Nonprofit 2.0, Strategy

Nonprofit 2.0…

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 – 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 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!

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  • On 03.16.06 sonnycloward said:

    Cloward here…

    A couple things…ok more than a couple:

    In my posting you refer to, I was quoting Marnie Webb from Compumentor, please give her due credit.

    Second, I am a full time IT/ICT Manager for a national nonprofit…please read bios before making assumptions.

    Third, Salesforce has nothing to do with this post. There is very little about Salesforce that is Web2.0, expect for their API.

    Forth, I am a consultant on the side. I don’t work for Salesforce, but provide Salesforce consulting to nonprofits. If you read my writing on Salesforce, you will see that I’m not out to sell Salesforce CRM to any poor fool that doesn’t know any better. The implications are offensive.

    Fifth, besides a significant difference in approach and style, I believe we more or less agree on this subject: You’re looking at it from an internal/work process POV, while I was approaching it from an external/constituent/client POV. Both are equally important drivers to successfully meeting mission and outcomes.

    The essence of Marnie’s post for me was that web2.0 technologies are (potentially) driving nonprofits to be more transparent and deliver information and programs that provide better personal attention. From that perspective, it creates a certain amount of competition among NPOs (as well as collaboration opportunities) to really step up and provide services that people need.

    I appreciate your kvetching for the most part, just get your facts straight.

  • On 03.17.06 abenamer said:

    Thanks for setting me straight, Mr. Clowder. I think I read your website too quickly and didn’t bother to read your bio. Apologies for any misconceptions on my part.

    I think you’re a bit too defensive about your consulting. You do it – that’s fine. However, don’t be surprised if what you have as the tagline for the first item you list under your blog’s Work category (“ consulting for Nonprofits”) has the rest of us thinking you’re a consultant for Perhaps you might want to disambiguate that further on your site.

    As for Web 2.0 — sigh. I don’t know yet know what it means. If it means Flickr, Google mashups and social bookmarking – I don’t quite understand the fuss. The APIs that Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are promoting are pretty exciting but I think it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary. And the implications are still very very murky for NPOs except that the programming skills for XML web services, XML-RPC, JSON etc. come at a high price so I doubt actual implementations will come soon except as part of open-source packages.

    For now, Web 2.0 is clearer as a sales opportunity for fancy pants consultants but not as purchases for your smaller NPO. What WOULD make Web 2.0 more useful for NPO is if it meant more unlocked datastores between ASPs that serve non-profits. If several of my ASPs could collaborate via web services so that I could create new functionality by pulling from their datastores, then I think NPOs might listen. However, as you probably know, the issue is never technical, but political and financial. I don’t see how Web 2.0 can overcome old-fashioned greed in that respect.

    However, I thank you for making your first comment even if I definitely got things wrong on my part. I had hoped the second comment wouldn’t be a mea culpa but it is :(

  • On 03.17.06 geilhufe said:

    “What WOULD make Web 2.0 more useful for NPO is if it meant more unlocked datastores between ASPs that serve non-profits. If several of my ASPs could collaborate via web services so that I could create new functionality by pulling from their datastores, then I think NPOs might listen.”

    I think this is really the issue. Right now, for smaller nonprofits, the NPO ASP providers are about vendor lock in and restricting data to their platforms.

    Our approach to getting over the “old fashioned greed” is to tackle the problem from a open source perspective with CiviCRM ( Salesforce’s approach is to look at their service as philanthropy which has a similar effect.

    We are living in interesting times… how interesting will be determined by how well we can deliver solutions that are relevant to the smallest nonprofits.

  • On 03.20.06 marniewebb said:

    I’m not sure that web 2.0 is an opportunity for consultants. Much of the interesting stuff that I see has to do with organizations using free tools — stuff like flickr — in ways that give them additional capacity (adding photos to a site) that they could not have easily gotten before. In my book, what makes something web 2.0 isn’t the buzz words — it’s applications that get better the more that people use them. Like flickr, blogs also become more meaningful the more that people use them as a way to collaborate. I think some of the same things of services like

  • On 03.20.06 abenamer said:

    I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Web 2.0 in an upcoming post — right after I finish AJAXifying some old apps we’ve got kicking around. As a web paradigm — Web 2.0 as represented by AJAX is very old hat. Take a look at for a 2000 article on what we now know as AJAX. I wrote what we call an Ajax app myself in 2000 when the XMLHTTPRequest object using Microsoft’s introductory documentation on it. I think me and every other Web developer slept on the tech mainly because in 2000, only IE had access to that XMLHTTPRequest object. It seemed like a nice little piece of tech that no one could use. Remote XML requests, CSS compliance, better Javascript event handling, 16-bit color and 800 x 600 or above display resolutions in every browser was just wishful thinking back then. I’m just glad Google revived it.

    The old tech lead in me loves the tech (despite the hacked together feeling of programming in Javascript’s many implementations) but the IT director in me says that this tech highlights a bigger problem that won’t be solved by a XML call…

  • On 12.06.09 Degreequestion said:

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  • On 04.28.10 wikinomics « Nonprofit SaaS said:

    [...] – (blog for one of the founders of; [...]

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