NPO Connect is based on a very strong premise: nearly every nonprofit professional has skills to share with others in the sector. When it comes to professional development, we can look to our colleagues. We can offer ourselves as mentors, and we can learn from mentors within our own ranks. A 45-year old social worker can receive guidance from a 66-year old executive director about navigating organizational politics, while learning about social media from a 23-year old administrative assistant, and offering case management insights to a 37-year old colleague. But how are all those nonprofit professionals to find each other, and how will they structure their mentorship agreements? NPO Connect provides an online tool that satisfies many of those needs.
True: confession: as much as I appreciate the straightforward goal of NPO Connect, my strongest response is not “W00T! A model for facilitating effective mentorship!” My response is “W00T! A proof of concept that online tools can be used in our sector to match all kinds of under-utilized resources with unmet needs!“
Think about it. The same web-based tool that matches nonprofit mentors with colleagues who need coaching can also match…
- volunteers with nonprofits that need them
- gifts in kind with projects that need them
- donors with organizations that share their goals
- professionals with special expertise (such as accountants, attorneys, and health care providers) with programs that need advice
- organizational partners for nonprofits that are seeking to collaborate
- businesses that have empty office space that they’d like to offer for free with nonprofits in the community
- job seekers with hiring managers
…and so on.
However, we lack an online tool that knits all of these things together. We need a single login that will take us to a password-protected online work sheet or wish list, so that we can bring together all the components needed to succeed in a project, and so that we can invite stakeholders and collaborators in to pledge various kinds of resources.
Thanks to the NPO Connect team, it’s clear that the technological challenge of using online tools to match needs and resources can be met. But other elements are needed: funding, a strong commitment to collaboration in building this, and the right kind of outreach to convince potential users to populate the online tool with up to date information about needs and resources. Oddly enough, this online tool agenda presents, in itself, a challenge to match needs and resource.
I often think about a conversation that I had with my friend Quintus Jett a few years ago. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was along these lines: I’m convinced that most of the social problems in this world can be solved by getting the right resources to the right people in the right places at the right time…and people like me, who know how to do that, should be sharing that knowledge with the nonprofit sector. Of course, most of us who care about nonprofits don’t have degrees in computer science, industrial engineering, and organizational theory – however, many skills are needed, and no one (not even Quintus!) can achieve this single-handedly. I’d like to encourage you to think about what capacities and assets you can bring to the effort to meet needs and achieve goals in the nonprofit sector more effectively.