September 18, 2014

Explaining the 'Intention Economy': When Donors Come to You

Doc Searls

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What would happen if we flipped the economy on its head? Author Doc Searls discusses the concept of the "intention economy": a system that puts customers' needs and intents before those of a business.

Today's data-driven and personalized marketing is a bubble, says Mr. Searls, who heads projectVRM, a Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet & Society effort to build tools to allow individuals independence in how they interact with businesses of all kinds. 

As demand for online privacy grows, people will be looking for ways to have more control over how, when, and with whom they share their information. And the trend will not bypass nonprofits, which have a lot to gain by giving up on the notion that they have to convince donors and safeguard their relationship with them, he says. 

“If we had standard, simple ways that anybody could contribute either by impulse or by long-term commitment inside of a relationship ... it would open up a heck of a lot of fundraising opportunities,“ says Mr. Searls.

Allison Fine, a nonprofit leader, author, and expert on technology and communications, discusses research in other fields that apply to nonprofit work. Ms. Fine incorporates suggestions and questions from readers into her podcasts and invites you to e-mail her at Look for new installments once a month.