News from the NTEN Connect Blog

How To Build Online Communities

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 12:11pm

Running an online community takes some work and a lot of knowledge about your community. These resources will show you what you should focus on.

> Kathy Sierra explains how to engage users in your online community no matter how new to the group they are.

> Widgets are cool, and they can stregthen your community. Beth Kanter shows you how in a screencast.

> Nancy White writes about how communities emerge around blogs and how to engage them.

> A First Monday article gives the five rules of thumb you need to follow to effectively facilitate an online community.

Know of a resource we missed? Tell us about it in the comments.

Will change...well, anything?

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 11:41am

Sonny Cloward, NPower NY

[Ed. Note: Some of the information in this article may be a little dated.  For more on the changes happening at, read our blog.] 

A little over a month ago, social good networking site launched with exposure few startups, much less nonprofits (which is not), could dream of - they got Techcrunched. Lots of do-gooders like me jumped on the site and were presented with the audacious yet simple question: what do you want to change in the world? The premise is pretty straightforward - connect people with one another and organizations to push forward common causes (i.e. changes). I perused the site, thought it was a great idea, didn't dig very deeply, felt a moment of kumbaya with my fellow do-gooders and then quickly forgot about it. And based on's Alexa traffic rankings, I wasn't alone.

So is just another fly-by-night project of some well meaning people with a good concept - just badly planned and executed - awaiting a slow descent into the dead pool? The site has a nicely streamlined and accessible UI, so it's obvious someone put some thought and resources into it. Yet it has nothing in the way of features that hook me and keep me engaged and active in issues and people that matter to me (via dashboard, email, or RSS). Or is it, as Matthew from said in the comments on the Techcrunch posting, "yet another website for me to log into? Another place to blog and check messages?" While there's a value-based incentive, we are becoming fatigued by social networking sites and more scrutinizing about how they are relevant in our lives and how we engage in them. In a landscape where there are really only two social networking players (MySpace and Facebook), where thousands of nonprofits already have pages where they connect with supporters - not to mention at least a dozen other comparatively minor social good networking sites - why


Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 11:34am
Allison Fine, A. Fine Blog

What would happen if you mashed up Friendster,,, and the Green Directory? You would get Care2, a vast one-stop shop for informing and engaging people in social change efforts. Started way back in 1998, the site boasts over six million members today. Fundamentally the mission of Care2 is to involve people in learning more about and donating to social causes, with a particular emphasis on “green lifestyle” and animal causes.

The site is an amalgam of almost every possible way that people use the web. It has news, social networking, shopping, petitions, donations to causes, and even e-cars. Care2 experienced a surge in activity and membership last year as green consumerism took off.  And no wonder - the site is easy to navigate, membership is free, there is a vast array of personal networks, services, news, and jobs to be had as well as access to green products and causes. – Climatize Your Network

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 11:29am
Nathan Rosquist, The Interra Project
Reprinted from WorldChanging with permission, a social networking site in the works by West Seattle transplant Phil Mitchell, is what he calls the “MySpace of climate action.” What sets it apart, however, from other social-networking sites (Be Green,, and is its focus on action and commitment.

“We’re an online citizen network committed to closing the gap between what’s scientifically necessary and what’s politically possible. If you’re looking for ways to get involved and people and projects to connect with, you can find them here.”

Second Life as a Platform for Online Community Building

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 11:06am

Andrew Hoppin, NASA Ames Research Center and YearlyKos Convention/

Excerpted from Corante with permission

Second Life's greatest utility, to me, is that it better mimics the experience of being offline in the same room together than any other online medium. The experience of interacting there is vastly more social and immersive than, say, an online blogging community. High trust relationships are built quickly. Think Meetup, except that you don't need 40 people to be in the same place on the planet to have an effective Meetup.

Second Life is also a rich medium for content creation that can be "surfaced" to the Web for broader exposure.  More than 100 people participated in an anti-war "virtual march on virtual Capital Hill" that we organized between CodePink and RootsCamp in Second Life recently, and one of our volunteers made a video of the event that went mildly viral with over 50,000 views. The cost of creating it was $0.

Progressive Exchange Listserv

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 10:59am
Jed Miller, ACLU

Web communities are occasional stop-bys for most users, but a listserv community like Progressive Exchange lives in your inbox. It's a regular presence and a good resource, as long as you're not one of those crazies who's compelled to read every single message.

Progressive Exchange is worth the extra mail: a network of NPO tech staff, consultants, strategists and vendors more focused on problem-solving than self-promotion (though there's certainly some of the latter).

Topics range from one-off announcements of jobs, seminars, and semi-formal gatherings (mostly in D.C.), to calls for referrals, to roundtable discussions of news and innovations, some of these becoming pretty serious group analysis.

NpTech Tagging Community

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/20/2007 - 10:56am

Marnie Webb, TechSoup

Beth Kanter, Beth’s Blog

Tagging facilitates the sharing of information among members of a distributed community, and it can also help form or catalyze a community. In some respects the NpTech tag serves as a beacon to attract people interested in sharing resources on nonprofit technology and makes it easier to form connections and relationships with new people. The NpTech tag is also easy to use - the services are free, and many people have already incorporated services like and Flickr into their knowledge management practices. Furthermore, many tagging services encourage connections and conversations around particular tags via embedded social networking features. For more on this, see
Marnie’s blog, and Beth's NpTech Tag presentation.

A Few Innovative Nonprofit Tech Projects

Submitted by Ali on Fri, 03/16/2007 - 11:56am

Nonprofits are using technology some truly inspiring ways, and we think that deserves some recognition. Below are brief descriptions of a few technology projects by NTEN members that are making a big difference. You can find out about other innovative technology projects and meet the people behind them in the Innovation Plaza at the Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Cutting through tax-code confusion

Tax season is here, and with it the annual confusion of deciphering perplexing rules about tax credits and deductions (and squinting at the tiny type of IRS forms). The Legal Aid Society of Orange County is helping its clients cut through the tax code confusion and ensure they get the refunds they are entitled to with its I-Can! E-file program.

Have an idea for a new online service?

Submitted by Bonnie on Wed, 03/14/2007 - 12:20pm

Tell The Economist, and they may just do something about it. The Economist is running an interesting project - Project Redstripe - that is essentially tasked with developing something innovative and online - and it can be anything. Right now the group is asking for ideas on what they should build. So if you have a brilliant idea for an online product or service that you want to see come to fruition, this could be your chance.

Even better, the project's team members say they want whatever they develop to make a difference in the world, although they're not guaranteeing it's one of their goals.

Here's how Tom Shelley, one of the project's team members, describes the type of ideas they're looking for:

Twitter at the NTC, Among Others

Submitted by Bonnie on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 9:44am

We hear you loud and clear. At this year’s NTC we’ll have lots of back channels so you all can connect, find each other, and sound off on the conference. And one of these will be Twitter, which lets you get updates on what people are up to via your cell phone, IM, or through a website.

We’ve heard great things about how Twitter was used at SXSW. Beth took a screencast of the action on the SXSW Twitter page that you can check out here.

So stay tuned for more details on twittering at the NTC and other back channels. Special thanks to Kurt for leading the way, and to Deborah for her ideas!