My interest in Ning continues unabated, especially after seeing that over 100,000 networks have been developed so far. Marc Andreesen's post on the accomplishment indicates that one of the reasons for their incredible growth is that Ning developers are focusing on making it ridiculously easy to set up your own network. I'm here to tell you that they're succeeding with that plan. You can definitely set up a network in about 5 minutes, although getting it going with participants offers its own challenges.
This afternoon I took a break to browse the Ning blog. There I found a couple of nonprofits making incredible use of the service--Sarcoidosis and Tu Diabetes.com. Both are organizations providing support to individuals and their families who are suffering from a chronic condition. These are the kinds of people who often crave connections with others, so using Ning to create space to nurture these necessary connections is an incredible service to offer. And it's FREE!
A few things I noticed about their sites:
- Both have very active communities. Tu Diabetes is at almost 1,000 members and both networks have a lot of activity going on, with people posting Q&As in forums, writing blog posts, commenting on member pages, etc. There's a sense of energy, purpose and connection that I can only assume is incredibly positive for the members. Which I would assume transfers to the organizations.
- Within the communities, members have taken advantage of the "Groups" feature to create more focused support groups. This means that there can be groups for children and adults, groups for people who are looking at particular treatment options, groups for families, etc.
- Like all Ning sites, members have their own personal pages which includes a blog (with privacy options for individual posts), space to upload and share photos, and a comment wall. All of these features add to the sense of community and belonging for members. It also provides space for people to reflect upon and process some difficult challenges and experiences.
- Tu Diabetes is using their site to advertise events--like a chat session with a doctor--to share links to other resources and to recommend books to members. This turns their site into a very full-featured support and information resource for members. If they wanted to, they could also add RSS feeds to diabetes-related news stories and other information.
After taking a look around these two sites, I'm struck even more by the huge potential of Ning for nonprofits. In one way or another, most nonprofits are about forging and utilizing connections. In some cases, the connections are for advocacy. In other cases, community may need to be formed to provide support. Ning is a FREE way to provide these services using a very robust and professional looking platform.For my money, this is an incredibly powerful resource whose potential we may only be beginning to tap into. Expect to see more here on using Ning because it definitely has my head buzzing with ideas.