ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 9:55am
posted by
Coiya Tompkins,

Vice President, Corporate
Communications & Public Relations

Sun Health

As anyone who works at a nonprofit organization can tell you, surplus is a luxury most NPOs rarely enjoy. Funding, guidance, volunteers, community engagement – all vital resources to sustaining a nonprofit – seem to be in short supply most days. Thankfully, the age of internet has come to our rescue through “crowdsourcing,” helping nonprofit organizations get by with a little help from their friends.

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing, the virtual gathering of thinkers from around the world, is a modern solution to a classic predicament: how do I get the resources I need? Before the internet, nonprofit organizations could only establish supportive relationships with the limited number of individuals and organizations in their region. In this modern age, however, we have the remarkable ability to reach likeminded people anywhere in the world with internet access. Nonprofits can post open-call questions on a discussion board and gain insight and assets from countless members of the global community; proximity never even enters the equation.

According to Daren Brabham, crowdsourcing consultant and author of Crowdsourcing: A Model for Leveraging Online Communities, crowdsourcing is the organization of online communities to utilize their combined resources. “Crowdsourcing organizations can effectively tap the collective intelligence of online communities for specific purposes,” Brabham says. “Cultures have always been participatory, long before the Internet, with roots in democratic process, collective decision making, and cooperation for survival. But participatory cultures on the Internet take on a new quality, a new scale, and new capabilities.”

How can crowdsourcing help my nonprofit organization in Arizona?

Using crowdsourcing, nonprofits can now broadcast their message to a nearly-infinite audience. Closeness doesn’t have to limit your scope any longer; harness collective intelligence to solve problems, make connections, turn over new leaves, and grow through collaboration.

Let’s say your organization is launching a new online ad campaign. Post your idea and get advice from professionals who’ve made similar efforts and can offer you 20/20 hindsight. Or use crowdfunding, an offshoot of crowdsourcing, to secure financing from those who you connect with.

Wondering how to best manage volunteers to maximize their efficiency? Get advice and insight from your nonprofit counterparts across town or in the Middle East! Not enough funding to host that blood drive you’ve been planning? Use crowdfunding to establish relationships and secure the finances you need from donors in Europe or Asia.

What crowdsourcing websites serve nonprofit organizations?

There are many sites devoted to crowdsourcing for nonprofit organizations. If you’re looking for crowdfunding, look into Crowdrise, Indiegogo or Kickstarter. Be sure to do your research, though, and choose the source whose approach will best fit your individual goals! Or, if you need help solving local or global challenges, try ASU’s 10,000 Solutions platform or OpenIDEO. Your message can travel as far as you’re willing to carry it – log on to a world of possibilities.

Crowdsourcing draws together volunteers, funding and brainpower from international organizations and individuals. Activists can access virtual community boards to post calls to action, ideas, grievances and solutions for collaboration and contribution from readers, thus harvesting their collective intelligence to answer society’s cries for help. Sun Health benefits from crowdsourcing – your organization can, too!

Coiya Tompkins oversees marketing communications, corporate communications and public relations for Sun Health Senior Living, Sun Health Foundation and community health projects. Before Sun Health, Tompkins served as marketing director for Sierra Medical Center, a Tenet Health hospital in El Paso, Texas, and public relations director for Banner Baywood Medical Center and Banner Heart Hospital in Mesa, Ariz.

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I really enjoyed this article, Coiya. Crowdsourcing seems a little scary and intimidating at first, but it really can be beneficial for nonprofit organizations. It's also a really great way to reach younger generations of donors and volunteers. With the right appeal, crowdsourcing can be very successful (and it's generally free!).

Great Article!
I am finishing my degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management and had no idea I was “crowdsourcing” for the past few years.
I am currently completing my thesis in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona. Part of my thesis was to create a survey for homeowners in order to measure the impact homeownership has on the family and community.
While I was creating the survey I posted online to get ideas on various questions to ask, to see if other organizations had created a similar survey etc. I had no idea what I was doing had a name.
Additionally as a busy student sometimes it is hard to find places to volunteer at that are compatible with ones schedule. I have been very active as a member of SPARKED, an online tool that matches volunteers up with organizations who are seeking now ideas. I have been able to help some organizations with marketing, program development, and participation all online.

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