Friday, June 16, 2006

On Innovation (I)

An Imagined Letter to the CEO of a Nonprofit Technology Company

Dear Sir,

I just wanted to follow-up on your presentation last night. It was very nice to meet you and I think the discussion was a fruitful one for the wide range of experience levels present. Personally, it was certainly interesting to hear the perspective of someone such as yourself, a thought leader in the field, who has seen the growing tide of ePhilanthropy since its infancy.

One thought that struck me is the importance of continued innovation for nonprofits. Technology in the non-profit world, unlike government or corporate, has a tough time mitigating the pressures to fulfill their missions while also exploring new mediums, outlets and constituencies to direct their message. It occurred to me that it is incredibly important for vendors in your field to be warrior-poets in a sense. It is critical to the health of the third sector that technology vendors not only fight to bring new products and innovations to market, but also power an informed, forward-looking and critical discourse on what the ethical and operative terms for managing nonprofit technology are. The fact that you study, advocate and have built ethical fundraising foundations into your product is critical. As web technology powers ever greater portions of the cultural and transactional lives of individuals, the importance of individual such as yourself will only increase.

As such, I greatly appreciated your closing remarks touching on web 2.0 trends. I believe it is important for both today's and tommorow's nonprofit leaders to understand that donor/consumer expectations surrounding organizational transparency, approachability and usability (via technology) will only increase. The bar will be raised, neither by vendors nor the tech marketplace, but by those that are looking for information and services in new, previously unforeseen mediums. Expanded expectations will be driven by constituents continuously. Whether the nonprofit sector wants it or not, online communication and service strategies will have to keep pace.

I look forward to hearing your response on these topics.

Sincerely,

The Nonprofit Community

10 comments:

David Geilhufe said...

Why do we imagine the CEO's of technology companies can sustain the pace of innovation that constituents will demand as society move more of their interactions on line?

Where is the role of the nonprofit technology assistance provider? The open source community? Nonprofits themselves?

Admin said...

I replied directly in the next post but wanted to draw attention to a great tangentially-related article on the open society institute website, here.

In my opinion, part of this discussion hinges on capacity building and interpretation of mission. For the greater part of the NP sector, few technology professionals are assigned to manage/mitigate innovation. This is not a bad thing, just a structural difference between corporate, government and NP technology. I am advocating that corporations are better situated to perform that funciton and pass those fruits along in a more dynamic partnership; I believe a model for this distribution partnership exists, in the knowledge and capacity sharing role of the open source community.

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