There are six practices of high-impact nonprofits, according to Crutchfield and Grant’s findings in their book, Forces for Good. One of the central six? Nurture Nonprofit Networks. It means share knowledge (grow the pie, work together for change…) Knowledge sharing is a practice that nearly all of the world’s most impactful nonprofits have in common.
Nurturing networks and spreading best practices is one of many things that sets the nonprofit sector apart from the private sector, and it may be one of the biggest differentiations. You won’t catch Thomas’ English Muffins freely giving away the secret to their “nooks and crannies” just to bring the entire world (competitors included) one step closer to creating the perfect English muffin. If they can’t do it, they don’t want anyone else to do it. But nonprofits will put themselves out of business if it means bringing the world one step closer to a common goal.
People are becoming a bit like organizations as individuals build personal brands and play important roles in information dissemination to advance social change. A museum must be conscious of its brand and the professional advantages supplied by the institution. But a museum should not overlook the more personal/professional advantages that can be leveraged when museum employees have the tools they need to connect and engage with other professionals If nurturing nonprofit networks creates high-impact nonprofits, then certainly nurturing nonprofiteer networks leads to even higher-impact nonprofits.
These are four basic online resources for arming museum professionals with the social technology tools needed to embrace new media and encourage both sector transition and innovation:
1. MUSEUM 3 “Museum 3 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the future of the cultural institution sector. Since it began in 2007 as a social network, Museum3 has grown to almost 3000 members from across the world. In 2010 Museum3 incorporated into a not-for-profit organisation. This has allowed us to plan for extended services including conferences, masterclasses, public talks, new partnerships and new cultural products including podcasts and vodcasts.” One of the reasons why I think that this site is so cool is because it’s international. Talk about sharing the knowledge.
2. MUSEUM-ID: Another cool connecting site is MUSEUM-id, which is also run through Ning and called an “ideas exchange and social network for museum professionals.” Let’s not go nuts here- neither of these social networks is booming with the activity of your Facebook or Twitter feed, but when you consider that these social spaces exist to exchange ideas with similarly-interested professionals, the spaces are pretty darn cool and extremely useful.
3. MUSE TECH CENTRAL: How did I find the leads for so many of these innovative museum social technologies? I started out on Muse Tech Central. I adore it. Muse Tech Central is the Museum Computer Network project registry and it’s a gold mine of museum inspiration. It’s pretty simple, too: it is a list of new and ongoing technology-based projects taking place in museums.
3. CFM’s RESEARCH ROUND-UP: Recommending AAM’s Center for The Future of Museums to museum futurists (right now-ists) is like recommending Mashable for a social media fan; it’s been done and you probably already know a lot about it. Yes, the blog is awesome… but have you checked out their Research Round-Ups? They have everything from academic findings to news articles to essays to commentary. It’s a great complement to the weekly Dispatches from the Future of Museums that you can sign up to have arrive in your inbox, but I don’t see the Research Round-up celebrated as frequently. Knowing what research has been uncovered can be a powerful tool for your museum. Why reinvent the wheel? It helps to take a look at what we’ve figured out thus far.
Getting involved in these networks and checking out these websites probably shouldn’t replace normal social media activities like engaging professionals in your network on Facebook and Twitter- but it’s a great start and a terrific complement to those efforts. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that keeping an eye on these resources will keep you smarter than the average museum social media guru. Not to mention, they’ll keep you thinking, questioning the future, and preparing for new ways to engage audiences online.
*Header image from The Nonprofit Quarterly
About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore