Non-Governmental Imagination

How Do People Decide Which NGOs To Engage?
November 15, 2006, 11:23 am
Filed under: Interplast, Web 2.0

Interplast is lucky enough to have Ken Becker as a part of our community. He’s a volunteer, and since he’s not a doctor or a translator, he’s never been to any of our sites (we only work in developing countries, and we don’t take non-essential personnel to minimize our impact). But he’ll go to the mat for us. When we moved, he was huffing and lifting boxes with the rest of the staff (I got to drive the forklift!!!). He drives to the airport at 4am to drop off surgical teams bound for Peru. He spearheads our no-nos project, getting other volunteers to create over 7,000 no-nos which we would have otherwise purchased. He talks to organizations, girl scouts, church groups, lunch clubs, etc. He’s been courted by the Masons for membership and two old women for marriage.

To put it simply, he’s a raging badass, and his devotion knows no bounds. He heard about us through a story the SF Chronicle did on us a while back. But how do we find more people like Ken? More importantly, how do people find orgs that really speak to them?

Traditional advertising? There is a chicken/egg conundrum with huge charities like the Red Cross or United Way. Does their advertising keep the millions coming in the door, or do their millions allow them to advertise? They have the name recognition, but they are also viewed as inefficient and bureaucratic.

Care2? It’s a great way for people interested in a particular cause to get in touch with relevant advocacy groups (or vice versa), but let’s say you want to do more than sign a petition. Maybe you want to volunteer, maybe you want to donate, or maybe you’re just curious what the difference is between two similar groups. I use Care2, but all I do is sign petitions. Fine, but I have no connection with those groups that organize the drives. I’m nobody’s Ken.

Idealist? They have a new site redesign and aimed at expanding beyond their well-known role as one of the major nonprofit job posting sites. They are tying in social networking tools and trying to further facilitate relationships between users. We’ll see if it works. I’m planning a review of their changes once I’ve actually had time to screw around with them.

Sidebar widgets? Beth has talked a lot about these recently. I think they’re neat and fun, but I don’t think they build lasting, meaningful relationships.

Online Social Networks? There’s plenty of stories out there of people using YouTube or MySpace to get lots of people to perform a paticular action, as evidenced by the recent immigration protests.  But do those protesters turn into long-term supporters?

Brangelina? Not even gonna go there.

It’s nice to have contacts on Flickr, friends on MySpace, a fat email list and a hot celebrity spokesperson. But what we really need is a clone army of Ken Beckers. And Ken needs us, otherwise he wouldn’t give what he gives.

The nonprofit blogosphere is always twittering with what the organiztion can do to attract more people, but what I’m curious about is finding out how people find the orgs. How do they differentiate between similar groups and how they decide what to give of themselves. Any ideas?

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