August 29, 2012

How crowdsourcing can help your nonprofit


Best practices to help you leverage the power of the crowd

Guest post by Soha El Borno

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, general public.

Crowdsourcing can help you harness the crowd to increase awareness, cultivate new volunteers, gather information and even get work done — all for a minimal investment. How can you put it to work for your nonprofit or organization?

Since the earliest days of the Internet, people have used it to solicit and organize groups of people to participate in projects in small ways. Called crowdsourcing, this process can be done in a number of ways and used for a variety of goals.

In an early example of the practice, nonprofits would post questions to a Usenet discussion board to seek answers from the community — for instance, asking how to write a particular policy, or for recommendations about recognizing and rewarding volunteers. That “open call” approach is what distinguishes crowdsourcing from outsourcing, in which you’d send a task to a specific person or organization for help.

Crowdsourcing can be done at an organizational or individual level, and nonprofits have used it for everything from marketing and fundraising to volunteerism and activism. It’s a great way to enlist help from a wider community knowledge base, and to engage people in your work.

In the last few years, the rise of social media and new technologies made it easier to reach and engage a broader audience. But how can your organization harness the power of the crowd to help achieve your mission? We asked nonprofit experts and professionals for crowdsourcing best practices and techniques that have worked for them.

Continue reading

June 10, 2011

NCVS: Innovation and volunteerism

Soledad O'Brien
CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien at NCVS this week.


JD LasicaThis week I participated in the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for the first time. The annual conference, held in New Orleans this year, brought together about 4,500 thought leaders in the community and volunteer sectors across America.

It kicked off Sunday with a Social Media for Social Good bootcamp that I put on with George Weiner of, which drew more than 60 participants. (See our presentation here.)

But I’d rather talk about some of the other highlights I came across, and share this 100-photo Flickr gallery of the event.

Brian Reich and Scott Henderson put on a fascinating Idea Throwdown that I took part in, along with representatives from AARP, CauseCast, VolunteerMatch, MyImpact, TechSoup Global and a couple of dozen other organizations. Some outputs from that 2-hour gathering included the following:

• Participants ought to think about partnering with like-minded movements instead of launching duplicative efforts. We should be paying close attention to working together as a front, and participating in cross-sector collaboration, rather than claiming credit as trend-setters. Talk to three competitors and figure out how you can work together.

• Chris Noble: “Kill a feature a week and a program a month and your organization will get better.”

• In his “Information to Impact” session, George Weiner said, “If you’re never surprised by what you find in the data, you’re not asking the right questions.” And this priceless gem: “Data is better than gut.”

• Neil Bush, chairman of the Points of Light Institute: “Twenty years ago over 30 million people were volunteering. Today over 60 million people are.”

• I also was a panelist in Chris Noble’s session on “Brands and Causes” and argued that we need new language in the cause marketing space, especially around the nexus between nonprofit causes and corporate behavior.

• In my discussions with social entrepreneurs, we’re pretty much in agreement: Companies are too often looked at as sources of funding rather than as sources of solutions.

• Wonderful to be a few feet away from such celebrities as Soledad O’Brien of CNN (pictured above), James Carville, Mary Matalin, Neil Bush, Wynton Marsalis and many more.

January 12, 2011

Celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday over dinner


For MLK Day 2011, sign up and then eat, talk, change

Guest post by Jessica Kirkwood
Points of Light Institute

The 25th anniversary of the celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is only a few days away.

Over the years, honoring Dr. King’s legacy through volunteer service is an idea that’s taken hold, and it’s a fitting way to remember a man who lived his life in service to others.

This year, you can also celebrate the King holiday over dinner.

Creating the change we’d like to see in the world works best when we talk and collaborate with our neighbors. And is there a better place to talk than when we’re gathered around the dinner table?

On Sunday, Jan. 16, the night before MLK Day, people all across America will gather in restaurants, coffee shops, community centers and private homes to discuss what matters to them, to identify challenges facing their communities and to imagine solutions.

Picture yourself discussing your community’s needs with neighbors you’ve already met or those you haven’t.

Picture yourself discussing your community’s needs with neighbors you’ve already met or those you haven’t. What ideas for improving your community might be developed collectively? What innovation, born over broken bread, might become real change over time? What if we made it possible for our children to participate in these conversations?

This year, in addition to volunteering on MLK Day, consider hosting or joining a Sunday Supper to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much we’d still like to do to ensure the health and well-being of our communities. You can download a facilitator’s toolkit (PDF) and conversation cards to get the discussion going here.

If you can’t join a Sunday Supper event in person, you can participate in the virtual conversation by watching the America’ s Sunday Supper live webcast this Sunday at 6 p.m. EST (3 p.m. PST).

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo, Olympic legend Carl Lewis, S. Leo Chiang, the producer and director of “A Village Called Versailles,” Barton Seaver, cook and National Geographic Fellow, Michelle Nunn of Points of Light Institute, Robert Egger of DC Central Kitchen and other special guests will share their thoughts on civic engagement, volunteerism and how to continue the work of Dr. King.

Be part of something bigger than yourself this MLK Day. Make it meaningful by serving others in Dr. King’s honor and also by creating a space and time for meaningful reflection and conversation.


Jessica Kirkwood is the Vice President of Interactive Strategy at Points of Light Institute and HandsOn Network. For more information about civic engagement and volunteerism, follow @PointsofLight and @HandsOnNetwork on Twitter. You can find Jessica on Twitter at HeyJK.
September 15, 2010

Catchafire: Connecting nonprofits & professionals

Jane Slusser: Connecting nonprofits & volunteers from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAt the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp held Aug. 21 in Berkeley, Calif., I met tons of cool people, but none were more interesting than Jane Slusser, chief service officer of Catchafire.

catchafireCatchafire is a new online marketplace that connects professionals who want to volunteer their skills with nonprofits and social enterprises that need their help. Nonprofits and social businesses register on the site and tell which projects they need help with.

“People expect a lot more of the volunteer experience now,” says Jane, who came to Catchafire by way of the Obama campaign, where she mobilized volunteers to travel to key states during the primaries.

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo

Catchafire helps professionals offer their talents for worthy organizations they find an affinity with. Social enterprises can register on the site through the same portal as nonprofits. To prevent against volunteers spinning their wheels, Catchafire makes sure that both nonprofits and social enterprises have skin in the game by having internal resources and staff members dedicated to work on the project.

The start-up held a big event in New York on June 28 for the 50 Project Kickoff with speakers from charity:water,, Pepsi Refresh and other organizations.

While a number of promising Web 2.0 start-ups have launched in the social good space in the past year, Catchafire is one to watch. Continue reading

June 14, 2010

How to get involved and give back this summer

This originally appeared as a guest post on VolunteerSpot’s Summer of Service blog series.

Sloane BerrentIknow what many people say. They want to give back but they don’t know how. They want to get involved and volunteer in their community but they don’t know where to start. Well, we’re here to help!

In just one hour, you’ll have the ideas, tools, resources and motivation to get started. So let’s start this summer off with a new sense of how to give back.

For a lot of people, they go online to volunteer websites and start scrolling through the options. Everything looks good, or nothing, or somewhere in between, and they’re not sure what to pick. This is the vortex of indecision, and not where you should start!

First, block an hour from your calendar when you won’t be distracted and can sit and focus on the task at hand. Sit in a comfortable place with a blank piece of paper or in front of a blank document on your computer (with your browser closed!) and follow along with the exercise below. You’ll be identifying the key components needed to finding a nonprofit right for you and then we’ll provide the resources where you can find that match. Ready? Let’s go!

Write down the names of nonprofits that interest you. These can be nonprofits you’ve donated to in the past — maybe you’ve participated in a walk or event or have read about a cause or charity and are interested in learning more. Geographic location doesn’t matter; just start making creating a list of those nonprofits.

Write down the type of nonprofits or causes that you’re passionate about. My list would look something like: economic development, grassroots environmental groups, women’s issues (specifically girls’ education and financial literacy), health issues (specifically malaria prevention and treatment) and poverty alleviation. For you maybe it’s children or pets or house building. There is no right number to write down, if the list gets longer than five, prioritize your list to make going back later and looking at it easier for you. Continue reading

March 18, 2010

Tap into the collective power of your community

Molena, Ga. - KaBOOM!

The Extraordinaries lets your organization create a crowdsourced ‘mission’

By Kim Bale
Socialbrite staff

Recruiting friends and supporters to get real work done virtually on behalf of social-good projects is easy and fun with the help of The Extraordinaries. Based in San Francisco, the company has created a platform allowing anyone to create a micro-task and blast it to their community of friends and supporters to generate real, usable output when they spend a few minutes of their spare time on an iPhone or computer.

You can download the iPhone app at and check out a wide array of simple tasks you can help with. Missions featured today on the Beextra home page include:

  • Build a collection of cute dog photos for
  • Help build a searchable photo archive for the Smithsonian Institution (yes, that Smithsonian).
  • Create a list of job resources for youths on behalf of Goodwill.
  • Rate tweets from the SXSW conference.

banner-180x150The tools The Extraordinaries have created are available to nonprofits, for-profits, politicos, evangelists and passionate people alike. For example, Citizens Market, a company tracking corporate behavior, is using The Extraordinaries to research and rate company behavior. To map children’s recreational spaces, KaBOOM! is asking people to mark the GPS location of a playground, rate it up or down and snap a photo, such as the one at top.

Anyone can create a mission and harness the power of the crowd to achieve results while engaging and interacting with the broader community — the Extraordinaries has 29,000 registered users, more than 250 missions and 240,000 micro-tasks completed. The team vetts all apps submitted to the site.

Ways for nonprofits to use The Extraordinaries

How can you use The Extraordinaries?

1. Identify your needs. Many tasks, particularly administrative duties, are ripe for crowdsourcing. The Extraordinaries breaks these tasks into small bits of work with the potential for a big impact. Where could you use a few hundred extra hands? First identify your needs, then see how The Extraordinaries community can help meet them. Continue reading