The Blog

free social media concept

July 06, 2009 |

Today, I’m interrupting our flow of blog posts on Facebook as an important social media platform for nonprofits and ministries to point you to an important concept and new book. Chris Anderson, Wired’s Editor in Chief, has a new book titled: Free: The Future of a Radical Price. You can also read him on Wired’s blog.

The book is about the crazy economic and cultural situations where scarcity, abundance and waste don’t work the way they used to. Abundance and scarcity exist almost side by side. I won’t try to synthesize his blog here, but this is the kind of new thinking the world is embracing: he’s written a book about “Free” and now he’s selling it. (My buddy William and I had a little Facebook exchange about the irony of that.) But wait. Turns out Anderson is selling the book, but the unabridged audio is a free download (look on the left just under the main photo). Crazy, but good crazy. The old economic thinking would say, “you can’t give the audio away, you’re devaluing the printed page.” He and his publisher disagree.

Here’s something for you to chew on from his blog.

Waste, abundance and scarcity don’t work the way they used to. (one of his primary points).

FreeAnderson discusses the concept of “waste” which is often thought of as only bad. It’s bad to waste anything. But he points out that if you “waste” the right thing, it’s good. Anderson talks about this intentional waste, “The science fiction writer Cory Doctorow calls this “thinking like a dandelion.” He writes: “The disposition of each—or even most—of the seeds isn’t the important thing, from a dandelion’s point of view. The important thing is that every spring, every crack in every pavement is filled with dandelions. The dandelion doesn’t want to nurse a single precious copy of itself in the hopes that it will leave the nest and carefully navigate its way to the optimum growing environment, there to perpetuate the line. The dandelion just wants to be sure that every single opportunity for reproduction is exploited!” This is how to embrace waste. Seeds are too cheap to meter. It feels wrong, even alien, to throw so much away, but it’s the right way to take advantage of abundance.”

For nonprofits or ministries, we have to learn to think differently about abundance and scarcity.

If you’re doing a direct mail fundraising campaign the most obvious scarce resource is often the dollars to invest in the mailing. You budget; you decide how much you can afford to spend. And you find the best people on your file to mail that impact to. The scarcity here is your printing and postage budget. If you have enough money, you can carpet bomb your file–mailing everyone, all the time, maybe damaging some relationships because you’re mailing indiscriminately, limited only by your budget.

And if you’re sending donors email… that’s practically free. You can email as many as you want, BUT that little “unsubscribe” link is down there at the bottom of your email, so you’re careful about blasting to everyone (you are more careful aren’t you?). The scarcity here is donor relationship. You are careful not to spend too much of your relationship capital in an email campaign. But, what if you applied that same thinking to mail?

What if you made your mailing decisions based on relationships rather costs? What if you decided that the most scarce resource was your relationship with your donor rather than your expense budget, how would things change? One thing that will change is that you’d realize more net income (that gets close to a commercial for Oneicity, so that’s all I’ll say here…but, you could click here for a case study). Anderson is right, scarcity and abundance don’t work they way they used to. Now all we have to do is figure out how to apply it to everyday life.

So what do you think? Where have you noticed abundance and scarcity shifting? What do you have in abundance now and what is your most scarce resource?

Almost forgot that this is Good Job Monday. Tell someone they did a great job last week–be specific and personal. You’ll make their week.

The Oneicity “good job Monday” shout out goes to David Meerman Scott. Thanks to David for supercharging our thinking about promotion and public relations. His book “World Wide Rave” is jam packed with great concepts for “spreading the word.” (He’s agreed to an interview with Oneicity where we can ask how to apply his ideas specifically to npos and ministries. You won’t want to miss it!)


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: nerdegutt)
claim: rwib3spm95

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