Saturday, October 9, 2010

the value of free agents

The second chapter of our book focuses on "free agents." At first glance, free agents could be seen as a threat to nonprofits striving toward social change because they do what they want when they want and won't disseminate your message exactly how you want. This chapter shows how you can turn this challenge into a solution.

The chapter starts off by talking about "millenials." Millenials are the generation after the baby boomers that are really the first generation to grow up using all of the technology available today. I'm a millenial, and I know that I can't imagine what I would do without the technology I have, like my cell phone, the Internet, all the social media and a lot more. I consider myself lucky to be part of this generation because I've grown up with all the social media, it doesn't take any effort to learn how to use it for social change. The chapter gives examples of people -- free agents -- who use social media to create social change, often on behalf of a non-profit organization. This, of course, reminds me of our class. We are using social media on behalf of Safe Harbor to help put out their message and hopefully get them some money through the Pepsi
Refresh Grant!

Another great example I thought of when considering free agents and social change is "The Uniform Project." The Uniform Project was the idea of one girl who decided to raise money by wearing the same black dress every day for a year, making it look unique every day with reused, donated, or vintage accessories. She blogged her outfits every day and got tons of media attention (over 2 million hits and features in a lot of magazines) and money (about $100,000) for her cause -- the Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit that provides education to children living in Indian slums. Sheena Matheikin, the founder of The Uniform Project, created such a buzz, the project continues today in the form of its own company, The Uniform Project company. Now they have different people who volunteer to wear the same dress for a month to raise money for a specific cause (it changes every month). It's such a cool idea and it all started with social media.

In the last parts of this chapter, the book gives some advice to non-profits who want to utilize free agents. Here they are:
  • Know your free agents and what they are passionate about
  • Help people break out of their cliques
  • Let free agents explore and learn about the issues
  • Don't ignore the newcomer, they may not have a lot of influence now but in a few months, who knows?
  • Always welcome free agents, whether they are new to your organization or are coming back from a hiatus
  • Let free agents participate in their own time and in their own way
  • If a great idea is created by a free agent, run with it. It doesn't matter who came up with it, if it makes a difference, it's worth it.

The important thing to remember with free agents is to work with them, not against them. It can be scary to know there are people working on behalf of your organization that you have no control over, but that's also the really great thing about free agents. You don't have to do any of the work. You trust that people are good and genuinely want to help your organization through their own efforts.

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