Gathering crowds to help your cause is an essential part of working in a networked world. Crowds create capital, or “go-go juice,” that can include human connections, intelligence and expertise, resources like equipment and furniture, and, of course, money.
Ideas and ventures that would have been impossible when capital was scarce are now possible because of social media platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Creating capital is an essential part of what I call “Matterness,” wherein the interests and talents of people meet the needs of organizations.
Crowds can be difficult for organizations to work with because people come and go as they please, not necessarily according to the wishes of organizations. Here are the three essential steps for turning crowds into organizational go-go juice:
* Understanding the Need. The first question to be answered is: Exactly what kind of “go-go juice” do we need? As mentioned above, crowds can contribute lots of different skills and resources. However, too often organizations think of them only as potential check-writers. Simply asking what kind of creative go-go juice we need helps to change the internal thinking of organizations used to doing everything by themselves internally. Thinking creatively about working with crowds is a way for organizations to move from working at people to working with them.
* Creating “No Fake” Zones. Crowd members want real, meaningful opportunities to help an organization. Fake requests — such as Send me money today, or my opponent will win and send your children to Russia for kindergarten! — do more harm than good. Fakery also includes messages that look like they are from real people but are from black-hole email addresses like “no reply.”
Social media are conversational vehicles. People are smart, they can see through artificial requests for help that are really just excuses to ask for donations and opportunities to capture contact information. Building trust with a crowd is essential to keeping people engaged longer.
* Following As Leading. There are times when what an organization wants to get is different from what constituents want to give. When this happens it is smarter for an organization to become a follower rather than a leader. Organizations need to be on the lookout for crowds that form that can enhance efforts. But, beware. These crowds cannot be “owned” by organizations. Leaders need to focus on Matterness in these instances and find the sweet spot that exists between what crowds what to give and what an organization needs. It is there; it just might take some conversations between the crowd and the organization for it to emerge.
Successfully leading crowds takes clarity of purpose, intentionality, and some elbow grease. People need to be treated with dignity and respect, which means ensuring that their time and intelligence are respected and used well. Organizers need to think clearly about specific benefits to the crowd participants that are mutually beneficial, not to the exclusive benefit of either organizations or their crowds.
Allison Fine is the author of Matterness, published this month by Legacy Books, LLC., which explains how organizations can become more successful by working with rather than at their own people. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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