Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Purpose driven social networking – connecting in support of a mission

Posted in nonprofits, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 21, 2009

This is my 25th posting in the Social Networking and Business series and it is going to be my first in a new category on Nonprofits and Social Networking that I have been planning on launching for a while now. The area of overlap for these general topics that I want to touch on here is simultaneously important to a fuller treatment and understanding of online social networking per se, and crucial to making a modern nonprofit work in an online context.

I have worked quite a bit with nonprofits over the years and am drawn to helping support their missions and visions. A great many people are similarly motivated, and both because they are directly affected by the issues that nonprofits seek to address or because they see them as important to their communities.

On the social networking side, this posting is about how effective social networking is about more than just creating value for specific individuals. Real growth and vigor in online communities and the social networking that connects them together usually involves creating value for all members of these groups and for communities as a whole too. That sense of shared meaning and value is what brings people together and keeps them connected beyond the range of any specific short term interactions. People like to connect together to create synergies and value greater then just the simple sum of values of their individual person to person encounters.

On the nonprofit side of this, I served as webmaster at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for five years so to bring this out of the abstract I want to share a bit of my experience working with that nonprofit and its actively involved, dedicated online communities. Their mission statement at the Society is to:

• “Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.”

Their goal is in fact to help find cures for all blood cancers and to improve the quality of life for all patients and their families afflicted by any and all of these diseases.

On one level this means connecting with and developing a relationship to a large organization, but this also means connecting to a lot of very individual people within it. For an organization like the Society this means people in fundraising and in marketing and communications but it also includes people trained in and dedicated to offering information and support for patients and their families. A key to the Society’s community is that they also offer support and opportunity to meet and network with others similarly affected by these diseases. That can mean parents of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia connecting with other parents facing the same challenges. It can mean older adults facing and trying to deal with Hodgkin’s disease, or any of a wide range of other needs and challenges. The basic idea is in community and in both gaining and offering support that becomes bigger than the simple sum of the individual messages exchanged through online bulletin boards and other networking channels.

Good online social networking means sharing value and even paying it forward and taking the initiative in starting that process. But true online communities always carry this greater, synergistic value and are bound together by the cohesion and momentum that it brings. It is in the communities of members and supporters that good nonprofits gain their strength and nonprofit organizations that do not offer this potential for synergy and for true community do not succeed, at least long term. They are hollow shells and cannot sustain.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was initially founded by one family in honor of their son who died of cancer, that other children and other families be spared their grief and loss. That is a mission still in the fulfilling and with a long way to go, but the Society has developed a community around the effort to fulfill it, and one patient and one family at a time and for all patients and all of their families. Social networking online and off help make that possible and the online side of this has become increasingly central to any such effort as wider and wider sweeps of the overall community and the general public have turned to the Internet and online experience to find and to create value, and to share it. So effective nonprofits serve as a model for online communities in general and online social networking serves as a key foundation element in making nonprofits work.

3 Responses

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  1. […] and this one in mind as a dual starting point. I wrote the first half of this starting point on social networking in support of a mission and this one turns to the issue of business plans and building a foundation to grow and develop […]

  2. non hodgkins said, on December 31, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Having suffered from non-hodgkins, this was good to read. Thanks for this.

  3. Timothy Platt said, on December 31, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you for your comment and I add that it really means a lot to me to hear one of my postings has offered you value. Today is New Year’s Eve day and we have a new year and a new decade ahead. Happy New Year and I would wish you and your family a fulfilling, healthy, happy new year and beyond. Tim

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