Tilling the Soil: An Interview with Allison Fine

I've been following Allison Fine's work for years, and have so enjoyed how our paths have crossed in the Jewish community in recent years.  Allison is the author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author (with Beth Kanter) of The Networked Nonprofit.  Recently, Allison has been serving as the president of the board at her synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York. This position has given Allison the opportunity to put her theory into practice, and to examine intimately the potential and challenges of synagogues as networked nonprofit.

As part of our blog carnival on Connected Congregations, Allison has written a very thoughtful case study of her work at Temple Beth Abrahram, exploring what it has taken to lay the groundwork for becoming a networked nonprofit. You can download it here. I had a chance to ask her some questions about it.

1)  Why did you write this case study?

The role of temple president is enormously time-consuming and difficult. It's a lot like being the president of a local school board with a lot of constituents, technical issues to wrestle with and a fast changing environment. Except that public schools aren't going out of business and synagogues are struggling to stay in business. I wanted to provide a snapshot of my experiences wrestling with the hard questions of what synagogues will look like ten and twenty years from now within the real and difficult demographic, generational and economic shifts that are threatening our survival. How do we stay relevant and meaningful in the lives of our congregants? How do we meet our financial commitments when the dues model is not sustainable? How do we do what we do best and network the rest?

As the case study outlines, just positioning ourselves to wrestle with these questions has taken up much of my tenure as president. The key lessons so far for me is that when we have the courage to look at our ecosystem through a lens of abundance (people want to support us even if it's not at what we now have as full dues) rather than scarcity (people want to game our dues system) good things can happen, like raising over a million dollars to renovate our sanctuary this past summer for the first time in over sixty years. In the future, we are likely to combine programs with other synagogues and our local JCC over the next few years, we are likely to come up with a more flexible donation system that allows people to stay connected to us after their kids are bar mitzvahed, and we are likely to continue to exist into our twelfth decade, but we will be put together differently. Capturing the beginning of that journey to share with others on the same road is why I wrote the case study.

2)  You co-authored the book, The Networked Nonprofit, and clearly have thought a lot about what that means.  What's your vision for how synagogues can and should be networked nonprofits?

The biggest challenge for synagogues in this century is undoing the membership model from the last century. There are too many choices for ways to be Jewish today for temples to say that there is only one right way to be a part of our community. Synagogues need to move away from transactions (how many tickets to high holidays have we sold?) and have an unrelenting focus on relationship and community building.  We need to strengthen the social ties between congregants, not just between members and the synagogue, and engage in meaningful conversations with them on land and online. Synagogues need to be a part of our lives, not an addition to our lives.

3)  In your case study, you talk about how we need to confront congregational culture as a starting point. "… the default settings … had to change because they did not reflect the reality of the congregation or the spirit of a networked organization. And the change had to begin in the boardroom."  Why does the board need to own the responsibility for culture change, and what kind of leader is needed to make that happen?

Boards and clergy are the culture setters in synagogues. Together they determine the values that an organization lives by, which in turn drives the processes. In my case study, this manifested itself in how we treated people asking for financial relief from dues. Are they considered slackers or community members who need our love and care? That determination will create procedures, forms, approaches that make people feel a certain way. The hard work for organizations is identifying and challenging their own assumptions (often old ones that haven't been aired out in a while) about why and how we do what we do to make sure that the systems and procedures that emerge downstream reflect our values.

4) How do you define community in a networked congregation that is different from the traditional approach to synagogue life?

The dues structure itself is at the heart of a lot of the distance congregants feel from their synagogues. It is a bill that people are expected to pay, unless they're struggling and then they have to go through the humiliating process of asking for relief. Everyone should pay their fair share, but they should be treated as adults who can decide for themselves what that amount is, and if synagogues can't make the case that they provide value, that their continued existence is important and relevant to the lives of their congregants, well, then they won't survive. But I think we will, we just have to flex some communication and relationship muscles we've never had to exercise before.

5) What congregations (or other organizations) and/or leaders have you looked to for inspiration and support as you've been pioneering this new approach to congregational life?  What have you learned from them that's been applicable to your synagogue?

As we wrote in the Networked Nonprofit, I found the most exciting aspect of this moment in time is that traditional organizations across issues areas, service organizations and advocacy groups, are remaking themselves as social networks. They are taking down the walls and engaging with their communities, building relationships rather than turning the turnstiles of transactions. And synagogues and Jewish day schools are just beginning this process. The most important part of this journey for traditional organizations is for leadership to have the courage to make themselves uncomfortable by working different, more transparently, learning more about what their community wants from them, engaging them as full partners in problem solving, treating them as smart, generous people not names in a database. It's a very exciting time!

6)  You've clearly made a lot of progress during your tenure as board chair.  What does the congregation need next to continue this trajectory?

I'm not sure where we will be in a year much less three to five years, but I think we've made some progress in changing the relationship between the institution and our membership. The three most important things I see us doing in the future are:

  1. Providing training and support for new leaders to serve on the board and on our task forces.
  2. Unhooking ourselves from the assumption that the number of members is the most important measure of our success.
  3. And remembering to have fun together!

You can download and read Allison's full case study here.

 

This post is part of a blog series on Connected Congregations being curated by Darim Online in partnership with UJA Federation of New York.  Through this series, we are exploring what it means for synagogues to function as truly networked nonprofits. Connected Congregations focus on strengthening relationships, building community, and supporting self-organizing and organic leadership.  They are flatter and more nimble, measure their effectiveness in new and more nuanced ways, allocate their resources differently, and use technology in a seamless and integrated way to support their mission and goals.  We hope these posts will be the launching pad for important conversations in our community. Please comment on this post, and read and comment on others in the series to share your perspective, ideas, work and questions. Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting this work. 

 

Connected Congregations: Launching a Blog Carnival

We are stepping through the threshold of a new age.  Connected, individually empowered, globalized, diverse and personalized.    The technologies of today are far more than digital communication tools – they are transforming society at an increasingly rapid rate, with important implications and opportunities for the Jewish community.

Synagogues in particular are in the spotlight in this moment of transformation.  When communities are self-organizing, and individuals are seeking “anytime, anywhere” involvement, the structures of synagogue business models, programs and culture are often resonating less and less with those we seek to engage.

In partnership with UJA Federation of New York, and inspired by the work of Beth Kanter, Allison Fine, June Holley and many others, Darim Online is launching an initiative to explore what it means for synagogues to function as truly networked nonprofits.  We call them Connected Congregations. Connected Congregations focus on strengthening relationships, building community, and supporting self-organizing and organic leadership.  They are flatter and more nimble, measure their effectiveness in new and more nuanced ways, allocate their resources differently, and use technology in a seamless and integrated way to support their mission and goals.

As we seek to create rich, connected congregations, investing in relationships is the foundation on which everything else is built.  Like fabric that’s made up of individual threads woven together, the strength of the community is dependent on the strength and character of both each individual thread (relationships) and the tightness and pattern of their weave.

But being a weaver and knitting a healthy and vibrant community takes more than good intentions.  It means knocking down ‘fortress walls’ (in the language of The Networked Nonprofit), pivoting our culture, evolving our staffing structure, and remaking our structures of leadership.  It takes real change, and active stewardship of that change over several years. There’s a lot of research and work to come for all of us. 

As we get started, we’re launching a blog carnival on Connected Congregations.  Over the next few months we’ll be handing the microphone of this blog to many smart people both from within and outside of the Jewish community, and some who straddle both worlds.  We’ll be encouraging them to share their ideas, their work, their insights and observations in order to develop a narrative and invite you into a conversation about being – and becoming – a Connected Congregation.

You can follow this series of posts on our blog by searching for #connectedcongs on our site, and following the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #connectedcongs.   Do you have a story or insight to share?  Contact Lisa Colton if you’d like to be considered for participation in the blog carnival.

This post is part of a blog series on Connected Congregations being curated by Darim Online in partnership with UJA Federation of New York.  Through this series, we are exploring what it means for synagogues to function as truly networked nonprofits. Connected Congregations focus on strengthening relationships, building community, and supporting self-organizing and organic leadership.  They are flatter and more nimble, measure their effectiveness in new and more nuanced ways, allocate their resources differently, and use technology in a seamless and integrated way to support their mission and goals.  We hope these posts will be the launching pad for important conversations in our community. Please comment on this post, and read and comment on others in the series to share your perspective, ideas, work and questions. Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting this work.

Becoming the Leader of a Networked Nonprofit: The Jewish Enrichment Center

Right before Thanksgiving, Caren Levine (Darim’s Learning Network lady extraordinaire) suggested that I write a blog post about how we think about out work at the Jewish Enrichment Center as a networked nonprofit. We are not a networked nonprofit, I thought. At least not yet. But now, months later, I can see that we’ve come a long way.

Early in our planning, a few of us read The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change, by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. I was inspired by the book’s vision of a nonprofit that’s connected with its volunteers, transparent in its business, and nimble – able to shift internally, quickly, to meet emerging needs. “Do what you do best, and network the rest,” Kanter and Fine told me. As a startup with limited resources, it sounded heavenly to have a community of volunteers sharing the workload. I was hooked.

But I'm not naturally a network person. I'm the kind of person who reclassifies emails as unread, pretending I’ll answer them someday. At the time I read the book, I had never written a blog post, was never chosen by my family to take pictures (who wants a blurry, back-lit photo?), and couldn’t imagine why facebook was a good use of my time.

But Kanter and Fine had held out this tantalizing vision of what the Jewish Enrichment Center could be, and I was certain we COULD realize it in our community, if only I’d learn some new skills – online and off. So I applied for help through Darim’s Boot Camp. How would my much younger sister-in-law put it? Oh, yeah. Best. Decision. Ever.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about being a networked nonprofit:

  • Listen. The most important thing I can do is go out and listen, online and on the ground. I’ll find out what people in my community care about. I’ll discover where parents are already online talking with each other, and I can join in the conversation.
  • Permanent beta. It’s a gigantic (and rewarding!) task to create an innovative new model of Jewish enrichment. Our mindset has to be permanent beta: what matters is that we stay true to our vision of partnering with children in Jewish exploration. The logistics of it all – they’re fluid. So we experiment, trying new ways to partner and new online tools to build relationships around Jewish engagement. We embed regular reflection into all aspects of our work. And when something doesn’t work, well, it’s frustrating, but also okay, because we knew from the start that not everything would sparkle. We move forward.
  • Be transparent. Speak authentically. As nervous as I was about opening up our work to the public, creating a blog that details our day-to-day partnership with children may have been the single most important step we took in connecting with our community. Those pictures of children really DO tell a thousand words. Parents, grandparents, folks local and national – all can get a true taste of what it’s like to be part of the Jewish Enrichment Center.
  • Listen harder. Because our deepest human desire is to be seen, to be known for who we are. I want every child, every parent, every person who interacts with the Jewish Enrichment Center to know that their contribution matters.

The response has been extraordinary. It seems that the more we share and the harder we listen, online and in person, the closer people grow to the Jewish Enrichment Center and to each other. When I share our needs or struggles (now THAT took some getting used to), people offer their help. Or at least their empathy, which I appreciate, too. We seem to be developing a communal sense that we’re all in this together. Our success is shared success.

We still have a long way to go. I want to do a better job facilitating relationships around Jewish engagement, and I don’t yet understand how to use our Facebook page and tweets to keep in-person conversations going. I also want us to be braver, making even more parts of our organization transparent. For example, I love this dashboard at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and wonder how we might make our own finances and stats more transparent (and generate a little more financial love in the process).

What have you learned on the path to becoming a networked nonprofit?

Rabbi Rebecca Milder is the Director of The Jewish Enrichment Center, and was a participant in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, which is generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  She tweets at @remilder

The Networked Nonprofit Book Club: Anytime, Anywhere Learning

(cross-posted on Beth’s Blog)

When The Networked Nonprofit first was published I grabbed a copy for myself, my staff, and my major funders, and further recommended it to the leaders of the Jewish organizations with whom I work. As I read the book, I instantly knew that this was meaty stuff that we’d all need to chew on. Facebook had recently revamped its Groups, and it seemed like the perfect place to take the conversation for a spin.

Thus began “Darim’s Networked Nonprofit Book Club”.

My staff and I invited many people in our networks and our professional communities who we felt were “ripe” for the conversation. Those people added folks from their own networks, and the group quickly swelled to more than 50. We began the Book Club by carefully crafting a couple questions per chapter, and focusing on about one chapter per week. We quoted the book, took inspiration from the questions listed at the end of each chapter, and attempted to lead a traditional book club on Facebook.

It was working pretty well as planned. Then members started posting their own questions, and some people just found the book and joined when we were already discussing chapter 5. Actually none of this mattered. In fact, it was great. What began as ‘hub and spokes’ naturally evolved into a network discussion: the Book Club became a rich self-serve space where like-minded people came to learn with and from each other, explore ideas, share knowledge and experience, and challenge one another. We dropped the formal book club structure (Week 2: Question 3 ….”) and started to steward the conversation around Network Nonprofit themes.

We found the Book Club really thrived around 3 areas:

  1. We developed vocabulary and conceptual understandings together: Core and periphery, social media as a ‘contact sport’, and awareness of what “losing control” really means in a social media landscape, for example. By developing a shared language our Book Club bonded in a way – we could talk with each other about these ideas and visions even if our bosses and colleagues didn’t always get it. Having this peer group was validating and supportive.
  2. We rose to the challenge when members of the Book Club posted things they were wrestling with. One person’s “fear of failure” post elicited a robust conversation and sharing of case studies to help us reframe “failure” in this time of experimentation and change. Participants’ willingness to put these kinds of issues on the table furthered everyone’s learning much more than if I had formulated the questions. These posts really helped us focus not only our actions, but also how we are leading culture shift within our organizations.
  3. We embraced the fluid, emergent and evolving nature of the conversation. While we are still actively discussing the themes in The Networked Nonprofit, we are also using our Book Club to explore related works and ideas. I recently wrote a book review on our blog and a member of the Book Club commented, “we should do a Book Club for this one too!” So we introduced the book and have begun a lively (and fairly focused) discussion. Many new people joined the Facebook Group as they learned about the opportunity, and thus the size, scope, topics and energy have evolved over time, and I suspect will continue to do so.

The Facebook Group functionality has been fantastic for the Book Club. Its flat structure has enabled me to steward while not quite leading the group through our discussions. I sometimes stir the pot, drop in links to relevant articles, and ask follow up questions to deepen the discussion where I think there’s room to grow. The ability to tag anyone in the group (whether you’re Facebook friends or not) has supported a very warm and social culture, and has surely deepened the conversation by weaving participants back into threads over time. Unfortunately Facebook doesn’t (yet?) allow groups to have super succinct usernames, but you can set the group email address that does create a customized URJ (https://www.facebook.com/groups/netnonbookclub), and I also created a customized link through Bit.ly which provides an even shorter and still intuitive link as well: http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub

I am constantly inviting people to the Book Club to continue their learning after a webinar or live workshop, to ask questions of the group to support their own professional development and practice, and to find their peers in this work.

We’ve all found that this “anytime, anywhere” professional development is incredibly valuable, accessible and fun for the 200 members of the Book Club. It’s amazing simple (and cheap) for us to run, and a great way to build a professional network.  How do you take advantage of “anytime, anywhere” professional development?

We Will Do, And (Then) We Will Understand

Beth Kanter and Allison Fine accurately quip in “The Networked Nonprofit” that “social media is a contact sport.” You can’t expect to succeed without getting your hands dirty. As it happens, that’s just how the young nation of Israel agrees to learn the Torah – standing at Sinai, overwhelmed by the presence of the Divine, they collectively intone “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7 – what an appropriately enumerated verse). Loosely translated, “we will do, and (then) we will hear/understand.” Or, even more loosely translated, “first we will give this a try, then we’ll have some idea what it’s all about.” Israel agrees that the Torah is not an intellectual exercise, it is a lived experience.

“Na’aseh v’nishma” is your social media call to action. Knowing conceptually that it would be useful to connect with other people free of the constraints of time and space is an important step. But it can’t compare to, for instance, engaging your network on Facebook to help find the modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma.”* Sensing that social media increases the likelihood of serendipity doesn’t hold a candle to finding your next job through Twitter. Believing that social media is a key part of your communications strategy is very different from putting that belief into action. But what about those who need to feel the ROI (or rather, ROE – return on engagement) before diving in? What about the “lo n’aaseh” (“we will not do”) folks? On the one hand, there are those who will take on this challenge only because they “have to.” A friend recently told me about a colleague in her office who, upon taking the job, was cajoled into creating a Facebook account for the first time. The position involved working heavily with teens, and the person he was replacing realized as he was ending his tenure that he had missed out on opportunities for engagement by avoiding social media – “Facebook” was the advice he passed on to his successor. The new colleague is seeing early signs of success, meeting the teens in their own space, in their own language. Another friend had a similar experience:

alisonfbquote On the other hand, there are those for whom working in social media may never feel like the right fit. It may move too frenetically, require too many technical proficiencies, feel too exposing or time consuming, or any number of things. At the same time, social media is becoming part of the vernacular of our culture. Even the most reluctant of us may have to reexamine our practice in light of new ways of working. This is a familiar story to some:

Ultimately, you can’t really “get” social media without saying “na’aseh v’nishma” and engaging it as a contact sport. Facing reluctance is tough – there are always reasons not to do anything! So if you’re working on a co-worker, easing them into working with and through social technologies, it would be useful to have the following things in mind:

  1. Have a plan and a goal. Pick one thing, something that requires little effort, but can reap big rewards. Choose an internal project to work on in a Facebook group instead of over email, or tweet out questions during conference calls to solicit input from your organization’s followers and fans instead of (or as part of) a newsletter. Talk about both how things change, and what that means for your work.
  2. Blend online and on-land experiences. Reference Facebook in phone calls, share a great question from an email conversation on LinkedIn, bring digital spaces into your in-person conversations. These online spaces are not something “other,” they are powerful connective tools that can weave worlds – and people – together.
  3. Once you get started, remember that these things take time. Look for the bright spots, the places where your colleague is having success (or learning to redefine success). Focus on those, and encourage growth from there.

With social media, as with so many things, the understanding is in the doing. Admittedly, this is no easy task. Success in social media does take an investment of time, energy, thought…much like any meaningful human relationship. But this is how we learn. We do, and we do again. And then we understand. What was your “na’aseh v’nishma” moment? When did the “doing” make all the difference? (Share your voice in the comments and one lucky commenter, chosen at random, will receive a free copy of the book “Switch”.)

*The modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma” could arguably be found in cognitive psychology: “effort justification.” It’s a fancy way of saying that when we work at something, when we dig in and invest ourselves, we understand it better and appreciate it more. Hat tip to Jay Schreiber and Rabbi Josh Yuter for helping me out on that one.

Networked Nonprofit Book Club

I pre-ordered The Networked Nonprofit and cracked it open the day I received it last summer. Authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are gurus of nonprofit social media and the implications for organizations, and I was eager to continue to learn from them. What I didn’t realize is that the book would provide both conceptual and tactical frameworks for advancing any organization’s work, regardless of where you are starting from. While I’ve recommended the book to many, here at Darim we were eager to really engage with others about what this means for Jewish organizations, their leaders, and the community as a whole. On Monday, we’re launching Darim’s Networked Nonprofit Book Club. Based in the new Facebook Groups, we’ll be posing discussion questions from one or two chapters each week. We hope to learn what you’re thinking, doing, learning, and struggling with. And we hope to learn from each other, help each other solve problems, and also get a sense of where Darim’s efforts could make an important difference for you and others. We’re also learning, as this is our first book club adventure and our first large scale experiment with the updated version of Facebook Groups. So far, 137 people have joined — which has far exceeded our expectations! Even authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are on board. We hope the opportunity will help participants learn the “ins and outs” of this new tool along with us, and consider how it can be useful in their communities too. We welcome your input, suggestions and reflections on it — leave a comment here, in the group, or email us at learningnetwork@darimonline.org to share your thoughts. Want to join us? No cost – just swing on by: http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub We have posted some initial info and guidelines for the Book Club. In the interest of sharing and encouraging others to experiment with Groups, book clubs, and online community facilitation, we’re posting the information here (see below) and will be sharing updates in future blog posts. Everything on this blog will be tagged "bookclub" and "#netnon". Tweeting? Use #darim and #netnon (which is the hashtag for the book in general). Hope to see you there! It kicks off Monday, though you’re welcome to swing by and join the conversation anytime. How We’ll Work Together We will focus on one or two chapters each week beginning January 10. Each week, Darim staff will kick off the conversation with one or two questions per week that relates to themes in that chapter and implications for Jewish organizations. Together, we will reflect on what that means for our work as Jewish professionals and lay leaders. Respond to our discussion questions by commenting on that post. You can also pose questions to the group, or share links or other information by posting your own status updates to the group. We encourage you to participate in ways that are most meaningful to you. Feel free to jump into – and even initiate – conversations, and to post relevant links and resources to share with the group. If you prefer to dip in and out of the discussions, that’s cool too! There are no preconceived expectations — we want you to learn, experiment, share and connect with others. Tips for Using Facebook Groups Notification settings: BY DEFAULT, You will receive any status that is posted to the group. If you comment on it, you will also receive notifications of any additional comments on that posting. If you’d prefer NOT to receive these notifications, you can click “unsubscribe” next to that specific posting. If you’d like to receive notification about a posting that you haven’t commented on, you can click “subscribe” next to it. To change your default settings, please visit “edit settings” in the top right corner of the group. Adding members: You probably noticed that you can add your Facebook friends to the group if they are on Facebook. Please feel free to add anyone who would like to join – we only ask that you check with them first to see if they are interested. You will find the “Add Friends to Group” link under the Members photos on the right hand column. You can also email them the link to our Group so they can opt in if they’d like. http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub Group Chat: You can chat with group members who are online in real time by clicking on the “Chat with Group” link under the Members photos on the right hand column or by clicking the tab at bottom of the page. This is a fun way to make a personal connection with others in the group. When the chat box opens, you’ll see photos of group members — those with a green box are currently online. You can elect to have group chat messages sent to you going to “edit settings” and selecting that option. Living Room Policy: While we have very few rules, we do want to make the Book Club experience as fun, useful and efficient as possible for everyone. Thus, we ask you to abide by the Living Room Policy, which is basically this: If I were to invite you into my living room, I would expect you to be courteous and sociable. You are welcome to disagree or challenge me or anyone else, but you must do so respectfully. Also, vibrant discussions require good listening and asking questions or others, not only talking about yourself. Finally, please refrain from using this as a platform for marketing unrelated products or programs. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask us at learningnetwork@darimonline.org. It may take a little time for you to determine your personal preferences and customize them to fit your needs. Don’t be afraid to take them out for a test ride, tweak as needed, and/or ask us if you need help. Interested in more technical details? You can learn more about Facebook Groups here: http://bit.ly/fvSAor Resources for the Book Club If you have not already done so, please be sure to order your copy of The Networked NonProfit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. Here is a link to Amazon: http://bit.ly/aOa6nX And please feel free to view the recording of the recent Darim webinar with Allison Fine and Lisa Colton in which they discussed networked nonprofits and Jewish organizations: http://bit.ly/c8Iudm Are you tweeting? #netnon is the hashtag for the book, and #darim is for our community. Want to learn even more?! Join us at NTC in DC! Join us at NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). And by “us” we mean a whole bunch of Jewish leaders like you – in addition to the fabulous NTC program (where top notch thinkers like authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine regularly speak), the Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online are hosting a series of events for our members. Click here to learn more about it: http://bit.ly/igDAzB – we hope to see you there!

New Darim Book Group: The Networked Nonprofit – Join Us!

The Networked NonprofitAs part of our 10th Birthday Celebration, Darim is thrilled to announce our new book club! Following on the success of our recent webinar with Allison Fine, we are starting a book group to dive more deeply into The Networked Nonprofit and what it means for transforming Jewish organizations.

The Details

Darim is excited to launch our very first book club to deepen our understanding of "networked nonprofits," and to help each other adopt these approaches into our work. Starting January 10th we’ll be discussing a chapter of The Networked Nonprofit each week.

Step this way to the Darim Online Book Club!. Just click on "request to join" and we’ll add you to the group. The book club will take advantage of Facebook’s new "Groups" (note that this is different than the previous "group" structure; extra bonus – in addition to great conversation, you’ll become more familiar with this new Facebook feature.)

In January we’ll start posting questions to guide our discussion. Share your thoughts and questions as we learn from each other!

Please note: there is no cost to participate, but you will need to login to Facebook to join the group. Join us – and get reading! You can buy The Networked Nonprofit by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter here.

The Networked Nonprofit

Last week I dove into the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Conference, commonly known at #10NTC. (I dare you, search for that on Twitter and see how active is STILL is, days after the conference wrapped up. Us NPtechies are an enthusiastic, passionate and smart bunch. You can also find 58 Powerpoints from the conference on Slideshare, 870 photos on Flickr, videos on Youtube … need I go on?)

Screen shot 2010-04-09 at 4.18.20 PMOne of the best sessions I attended was where Beth Kanter and Allison Fine (among the gurus of nonprofit technology) presented their upcoming book, The Networked Nonprofit (due out in June, but you can preorder here). These two women completely understand the future of nonprofit organizations in the digital age, and I could listen to their wisdom, humor and case studies for days.

One element from their presentation keeps knocking around in my head, the idea of three stages of organizational development in this networked era.

  1. Fortress – an organization where there are insiders and outsiders, and the two rarely meet or interact;
  2. Transactional – an organization that is engaged with their community, but with the sole focus of transactions, such as getting people to sign up for an event or make a donation;
  3. Transparent – an organization that fully engages and empowers their community to accomplished shared goals.

I love the simplicity of these three stages, and the acknowledgment that getting on social media platforms is not the ultimate goal. Plenty of people are promoting events on Facebook and measuring success by the number of tushes in the seats. But the real paths to accomplishing our mission and goals, and the more accurate measurements of success go far beyond this. They also require a leap of faith, and the ability to take that first leap.

Remember the first time you climbed to the top of a high dive as a kid, your heart beating so hard you thought it would leap out of your chest, and that moment when you finally hurled yourself into the air? It’s the same moment really. And remember when you went back again and again and again to do it over and over? Yeah, it’s like that too.

So tell us — what stage are you at? What do you need to move from one stage to the next? Where do you see examples of “transparent” organizations or activities?