August 2, 2009 § Leave a comment
I just completed my fourth week on the job as the director of philanthropy operations at Feeding America. This is a new job for the organization, so, while they have clearly defined the parameters of my role there, I have a wonderful operation to build something new.
As an information professional in fundraising, I have always been clear about how my work supports the front line for greater success. I find and track information about relationships between the organization and it’s donors. This information and knowledge management provides a history and context for current relationship cultivation. I always thought that my the focus of my job was content and technology to manage it.
My perspective on knowledge management in the context of nonprofit organizations has been evolving, and I have come to understand that it is not about information and technology, but how people interact with technology, and how they use technology to interact with each other.
Whether it is relationships between individuals within the organization, between donors and executives, or between people and technology, my job is to help people use tools and procedures to have better overall organizational success. What I do helps information flow through the proper channels and get to the right people and get recorded in the right way for posterity’s sake.
I often refer to my job being helping the left hand to know what the right is doing, and that is still pretty apt. But when I thought about it in terms of relationships and institutional success, it contextualized knowledge management in a whole new way for me.
May 28, 2009 § Leave a comment
The Human Component in Fundraising Information Systems
My spouse and I went to see “Terminator: Salvation” last weekend, and it got me thinking about the merging of people and technology in fundraising knowledge management systems. When we create systems to manage the daily onslaught of information that we all face, our tendency is to focus solely on the technology and resist acknowledging that people are an integral part of the system. Information management systems are like cyborgs in that the human component is necessary for the technology to work efficiently.
Too often we think of technology as being totally evil, like when in the first Terminator, when the cyborg goes back in time to kill Sarah Connor, or totally good, like in Terminator 2: Judgment Day when the good Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back to protect her. Either way, we give technology too much power; it will either entangle data in an irretrievable mess, or it will be the magic bullet that will meet all of our information needs and be our salvation. While some tools are better than others, they are not going to solve our problems for us.
In order to save the world, we need the Terminator, but we also need Sarah Connor. It is the same with information technology tools; we need the hardware to house the data, but it is the human component that turns that data into knowledge.
Since people don’t yet have the ability to install a USB plug into our brains and do a data dump into the network, people need give shape to their organization’s knowledge management system. Whatever the role, fundraising professionals are responsible to and dependent on each other. Front line fundraisers enter their contact reports, prospect researchers enter ratings and biographical information, gift processors make sure that gift data is entered accurately, and events managers enter the latest activity. Over time, these data points become an organization’s institutional memory.
Like the cyborg, knowledge management systems are more than just hardware; the also have a human component. While than the database, hard files, and email are significant, how people communicate and facilitate relationships is equally, if not more important. It is easy to forget that the knowledge in peoples’ heads or that is shared in a conversation are also information assets. Policies and guidelines formalize relationships and how information exchanged and captured. The regular prospect meetings and formal liaison assignments within organizations are critical aspects of managing your information assets.
The knowledge management system as like a cyborg: the technical and the human are integral parts of the whole, and they don’t work well without each other. Your individual and collective success depends on it. Resistance is futile.
February 14, 2009 § Leave a comment
Since I study finance, wealth, and people for a living, I have a great deal of exposure to tools and information that help people understand the economic crisis. You can find my bookmarks on Delicious.
While all of the sites that I bookmark there are worthwhile, there are some that I think are exceptional:
- Planet Money: Their blog and podcast offer unconventional and innovative reporting on the financial crisis. It’s entertaining and informative, explaining complicated concepts in terms almost anyone can understand. Some of their stories are featured on numerous NPR programs, so if you’re an NPR geek like me, you’re certain to have heard them. They also encourage audience participation. Upload a photo to their Flickr page, post a question to them through their Facebook group or Twitter, subscribe to the blog in your RSS feed, and listen to the podcasts. You’ll better understand these complicated economic times and how they could be effecting you.
- IGM Forum: A web resource started by faculty members from the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Busines. The University of Chicago has long been known for its intellectual leadership in the world of finance and economics, and this crisis is no exception. Faculty members are regularly consulted by the media for thier analysis of the credit crisis and what it means for the future. While this is not a website with the intent to breakdown complicated economic policy like Planet Money, it is probably one of the primary resources that Planet Money would consult.
- Speaking of Faith’s Repossessing Virtue: The wonderful radio program Speaking of Faith (SOF) launched this series on the economic crisis in the fall of 2008. Producers of SOF have gone back to interview previous guests to hear their responses and analysis of the financial crisis. This series offers thought provoking commentary regarding the spiritual and emotional side of this crisis and what it means for us. What’s offered here are lessons of mindfulness, responsibility, and values that can help us make economic choices that are sustainable and ethical.
As always, I’m interested in more resources, so I encourage readers to share their favorites.
December 20, 2008 § 5 Comments
Now that I know about the Shorty Awards, I am spending a little time this morning thinking who I want to nominate in different categories, and what my criteria is.
I am finding that I like best the Twitterers that are smart (but I won’t follow you if you’re not, so I guess that goes without saying) have useful and/or entertaining content, and who don’t overuse auto-feeds. I like to see a little personality come through. Personal and practical, and any combination thereof. And for my vote, it helps if you have a sense of humor and that you occasionally interact with me (not to be too self-absorbed about it).
I might suggest to the shorty awards that they create a couple of categories:
- Community Building
- Citizen Journalism (which I suppose could be lumped in w/ news, but the main stream news outlets are *very* different.)
- Social Change
- Reference and Libraries
- Emergency Response
If these categories existed, I would nominate the following Twetters:
- pattidigh for Writing and Positivity
- NurtureGirl for Positivity and Social Change
- TheUptake for Citizen Journalism and Social Change
- JoinTheImpact for Activism
- AdBusters for Activism, Creativity, and Social Change
- NetSquared for Community Building and Creativity
- K.G. Schneider for Reference and Librarians
- hurricaneike for Emergency Response
- maddow for Television
There are others who I think are great for these categories (and the categories the Shorty Awards have already established), too. If you want to more Twitter feeds that I think are worth following, check it out.
I might also suggest getting rid of the Personal category because it’s a little too mushy. And from what I can tell from the nominees that I checked out in that category, all of them would fit into another category.
I think the Shorty Awards are a great idea to inspire Tweeters to think about their content and how they are using Twitter. I know that it has got me thinking! I find myself nominating people using criteria that I use for my own tweets. I look forward to seeing who wins, and I look forward to finding more interesting people to follow.