One Way to Move to Abundance Thinking:Focus On What You Can Give

Lately I've been reflecting on ways that organizations can move from scarcity to abundance thinking. Seth Godin has one idea based on his father's 50 years of consistent business success:

I was thinking about the way my Dad does business the other day. He's been a successful executive (and then entrepreneur) for more than 50 years. I realized that I can't remember one time when he did this to get that.

When he volunteered to run the United Way or the local theatre, or when he helped a local church raise money for a new building, he didn't have an ulterior motive. When he negotiated with the UAW to create a different sort of workforce structure for his plant, it wasn't so he could get more. It was so they could get more. Same thing when he helped dozens of people emigrate from the Soviet Union a few decades ago.

It's been a consistent approach, and it sure seems to work. Consistent as in all the time, not just when it's convenient. It works for a factory in Buffalo but it also seems to work for others... for successful marketers all over the world. Now, more than ever, it's easier to give even when it seems like you're not going to get.

Back in December I was writing about how nonprofit networks can build collective value, but noted that one of the difficulties we see in network building is that nonprofits don't always like to share, something that's necessary if a network is going to really be successful.

Unfortunately my own personal experiences in working with nonprofit network building have shown me that nonprofits can be some of the greediest organizations around when it comes to getting something from any situation (a sure sign of scarcity thinking).

What happens is this. . .  We arrive at a meeting to discuss collective action, only to spend the next several hours dancing around the "What's In It for Me?" question. Most nonprofits are too polite to actually say it, but it's clear that the reason they're at the table is because they want to know what they will GET from the collaboration, not what they can GIVE. Will they get more money? More people? More influence? If not, then they aren't particularly interested. There doesn't seem to be a belief that what goes around comes around, so maybe we should start giving more if we want to reap something in return. I suspect that this is also what turns off a lot of donors, volunteers and clients.

So if a nonprofit is serious about starting to go down the road toward abundance thinking, it seems that one of the easiest things they could do is start constantly asking "What can we GIVE in this situation?" Going to a meeting to plan for a grant? Ask "What Can We Give?" Working with donors or customers or whoever? "What Can We Give You?"   I'd love to see big signs all over the office that said "What Can We Give?" Meetings that started with that mantra. A big billboard somewhere. And even better, the ideas for how to give were taken seriously and carried out. That would be abundance in action.   

Seems like it could be a really good place to start.


Is the Scarcity Mentality the Biggest Barrier to Social Media in Nonprofits?

AbundanceThrough a circuitous route I won't bother to explain, today I find myself thinking about the impact of scarcity thinking on nonprofit organizations.

One of the most powerful learnings I've had in my professional practice is that our mental models have a profound impact on our work practices. One of the mental models I'm observing at work today is scarcity vs. abundance thinking and  I'm starting to wonder if the biggest barrier to using social media in nonprofits is the scarcity model of thinking that seems to permeate most nonprofit organizations. This scarcity thinking seems to be me to be in direct conflict with the abundance thinking that has created the social web and I'm wondering if the two can co-exist. I'm also wondering if it's the scarcity mentality that is at the root of so much of what's going wrong in nonprofits today.   

Scarcity Thinking vs. Abundance Thinking
This article does a nice job of explaining the differences between abundance thinking and scarcity thinking in organizations.

 Abundance, in terms of business and personal value, is an attitude of growth (my emphasis). I can grow more rapidly personally by banding with others in a business environment as we, together, grow our proverbial economic pie more rapidly than any of us could otherwise do. In the process, although we may have smaller shares of a collective pie than 100% of our personal pies, those smaller shares will be worth more than our individual, personal pies.

That is the theory and that is why doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, business appraisers, and members of many other professions come together in professional service firms. Collectively, they can do more and do better than any of them could do alone.

For professional service firms to grow, however, it is necessary that the concept of abundance that brought groups together in the first place be fostered by and among the individual professionals.

In an abundance environment, professionals work together to provide services to clients and customers. They do so by doing what is best for their customers. The rewards for their efforts are then shared on a collective basis.

While no rewards systems are perfect, if the economic pie is growing, the effects of many imperfections are minimized. If business is slower in a given year, everyone recognizes that the pie is smaller and that their shares will also be smaller. The collective emphasis then is on maximizing growth and minimizing the effects of economic adversity.

  Scarcity, in terms of business and personal value, reflects an attitude of the absence of growth (my emphasis).  Therefore, those with the scarcity mentality tend to think of the pie, whether personal or collective, as fixed, and want to grab the biggest piece possible, even some of the grab takes away from others.

Scarcity is defined as "the quality or state of being scarce; especially : want of provisions for the support of life."   And scarce is defined as "deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand: not plentiful or abundant."

There just isn't enough to go around when the scarcity mentality is present, regardless of the success of an organization.

Abundance vs. Scarcity. Problems arise when a professional with a scarcity mentality joins with an abundance-oriented organization. He or she is not focused on the growing pie because of the perception that at any given time, the pie is fixed in size. That attitude fosters emphasis on individual performance and rewards rather than collective performance.

From what I can see, most nonprofits operate from a scarcity mentality. We are constantly talking about what we lack--money, information, staff, resources.  There's a strong feeling that there isn't enough to go around and so the focus is on grabbing the largest share possible for your organization and holding onto that share for dear life. In a scarcity mentality, the impulse is to hoard, not to share--at least when it comes to anything of value. And the focus is on the individual organization, on survival and limits, not on the collective social mission and on growth.

This post from the Kiva Chronicles describes some of what goes on in nonprofits when scarcity is at work:

For the past two years I've operated in an environment where scarcity was the rule. We had a really small budget and stretched it so wide. We used open source methodologies, we had no IT person, no travel budget, no QA testing, no paid accountant, used furniture, little insurance, no computer budget, no server administrator, low budget hosting, a CEO who writes code, etc, etc. Most of all, we had no free time and all became workaholics. I'd venture to say I saw the sunrise 100 times last year.

Scarcity, while we might complain about it, can become a badge of honor as well. In the nonprofit world, I see that all the time. Nonprofits often compete in terms of their overhead ratios. Most every nonprofit out there advertises to it's funders how it likes to keep overhead low so that the majority of funds it raises goes to constituents. Kiva is not all that different. Last year we raised $2M in loans through our website and spent about $200K on our own staff (aka overhead). Thus, we can advertise that our overhead was no more than 10% of the total funds sent to our consituents. That's golden in the fundraising world.

This kind of competition, while it seems logical to the public, can also be destructive. For instance, is it a good thing that Kiva had no QA testing process last year? Sure, we spent less on dreadful *overhead*, but at what cost? A buggier website?

Web 2.0 and social media, on the other hand, seems to have sprung from an abundance mentality. Our capacity to inexpensively collect, store and share digital information has created a world where the uses of digital resources are limited only by our own sense of the possibilities. As a result, Web 2.0 culture emphasizes sharing, creating collective value, and ongoing growth  via developing networks of people, information and resources. Further, an individual's value is measured by the value that he/she brings to the collective. It isn't measured by how well he/she holds onto information and resources for individual gain (as is the case when we operate from beliefs of scarcity).

Questions That Emerge on Scarcity vs. Abundance Thinking
Some questions that are starting to form for me as a result of this line of thinking:

  • Is it possible for an organization to operate in a culture of scarcity and still embrace social media and Web 2.0? My guess is that they can't, except in the most superficial ways. It will either be shift to abundance thinking and really harness the power of social media or stay in scarcity thinking and make ineffective use of social media. I doubt that it's possible to really get collective knowledge and information sharing going when a scarcity mentality says that there isn't enough time, resources, energy, etc. to really make it happen. And I think that there's just a fundamental mismatch there that permeates organizational culture in ways I'm only dimly perceiving right now.
  • Are many of these "perceived" barriers to knowledge sharing a result of scarcity thinking? Are these really barriers? Or is it just that we're missing solutions because we're so focused on "lack-of" thinking?
  • How would our ability to find new solutions to implementing social media and knowledge sharing within organizations be changed if we shifted to an abundance mentality?
  • What are the larger impacts of scarcity thinking on nonprofits? How do we miss possible collective solutions to problems because we're so focused on preserving our own piece of the pie? How do we miss the larger picture of the best ways to address our organization's social cause when we are in scarcity mode?  I keep thinking about Begging for Change and about how so many of the problems that Eggers points out are really rooted in scarcity thinking. What's even more bothersome is that this scarcity thinking seems to move down the food chain into how clients are treated, which in many cases further deepens client dependence on nonprofits.
  • What organizational and individual changes would we have to take to move from scarcity thinking to an abundance mentality? There might be some ideas here, here, and here.

I'm feeling a vague discomfort in exploring this line of thinking because I hesitate to appear too "New Age" and so much of what's available for exploration seems to come from the self-help aisle. But the more this all rolls around in my mind, the more I feel like there's something big here that I want to further explore. (Why do my biggest questions come up when I have the least amount of time to ponder them?)

I'd be curious to hear from others about this. Are there any resources you'd suggest that I look at? Any ideas that you have on whether or not I'm on the right track in thinking that this may be a fundamental barrier to true acceptance of social media?

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Evaluating Impact: Who Would Miss Us If We Were Gone?

John Moore of Brand Autopsy is running a periodic blog series he calls "Would You Care?" He features a particular company (today it's about Chili's) and asks readers if they would miss the company if it went out of business.

What does this have to do with nonprofits? A lot of organizations spend a lot of hours trying to demonstrate impact. Often this becomes a list of activities in which the organization has engaged, as opposed to looking at how it has changed lives or moved policymakers. This is one of Robert Egger's main complaints in Begging for Change, as he rightly argues that we should be working to put ourselves out of business by addressing the root causes of the issues that got us working in the first place. A mere list of numbers served is no indicator of the quality of that service or the impact that it's having.

It occurs to me, though, that a very simple question we should be asking our constituents is:

Would you miss us if we were gone?

And to put more meat on those bones:

  • Is what we provide so special, so important and life-changing that you would feel a void if our organization went away? Or would another nonprofit easily step right in to fill our shoes?
  • Is how we treat our employees so amazing that they would be hard-pressed to find the same great work environment in another organization if we went out of business?
  • Would you miss the amazing quality of our service to constituents? Would you find yourself saying "XYZ Nonprofit would never have done it that way" if we were no longer here?
  • Would it be impossible for someone to earn a place in your heart the way that we have if we went away?

This, to me, is the heart of impact. These are questions that we should be asking not only as organizations, but as departments within organizations and as individuals within those departments. If the answer is that we wouldn't be missed, then the question is, "What do we have to change in order to make you miss us if we were gone?"

UPDATE--Bronwyn brings up an excellent point in comments--that we should think about WHO is missing us and WHY it is that they would miss us. This takes us much closer to understanding what value we create for different constituents.


On Unconferences and Expectations

David Wilcox has an interesting post on the aftermath of an "unconference" he attended. He notes:

But ... after all the buzz, what happens next? And does that matter? The question pops back into my mind after writing again about one of Policy Unplugged's buzzy events, this time at NESTA and focussed on innovation and collaboration.

It was a terrific mix of people ... and I think for those involved it was enough to hear some admirably brief presentations, join group discussions, and then socialise. It was free, with drinks at the end. So who could possibly complain?

However, I did hear a few people asking why NESTA was running the event, and what would come of it. I don't think there were any formal notes taken, and no feedback at the end.

David goes on to wonder if facilitators unskilled in the ways of unconferencing might not give it a bad name. Given that unconferencing is on the rise, particularly within techie circles, it seems worthwhile to begin a discussion on what needs to happen for unconferences to meet the expectations of participants. So why don't you go join in the conversation?


Why Nonprofits Should Reconsider Site-blocking Policies

A few weeks ago I wrote about organizational barriers to using Web 2.0 tools, citing Bev Trayner's and my experiences with clients as examples. We noted that many sites were blocked, that Skype couldn't be downloaded, etc.

This morning I read this post from Lance Knobel who is working in Dubai:

One of the issues raised with the company I’m working with here in Dubai is the need to improve their “digital literacy”.

Some elements of digital literacy may be hard to achieve because of the number of things that seem to be blocked by national firewalls. On my last visit here in November I learned that you couldn’t use Skype. That has a lamentable commercial logic to it: the national telecoms monopoly, Etisalat, doesn’t want its monopoly rents threatened. But there are plenty of blockages that have nothing to do with commercial advantage.

I can’t reach any Typepad blog. Fortunately (I couldn’t live without my fixes of Brad DeLong and many others) nothing is blocking the many Typepad full-text feeds that are flowing into my Google Reader (something I’ll have to recommend to my clients). Flickr is blocked: “We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.”

Two thoughts come to mind for me on this:

  • When your organization's web policies begin to resemble those of the United Arab Emirates, it's time to rethink what you're doing.
  • Your most talented staff will figure out how to work around your policies. They will also be the ones most likely to resent what you're doing and to start looking for an organization that isn't as restrictive.

UPDATE--Bev Trayner mentions in comments that one of the reasons organizations often ban Skype is because it can be a bandwidth hog. Good point, so I did a little digging on that. It's true, but it appears that there's a relatively simple fix for it. You can read more in Comments. 


Creating a Learning Climate for Nonprofit Staff

Awhile ago, Allan Benamer of the Nonprofit Tech Blog talked about nonprofit staff as knowledge workers and how technology and work processes need to support staff whose value comes primarily from their ability to make effective use of knowledge and information in working with customers. If we're to fully capitalize on the promise of a knowledge network, then staff need to have the tools, resources and supports necessary to truly fulfill their function.

This idea has been rolling around in my head for awhile now. My primary role in my consulting practice is to build organizational capacity, in part by building staff capacity through training and ensuring that staff have what they need to get their jobs done. Part of my fascination with technology lies in its power to help staff better manage knowledge and information to become highly skilled in their jobs. I keep feeling like we're missing some key pieces of the puzzle in terms of how we work with staff. They seem to be the forgotten ones. Developing their capacity is low on the list of priorities beneath things like accounting systems, how to raise more money and marketing. Yet in most nonprofits, without our staff, we are really nothing.

Earlier this week I talked about informal learning and the need to create an environment that supports  ongoing professional development.  I believe that informal learning ("the other 80%") is a crucial element of staff capacity-building, but one to which we pay little attention.

Here are a few ingredients I think we need to create a climate that supports informal learning.

  • A team of staff who have passion for the work they do. Passion is critical. If you don't love what you do, then you're not going to be devoted to doing things to make yourself better at it. And there's nothing better for learning than being surrounded by people who are excited about their work and want to get better every day at what they do.
  • Managers who nurture curiosity. Personally I don't think there's enough curiosity in the world. When my girls were 3-4 years old, all we heard was "Why?" But it seems that when we grow up, we stop asking questions and just start accepting things as they are. Without curiosity there is no learning, though. Here are some tips for "Learning to be curious" that I think hit the nail on the head (although I find it sad that we have to LEARN to be curious!)
  • Access to resources and learning activities. One area that I think is really interesting is "micro-learning."  Without getting all technical about it, micro-learning is bite-size learning experiences that can be easily digested in a short period of time. A great example of this is 23 Things, which is a series of mini lessons to help staff learn about different Web 2.0 tools. Ideally, staff try to come up with their own ideas for learning activities they'd like to pursue. But an eagle-eyed manager might also keep an eye out for these kinds of activities to share.
  • Access to learning tools and encouragement to use them. One of the reasons I love to blog is because it helps me learn--it's essentially a way to maintain an online learning journal complete with links to resources and tools that help me learn even more. Wikis, social bookmarking,  RSS and the work of others in my field that I can catch online also feed my daily learning fixes. Fortunately I work for myself and so I don't have to worry about a boss who decides to take these tools away from me. But other people do. To have a culture of learning, organizations need to consider if the benefits of arming staff with knowledge management tools don't outweigh the risks.
  • An expectation that learning is something that happens on a daily basis on "company time." If learning is going to be part of an organizational culture, than it has to be woven into its fabric.Learning shouldn't be reserved for special training days. And it shouldn't be something that we expect always expect staff to do on their own time. My favorite organizations are those that have subscriptions to professional journals and pass them around the office with the expectation that staff will read them. My favorite bosses have always sent interesting articles my way. In a good learning organization, at the end of the day, not only should we be asking "What did you accomplish?" but we should also be wondering "What did you learn?" If the answer is "nothing," then we have a problem.

So a few of my thoughts. . . . what other elements do we need to create a climate that supports informal learning? And is creating such a climate really as critical as I think for nonprofit staff?

______________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE--Rallyfan of Random Thoughts on Life and Work adds another item to the list--giving staff a chance to actually USE the skills. He has a good post on this that you should also check out. 

Also, I've written a follow-up post describing two other strategies that I think are critical.


Another Resource for Thinking About How Technology Changes Us

Edublog Award nominee Karl Fisch of The Fischbowl (a staff development blog produced by the teachers of Arapahoe High School) has a couple of really interesting presentations on his site. One that caught my eye was What If.

What If examines how each new technology--starting with the slate and continuing through paper, ink, calculators, computers, etc.--has been resisted by educators through the years.  What particularly strikes me here is the inevitability of new technologies, as well as the pace of the change. You'll notice that changes in the beginning of the presentation are separated by a hundred years. By the end of the 1990's, we're talking about new technology issues arising every year or two. And the changes march onward, so that it's not a matter of "if," but "when" new technologies will be adopted. We may quibble about the versions (Beta vs. VHS anyone?), but in the end, the change still happens.

What does this have to do with nonprofits? Well, I think that we, too, can be very resistant to new ideas and thinking about technology. What If  helps us re-examine those beliefs and embrace the inevitability of change. Whatever we may think of Web 2.0, some versions of this will be with us for a long time and at some point we'll look back and laugh at the idea that we were going to be able to resist.

(Thanks to Tony Karrer for the link)


How to Make Online Collaboration Work

Team_1 E-Learning Online reposts a great tip from Patti Shank, an instructional designer and principal for Learning Peaks, LLC.

To make online collaborations work well, Patti suggests developing a team agreement that clearly articulates the following:

  1. Will the team have a leader and if so, who will this be, and will this role be rotated?       
  2. How will work be distributed?  Who will do what? Who is the designated backup?
  3. What work style does everyone agree to?
  4. Any known problems or problematic dates/times that need to be factored in?
  5. When and how will the team “meet” and communicate with each other? How often?    
  6. How will iteration and version control get handled?
  7. Who will post team deliverables?
  8. How will team members provide constructive feedback to each other?
  9. How will team members handle work that is sub par, incomplete, or not done?

Although designed for class projects, these agreements would work just as well for online work collaborations.

If possible, it's probably a good idea to try to iron these things out at a face-to-face meeting or in a Skype or conference call and then document them in an agreement that you share with everyone. If that's not possible, try turning each question into a wiki page where team members could post their ideas and then the group could edit their way to consensus. Try to find a way that makes people comfortable giving their feedback, particularly if you're a new work team that has never collaborated before.

(NOTE--As you can probably tell, I'm having fun with this online speech bubble tool. I'm afraid you'll have to bear with me for the next few days until I get it out of my system).


"You Get What You Inspect, Not What You Expect"

Office_3 Rallyfan of Random Thoughts on Life and Work is in the middle of a big process mapping project, looking at what his organization does, who's doing it and why. They've started to get back the results of some of their surveys and to his dismay (although not surprise), they are finding that a lot of paper is being pushed and not everyone is clear about why that is. He writes:

"When an organization trends towards a top-down management style, reporting becomes part of the machinery.  Often (I am willing give the benefit of the doubt a little bit anyway) the initial thoughts behind the performance reporting are valid.  Management should be reviewing certain pictures of what is occuring within the organization and the performance of its various programs.  As the saying goes, “You get what you inspect not what you expect.”

Over time, these trends become ingrained in the staff that are required to provide the information.  And before long, as staff turnover occurs, the original reason for tracking a particular facet of the organization is lost.  A systematic review of all reporting, measurement, and tracking activities should be engaged in by the organization.  The overriding question however is not “What are we measuring?” but “Why are we measuring that?”  This is where many organizations get lost.

Statistics junkies like myself like to manipulate numbers.

  • How many donors called last month?
  • How many donors called the same month last year?
  • How many donation challenges did we have this month?
  • How many gifts over $100 did we receive last year?
  • How many donors did we lose last year?
  • How many donors did we gain from this activity?

The list is of course endless.  Here is the loaded question - How much of it is pointless?"

What a great question. As Rallyfan points out, if you're not going to DO something with the information, don't put your staff through the pain of collecting it.

Several years ago I was doing some work with a large government agency. Whenever they were ending their relationship with a client, they would do an exit interview, including a customer satisfaction survey. Unfortunately, once completed by the case manager, the customer satisfaction survey went into the client's file and then into the bowels of the agency's filing system, never to be seen again. It was a pointless piece of paper that added a good 15 minutes to each client exit interview and did nothing to change what the agency was doing. 

Since that time I've process mapped functions for several organizations and we always find tons of data that's being collected but no one knows why and nothing is being done with it. Worse, data that they should be collecting isn't being gathered and staff are unable to find the time to provide services because they're busy filling out forms that no one looks at anyway. It's a frustrating cycle for everyone, but one that could be stopped if we took the time now and then to re-examine our processes and get rid of what is no longer necessary or working.

In a later post I'm going to share some tips on process mapping, as well as some tools you can use to more easily manage and visualize the information you're getting. For now, think about the last time you looked at your processes and consider how you might be able to improve what you do by taking the time to document and re-configure your practices.


A Study in Nonprofit Excellence: Donors Choose

Matthew Monberg of Beyond Giving is hosting next week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants and asks for posts on nonprofit excellence, due tonight. Serendipitously, this article from Slate on Donors Choose slid into my inbox this morning.

Donors_choose The basic premise of Donors Choose is for public school teachers to use the Donors Choose site to post requests for supplies and materials to help their students learn. Individuals can then select a particular project to fund:

"Donors scroll through the hundreds of proposals (searchable by region, subject, level of school poverty, etc.) and fund them in whole or in part with a couple of clicks. If there's no market for the proposal, it doesn't get funded, though most eventually do. DonorsChoose handles all of the discounted purchasing from vendors, so no money goes directly to the teacher."

As of this writing, Donors Choose has raised more than $11 million to help over 500,000 students across the country.

So what makes Donors Choose excellent?

Transparency--All transactions are transparent. You know exactly what you're buying when you send in your donation. You can request a copy of the bill if you want it. You even receive handwritten thank yous from the teacher and his/her students a few weeks after you make your donation. In a world where consumers are coming to expect that not only is there nothing behind the curtain, but that there isn't even a curtain to hide behind, this is a refreshing change from the experience that many donors currently have with the charities to which they donate.

Value-Add Collaborations--We've talked this one to death in the nonprofit community. Clearly the trend is toward collaboration and the need to form partnerships. But too often the partnerships we see in the nonprofit world are not particularly cooperative and often don't really add value to the process for customers. But Donors Choose is working on forming collaborations specifically to add value to their process.

For example, The Blogger Challenge is a partnership between Donors Choose and individual bloggers who can pick the project that appeals to them and then run a fundraiser through their blog. This leverages the relationships that bloggers have developed with their audiences, creating value for Donors Choose (increased donations), the blogger (a "pet project" supported) and the blogger's audience (being able to support a particular project and to feel a sense of community in working with others to meet that need).

And clearly the entire concept of Donors Choose is about a collaborative partnership between the site and the thousands of teachers who are submitting proposals.

An Innovative Funding Model
Jonathan Alter, who wrote the Slate article, is also on the Donors Choose board. He talks about what happened early on in their planning process:

"Early on, some well-meaning but clueless Harvard Business School graduates instructed us that DonorsChoose had to automatically take 15 percent off the top of every gift for overhead. Otherwise, the HBS team warned, our organization would never sustain itself. In fact, these gents withdrew a large gift because they thought our business plan didn't work without the automatic deduction. We said we wanted to offer DonorsChoose donors the option of whether to give us additional money for overhead at checkout. If the donor wants, 100 percent of his or her donation can go directly into the classroom, but he or she is also invited to contribute to covering the organization's expenses. The HBS experts said we would be lucky if 10 percent of our donors voluntarily ponied up extra. But they were living in a pre-Web world in which people weren't used to being asked what specific uses their money could be put to. How many of the thousands of DonorsChoose donors give us 15 percent extra to fund ongoing operations? Try 93 percent."  (my emphasis)

What the Harvard guys were suggesting was the old way of doing business. Donors Choose saw that they needed to adapt their model to changed online behavior. And got fabulous results.

A Focus on The Customer
Alter calls the Donors Choose approach "market philanthropy," where the donors are consumers able to direct their dollars to "buy" those goods and services they believe are worthy of support. That in itself is a more customer-focused approach--it's allowing buyers and sellers to connect to one another in the ways that will bring value to each, rather than Donors Choose assuming which projects  are most "worthy" and where they will send their financial support.

But this customer focus is carried through in the Donors Choose processes as well where submitting a proposal and making a donation are processes that have been developed with ease of use for customers in mind.

 What is probably most valuable to me about a nonprofit like Donors Choose, though,  is that it represents fresh ideas and new ways of looking at how we do things in the nonprofit world. It's a "kick in the pants" that forces us to evaluate if maybe there isn't value in a model like this for serving other customers in other ways. I like that.  Any time we get some new blood flowing through our veins, that's a good thing.