Crowdsourcing is just one of the many forms of Web 2.0 or what is being referred to as the new social media. It is a combination of the two words crowd and outsourcing. According to Jeff Howe, “Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.” Howe includes a second definition he calls the Soundbyte Version, “the application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software” (crowdsourcing.com).
An example of crowdsourcing about which most of you have probably heard is Wikipedia.com. Anyone with an internet connection can add or subtract information onto the website. Another example is the fundraising practice employed by the Red Cross in its effort to amass donations for earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti. Through its texting campaign the organization has raised over $5 million. Yet, this is just the tip of the open source iceberg and nonprofit organizations must take the time to educate themselves on these new trends (this process can be accomplished and propelled forward by the recruitment of members of the newer generations for board and staff positions).
When I started my nonprofit management master’s program in 2008, one of the first things taught was the need to control and manage a nonprofit’s outgoing public messages and to have a designated spokesperson. However, I do not believe that is going to be an effective posture to take if nonprofits want to survive over the next 10 years. In a research article written by Heather Gowdy, et. al., of La Piana Consulting and entitled, Convergence: How Five Trends will Reshape the Social Sector (http://www.lapiana.org/downloads/Convergence_Report_2009.pdf), the authors found that today people want sincere and authentic information, not prewritten and well-edited messages, and they want it from multiple sources. The authors write, “To have a credible voice in this environment, nonprofits need to empower everyone in their organization to be a spokesperson” (ibid, p. 10).
Crowdsourcing is only one way to use social media. More and more sites are being developed to garner merely minutes of social engagement in hundreds of people’s days through various forms of Web 2.0 and the network connections that accompany all those who participate. Tasks may include last minute event notifications, rallies, and many other forms of volunteerism. For more information, take a look at the following sites and see for yourself what is happening in the virtual nonprofit world. Maybe it is time to get onboard and stretch your communication reach. The new social media is not going away and it will never be static.
By Patti Hansen