One of the sessions I toonblogged at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference was Beth Kanter’s I found my free agent. Now what?
In The Networked Nonprofit, the book she and Allison fine wrote about effective nonprofits in the era of the social web, we hear about “fortress organizations”: nonprofits that work assiduously to keep their supporters and members at a distance. Volunteer activity, if it’s tolerated at all, is directed into narrow, well-policed channels.
“Free agents” are people who work outside an organization to communicate, raise funds and mobilize support for it. Their relationship isn’t the traditional get-a-zillion-fundraising-appeals-and-a-nice-annual-calendar relationship that fortresses prefer; free agents are more like peers of the non-profit they support.
Of course, some of their activities may not be the kind of things organizations are used to seeing done on their behalf. (Which gave rise to the suggestion I wound up making: manage your doubts, not your free agents. Maybe this mantra can help: “It’s not like they’re robbing banks.” Unless they are, in which case a word or two with them is probably in order.)
It was a fascinating workshop, and there were several great reports on it:
- Devon Smith
- LauraLee Dooley
- Jonny Goldstein‘s great visual notes
- and of course Beth Kanter
(Found more? Let me know!)