Monday, October 08, 2007

Random Tech Observations

Here are observations on technology/nonprofits/philanthropy since my last update in August.

Social networking:
  • Several foundation staff people have asked questions of their Linkedin networks.
  • A few foundation staff people have joined Facebook.
  • JustMeans has added lots of content and some users.
  • MySpace and PayPal teamed up to let nonprofits and political groups raise funds on the Impact Channel.
  • Facebook apps, including those for charity, continue to grow (in number, I said nothing about impact).
Video, etc:
  • The Giving Channel launched (blatant self promotion).
  • YouTube announced a nonprofit channel, which also provides nonprofits with the ability to raise money using Google checkout.
  • ThinkMTV launched.
Former presidents, and other random random.:
While I'm at it, here's a way foundations could use technology that I have not yet seen, but that I think is a good idea. It's based on the emerging practice of the popular tech blogs, which offer their readers a special code to use if they want to beta test a new application. This builds traffic for the blog and gets beta testers (known to be interested in technology) for the application companies. (I did this through TechCrunch and beta-tested Tripit. I made several suggestions during the beta period, some of which I saw implemented, some of which were not. I now rely on Tripit for managing my far-too frequent travel.)

So here's the idea - foundations reach out for 'beta testers' - either through their own sites or through other blogs that reach the particular communities of interest. This would work for a Foundation thinking about new issues, holding community forums or needs assessments, or looking for genuine input from 'stakeholders.' Packard tried this (sort of) with its Nitrogen Wiki. But the beta tester community is a way to get thousands of people, who care about what you're doing, to participate in designing your program for you. (Tom Sawyer comes to mind)

Of course, foundations rarely have trouble getting people to come to their input/listening post/community feedback sessions. But these are one-off focus groups, where the community members are always more polite and restrained than they really feel (even when foundation staff leave the room and the facilitator promises anonymity). Beta testers work with the ideas, over time, for free, because they care about and need the final product/program to work. There ought to be a way for foundations to use this kind of remote, anonymous (if you want to be), ongoing community engagement - whether in designing a program, making grants, reviewing community needs, monitoring progress, and helping gauge failure or success.

Any takers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy. Good post about beta-testing. I think it's something that would work well for some of the new ideas we have in mind for Everyclick, the fundraising search engine [Disclosure: I'm its CEO].

Also, I wondered if my blog about online giving - - would be of interest to your readers for a future edition Random Tech Observations? Thanks and keep up the good work. Polly