Nonprofit organizations' traditional approaches to online outreach have strong limitations. Jason Mogus, in a recent presentation, focused on new organizations building more effective awareness and action through networks. These nonprofits rely less on branding and traditional silo reporting structures.
On February 7th, I attended a talk delivered by Jason Mogus at Net Tuesday, Vancouver. He looks, in part, at a movement by some organizations that see the internet less as a publishing channel to one that is mainly conversational. Non-profit organizations need to reach their audiences in the venues that the audience frequents to be more effective. Also what is significant for networked organizations is the attempt to break down the barriers between “online” and “real world” experiences. Today, people and organizations function in both spaces and should not view them as separate spheres of activities if they wish to be successful. He talked about how traditional non-profit organizations are driven by policy and they promote policy solutions. They define their influence based on an expert culture where they direct their campaigns to senior decision makers. Typically, these organizations are silo structures which focus strongly on promoting their own brand at the expense of partnering with other organizations and individuals. Consequently, they are turned inward as a result with little growth to show for their efforts. I liked this part of the presentation a great deal as I began to realize how organizations or suppliers who promote strong brands may be doing so at the cost of building stronger relationships which would benefit multiple audiences or publics. Networked non-profits tend to be more focused on grass-roots strategies which are not about “pounding the list.” It is somewhat liberating to move away from the idea of non-profit organizations publishing content for a selective membership towards engaging a larger audience through partnerships. Many organizations are obsessed with building membership through narrow concepts of branding. They may be drawing too much influence from for-profit enterprises where strong branding is essential for success. Part of the strength of a non-profit organization is its ability to push the common or social good. This may, at times, be at odds with promoting an organizational brand.
Overall, Jason gave a great presentation that was filled with many helpful strategies and ways of rethinking organizational values. If you have the opportunity to hear Jason speak I highly recommend it.