Leveraging Technology for Mission, Part III: Members

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on April 4, 2011

in religious communities, Uncategorized

While some people believe that leaders are the ones holding an organization or community back from using technology to support mission, members can be equally responsible.  The fact that members may have little or no Internet experience beyond using email and doing research presents a challenge and an opportunity to organizations that want to integrate web-based technologies into their communications, training, marketing, and networking efforts.

 Members fall into four major categories when it comes to using technology:

  1. Early adopters—either because they had to be because of work/ministry demands (most often) or because the idea intrigued them (less often)
  2. The “never-had-a-reason to” pursue it crowd—mostly neutral, some even positive about web-based technology
  3. Not for me—no interest and sometimes vocally resistant even when the workplace or ministry requires it
  4. Those who are unable to use it 

Early Adopters

While small in numbers, the early adopters can be the cheerleaders for innovative uses of technology by an organization. Leaders need to identify the early adopters and engage them in the planning process. Their experiences can be very helpful in making sure that whatever you do will be as user-friendly as possible. They can test out your ideas and give you feedback and possibly alternative solutions.

Never Had a Reason To

The “never-had-a-reason-to” crowd is key to your success. To get them on board, the organization has to provide three things:

  1. A really good reason to participate such as:
    • Access to content they really want (news, updates, training)
    • Convenience (to donate, register, participate when they want to)
    • Community (networking with peers, being part of something bigger than themselves)
  2. User-friendly technology and user support when they have problems
  3. Training when needed

Not for Me

We have to recognize that the “not-for-me” members are opting out. It is unlikely that logic or reason will change their minds. While an organization is moving towards using technology more, this group (usually a minority) may become more vocal. Even so, if the life and vitality of the organization for the present and the future is dependent on greater use of technology—leaders have to move forward. They can make reasonable accommodations for the “un-wired” —but they cannot be held hostage by them. Some of the not-for-me members will “convert” to online offerings, some will not. Those who don’t will have less influence on the future because they have chosen not to be part of it.

Unable

There is a difference between those who refuse to use technology and those who because of age or health are unable to use it. In religious communities, for example, where some members may not be able to use technology, the communities can find other ways to include them (printing out information for them, providing a technology buddy who can keep them up to date, group viewing of video offerings, downloading audio content and making it available to them through mp3 players, etc.). They will be happy and grateful for the efforts and will feel included to the extent that they can and want to be. We make this effort in other areas of community life, we can do it with technology as well.

Summary

Using technology for mission requires that both members and leaders be onboard.  We can’t assume that will happen automatically.

Your comments are welcome.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF April 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Susan, Thank you for reminding us about the different levels of audiences we are dealing with today. That is the challenge, as some have jumped in with both feet and others are as far away as is possible from even thinking of being involved with new media. Our challenge today is to be sensitive to all – yet, to move us along in ways of communicating that provide new ways of staying connected with one another.

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