Sunday, December 10, 2006

Perla Ni at the Online Community Summit

Thomas Kriese and I were at the Online Community Summit on Oct 5 and 6 where about 75 professionals gather in very cute Sonoma to swap stories of online communities .

I was very lucky to have Perla Ni riding shotgun on the rainy trip up. Perla was founder and former publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review among many other famous things. She was also one of the presenters at the non-profit pre-conference Thursday morning.

She feels that most non-profit websites aren’t emotionally engaging – offering stock photos and cold information and a “donate here” button. She offers a cure: make it possible for the people that the group serves to put up content on the site – either text, video or podcasts. She showed a very cool Canadian site - - that puts up new videos portraits of homeless made by volunteers. It turns out that most homeless people have very interesting stories to tell. New videos appear each week and Perla returns regularly to see what's new.

Of course nonprofits might fear losing control of the message. But direct communication gives the site an authenticity that should more than make up for any uneasiness. And it makes it possible for visitors to feel like they are in contact with the real people who they would like to help.

Perla has also software that allows non-profits transform their websites via the collection and display of user created content. She passed on the chance to toot her own horn in her presentation.

She is also the CEO of a nonprofit called GreatNonprofits – taking advantage of the grassroots democratization of the web to aggregate and share information about nonprofits.

Here's a pic from the summit: Perla on the left and Gail Ann Williams is the Director of Communities at

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