The Value of Intangible Goods. How Donating Your Knowledge Makes a Difference.
I had the opportunity to work with Kimberly Tierney a few years ago when she was employed by a Canary Promotion client. I was always impressed with her capabilities, intelligence and dedication to her work. She’s now living in Japan and we’ve kept in touch via Twitter. So when I saw her tweet that she might like to write about the “value of intangible goods,” I invited her to contribute a post on this topic to our blog.
I founded Canary as a mission-driven business because I wanted to work with the independent artists in my community and help them take their careers to the next level. That mission expanded over the years to include work with arts, culture and nonprofit organizations and projects that have a lasting impact on others and the community as a whole. Of course, I’m thrilled to be making a living doing something about which I’m truly passionate, but I also value the larger idea that we can contribute and make a difference in other ways. That’s why we incorporate volunteering, community participation, and pro-bono services into our schedules, and that’s why I was interested in Kimberly’s topic. Here’s what she has to say.
- Megan Wendell, Founder & President
The Value of Intangible Goods
by Kimberly Tierney
Since my original tweet about the value of intangible goods I’ve had about a month to think more deeply about what I meant by “value.” Specifically what it means to individuals seeking to add philanthropic and charitable value to our communities. Our passions for the value of art, the value of healing, learning, and helping is what got us into the non-profit and charitable sectors whether employed there, serving as a board member, or running a small business which supports non-profit activities.
We are all bound by the intangible conviction that our work is valuable, so valuable we sometimes sacrifice our sanity, and certainly our financial stability to do it.
Here are a few ideas on the value we add and what value we receive from our passionate devotion to the non-profit sector.
Identifying intangible values
Traditional analysis separates intangible value into two major categories: knowledge and benefits.
Knowledge refers to sharing your expertise in your field and idea generation - planning, process, design, anything that may support the tangible services of the non-profit you are working with. You may or may not receive financial compensation for your knowledge depending on your role within the non-profit.
A great example of knowledge activation happened after the earthquake and tsunami here in Japan, when one man, a good editor, put out a call for first person accounts of the moment the earthquake struck to be compiled into a book and sold to raise funds for the Japanese Red Cross. His offer to edit these stories led to a sudden and overwhelming activation of knowledge all across his network. The project was organized nearly out of thin air with people volunteering their knowledge of publishing and business to produce, design, and distribute the book. You can read all about the project here: www.quakebook.org
The lesson: offer your knowledge and don’t get side-tracked or discouraged by what you can’t do.
Benefits are favors we can give and get across networks and are also part of the emotional, communal, and prestige value we receive from working with non-profits. Financial compensation is never involved in this definition of benefits, and favors may be activities that aren’t part of your expertise.
The Quakebook project received a very valuable and unexpected favor from Twitter in the early stage of development. The editor of the project used the hashtag #quakebook to organize his efforts. Twitter defined the hashtag from its own account @twitter: #Quakebook: A Twitter-sourced Japan charity book published in one week to benefit the earthquake victims. This tweet was then re-tweeted by Yoko Ono, which propagated the message of the project and in turn resulted in Ms. Ono’s own contribution to the book contribution, increasing the visibility of the project even further.
Ms. Ono wasn’t the first celebrity to contribute to the Quakebook project, but the unsolicited and unexpected favor by Twitter was the tipping point of the project’s success and subsequent storm of interest from the press. Individually we don’t have massive networks like the @twitter account, but never underestimate the ripple effect of value that doing favors within your own network creates.
The lesson: Give benefits to organizations by doing favors to expand your network, and receive similar favors in kind.
Maximizing your intangible value: Knowledge
- Identify and build your knowledge community. Connect with others who have similar knowledge and make a plan to offer this knowledge to non-profits as a team.
- Know your limits. Don’t share knowledge if you are not an expert. Redirect the request for help to someone more suited to the job. Likewise if you volunteer to help and are turned down by an organization don’t let that be the end of it. Ask if they have heard of similar needs at another organization and help out there.
- Cultivate your knowledge! What you do for a living may or may not be your area of expertise. You may need to spend personal hours to expand your knowledge, which in turn will be an added benefit to personal growth and future projects.
- Be clear if you are offering knowledge for financial compensation or as a volunteer. It is incredibly easy to over-extend on a passion project. Avoid burnout by maintaining a healthy Life/Work balance, even if that work is volunteering.
The good of intangible value
Intangible values, knowledge and benefits, are major currency in the non-profit sector. Donating your knowledge base to non-profits as a volunteer is valuable! If you aren’t already, consider how you might get involved. If you work for a non-profit but don’t offer your knowledge outside your organization, find a way to start doing it! Generating goodwill, social good, altruism, generosity, or whatever name you care to put on that driving passion, is not something that should be undervalued. Consider the value and benefits of in-kind services today!
Kimberly Tierney is a language trainer and dialogue coach for global businesses and the film industry in Tokyo.
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