What Crowdsourcing Can Teach Us About Getting Things Done

Published Jul, 16 2015
This session was presented live at a past SoundBoard event.
Production Track
11:00 am - 11:50 am

Crowdsourcing magnetDiscover transferable crowdsourcing principles such as incentive structures, task delegation, and risk management.

Small businesses and nonprofits share a common problem: they don’t have the capacity to properly equip every undertaking. The common refrain is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

We’re no different at Community Connection, where our vision of becoming a one-stop shop for all area nonprofit support far outsrips our immediate resources.  But we’ve realized that we have plenty of one thing: human and social capital. There is a huge reservoir of underutilized talent in Athens.

The Basics of Crowdsourcing Talent

After brainstorming ways to plug in these potential recruits, our team discovered that people are most likely to contribute time to a cause they care about if doing so is 1) relevant, 2) flexible, and 3) fun.

  1. Relevance is perhaps the most important. We strongly believe in the principle that we call “mutual beneficiality.” Helping us should fill a need or desire of the individual supporter, which is typically the desire to learn something new. For example, if you’re a writer but are interested in learning Photoshop, come learn with us, with real responsibilities.
  2. Flexible options are definitely also important. We want to make sure contributing is easy and on the participants’ own schedule, so supporters can remotely donate a lunch hour, for example.
  3. Fun, as you might imagine, is also key. For us, fun has a lot to do with picking places for our “pop up volunteer opportunities” that people actually want to visit. We’ve had very successful micro volunteer events at Hendershots, Jittery Joe’s, The National, and the most popular so far, Creature Comforts.

Picking a great place is win-win for us, our volunteers, and the businesses that host us. It’s also an opportunity to engage new talent interested in what we’re up to, who in many cases are literally just across the table from us.

The Business Benefits of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing talent isn’t just for nonprofits; myriad benefits extend to businesses, too.

Timberland, for example, allocates employees 40 hours a year for nonprofit work, and if an employee joins a nonprofit board they cut a check for $5k. That demonstrates the company’s commitment to service, strengthens the company culture, and leads to the brand getting mentioned favorably in articles like this one.

For businesses, there is a lot of upside to these sorts of social programs. If employees want to learn new skills, why not let them use some of their time to hone those skills with a nonprofit? That’s expertise and goodwill gained at little cost, with benefits coming straight back to the company.

Eyes on the Prize

For the most part, we are motivated by believing in something bigger than ourselves. In crowdsourcing projects, it’s important to set a clear goal that’s worthy enough to support. It’s then critical to articulate how people are helping achieve this larger objective: that even if a role is small, it’s integral to the project’s overall success.

Crowdsourcing can help both businesses and nonprofits get things done, but by working together, the benefits for everyone are immense.