Fine and Kanter laid out the traditional model of how an organization works: Staff works in silos within the institutional walls in order to achieve the goal, with very little input or aid beyond dollars coming from outside those walls. “Too many organizations are fortresses,” Fine said. “They have high walls and wide moats. And their organizing principles are about keeping insiders in and outsiders out. They are fear-based organizations that spend an enormous amount of time worried about control — trying to control the message and messengers, controlling strategy, controlling their donors as if they could still do those things.
“In the end, it cuts them off from enormous networks of people of good will and creativity and energy that are the only way that we’re going to be able to scale social problem-solving,” she added.
Instead of operating as a fortress, organizations should be more like a sponge — an open environment where things pass through easily, holding on to the good stuff and letting go of the bad stuff. This way, those walls come down, the lines between inside and outside become blurred, and organizations engage with their networks, with their supporters and donors, not at them. This cross-collaboration “allows staff to connect out to networks of people and organizations to reach and solve goals,” Kanter said.
The key to becoming a networked nonprofit is working with free agents, which Kanter defined as “individuals who are very passionate about a cause, many times younger people but sometimes older (like herself), who use social media tools to organize, mobilize, raise funds and communicate with constituents outside of traditional institutional walls.”
She provided the example of Amanda Rose, who founded Twestival, the largest global grassroots social-media fundraising initiative to date. Rose mobilized more than 200 TweetUps for social change, where people on Twitter actually get out from behind the computer and meet in a pub or restaurant and hold a fundraiser. In 2009, Twestival Global was held in 202 international cities to support Charity Water. More than 1,000 volunteers and more than 10,000 donors raised more than $250,000 for the cause, and to date, Twestival has raised more than $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits in 14 months.