case worker for that client has better IT that allows them to save that client’s identification documents, keep their progress notes in good order, keep track of their entitlements, find them shelter, keep track of upcoming shelter availability, print out a referral letter, scan a check and send it to a landlord to prevent eviction and so much more then wouldn’t that be a better way to serve the client with technology? If so, that’s what Nonprofit 2.0 means to me. In fact, we do many of those things at our organization. Slowly building on our Internet connectivity, over the years, we’ve accumulated a combination of ASP-hosted case management applications, IVR-based information delivery, and document scanning technology to better serve our clients.
My guess is that Nonprofit 2.0 is already here for even the smallest service-oriented nonprofits. In my next post, I will present my recipe for building Nonprofit 2.0 for smaller service-oriented agencies.
Treo 650s are a pain in the butt to integrate with Exchange Server. Run, don’t walk, away from them if you can because Verizon’s attempt at using Wireless Sync Workgroup is really pitiful. Sync drops a lot. Run away from the 650 and toward the 700W if you’ve got Exchange Server. It syncs BEAUTIFULLY and with very little admin time involved.
We use Foothold Technology’s AWARDS database for our case management system.
I wish we had implemented Office skills testing sooner. I think it’s cheaper than training employees on Office.
We don’t have a CRM yet. I’ll post about the whys and wherefores of that!