Bill Traynor and other experts who are applying network theory to nonprofits have inspired my thinking about a hypothetical Community Giving Center. Hopefully the ideas will inspire other community philanthropy groups.
In my last post, I talked about the center’s physical environment and culture of reciprocity. Here’s what else a trusted, cool Community Giving Center would be about:
It’s about “low-level affiliation” and “choice” – we all value choice and options based on our changing interests and needs. The concepts of options, opportunities, and real consumer-driven choice are some of the most effective communications messages (see The Language of Trust, Words That Work, or other books on communications framing for a deeper dive on this).
The Community Giving Center would be set up to be easy to join and leave, to move in and out of options to participate, and to take advantage of options for reciprocal value exchange. Bill Traynor said to think of a networked organization as a health club without a binding contract; people want to be connected to a place with exciting options, but not obliged to it.
It’s about “nimbleness” and “open architecture” – It’s about function (getting things done) over form. Traynor noted that people of all demographics are fleeing highly-structured organizations with high expectations of “members.” People want environments that are flexible, time-limited, and able to re-organize as they go. Nonprofits, unfortunately, tend to have a tough time moving away from hierarchical, rule-bound committees and organizational forms. A network-oriented Community Giving Center would revolve around rapid iteration. It would support self-defined, self-organized groups of donors in testing new ideas and projects, evaluating next steps, and expanding or shutting down the project as they saw fit.
What if a generous person was able to jump in at any point and watch or even participate in a grantmaking committee at your United Way or community foundation? What if your local giving circle invited you and your friends to test some ideas with them, allowed you to give along side of them as it made sense for you without having to officially join?
Intrigued? Me too. More ideas in the coming days.