Volunteer Engagement at a ‘Networked Nonprofit’

Beth Kanter and Alison Fine are two of the nonprofit world’s most talented trainers and thinkers. Separately they’ve been talking for years about how organizations can adopt social networking approaches to fundamentally change how they meet their missions. Now they’ve partnered to author a new book, The Networked Nonprofit, which is currently the top-selling “Nonprofit” title at Amazon.

The thesis of the book, which is that many of today’s most capable nonprofits are also “Networked Nonprofits,” is simple and yet profound. Particularly powerful is its challenge that everyone at a nonprofit, no matter the role, can help transform the organization into one that is more flexible, transparent and effective:

Networked Nonprofits don’t work harder or longer than other organizations, they work differently. They engage in conversations with people beyond their walls — lots of conversations — to build relationships that spread their work through the network. Incorporating relationship building as a core responsibility of all staffers fundamentally changes their to-do lists.

I had the pleasure of catching a presentation by Beth and Alison at this year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service. There was so much great stuff to process and the crowd was active and engaged. It’s clear that the arrival of the book and its embrace by the sector signals a watershed moment.

There’s no doubt that social networks are allowing organizations to connect with and  recruit non-traditional volunteers in new ways. At the same time, volunteer service organizations need to rethink how they work and what technology they use.

The question is what can volunteer coordinators – those who are tasked with the work-a-day chores of volunteer engagement – do to help bring about this transformation?

Recently I shared some thoughts on this at Beth Kanter’s blog, where I explored how Needs Assessment, Opportunity Design, Outreach and Marketing, Screening, and other functions of volunteer engagement might look at a Networked Nonprofit.

You can read the post here.

(Thanks, Beth, for the opportunity to share with your audience!)