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.
3 thoughts on “Creating a Trusted Community Giving Center Pt. 2”
Dear Mr. Macklin,
I too have been inspired by Mr. Traynor’s project. I live right here in the city of Lawrence, and recently visited Our House Campus. My thoughts went in the same direction as yours, and I thought I’d share some of the reasons I think CGC (my own abbreviation for your wonderful Community Giving Center constrct) would be so powerful.
Our instinct to trust has long been denigrated, but is getting the cred (hard science gives everything such believability in the wider public) it deserves. The mirror neuron is the latest great neuroscientific finding. It is that light that goes off in our bain as we react to another person– as opposed to when we react to, say, a chair. the Greater Good Science Center out of Berkely is just one example of the new voice given to what were quirky oh so seventies ideas until very recently.
I have been a fan of the writing of Nel Noddings for a very long time. She teaches at Berkeley and is involved in this center. Her work on caring speaks of the importance of both the care giver and the cared for to be actively engaged with each other, and the power of that relationship. Carol Gilligan’s work on caring relationships and girls’ psychological and moral development also informs my opinion. Finally, Tom Cottle writes of affirmation; a way of being in relation with another and affirming them in the act. He calls this work that of devotion.
Certainly donors are looking to devote themselves to a cause. Maybe their mirror neurons will get a potent charge in places like these. It could be like a runners’ high, but a givers’ high instead. The natural instinct to trust has to overcome another – that of protecting ourselves and our family. Third places offer perhaps a backdrop where that is possible. Yours sounds like magic, and certainly the feeling over there at Communityworks is powerful magic.
I was glad that their website led me to your blog, and thrilled to be able to share my own perspective on our shared vision for a transformation in the world of philanthropy. I may just have to set up a blog of my own to keep going.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply and encouragement Treacy. There is science that shows the positive charge that donors receive from giving. One good article was in the NY Times Magazine: “What Makes People Give” at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/magazine/09Psychology-t.html.
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