Last night at the Portland Net Tuesday event for May, we discussed the myriad ways nonprofits could use a wiki. Many people wondered, how do we ease a wiki into an organization? What are the first steps?

To introduce a wiki, you should:

1.  Ask yourself this question: What goal do we want to accomplish by using this wiki? 

Having the end goal in mind helps guide both initial set-up of the wiki and conversations with staff as it’s introduced. Do you want to use the wiki as an internal collaboration tool for restaurants close to the office, a place to share ideas about future projects, a shared space for event planning, or for working together on grant applications and letters? All of these goals are fine, but they all indicate very different uses of the wiki.

2.  Start the wiki off on the right foot. 

For people who have never participated in a wiki, a single blank white page is not inviting—even for those who have used a wiki before. You are only setting yourself up for a lot more work if you send out a link to the wiki, with nothing but a title and the hope that people will dive right in.

It is a wiki, so its initial structure may or may not last. It is important to have something in the wiki for people to edit, read, and slowly participate in. Include the goal in a short introduction on the main page—why are you introducing the tool to the organization? Next, add a couple of links and new pages to explain the spread of topics and conversations, and suggest possibilities for content on those pages and on new ones. Some people even add spelling or grammatical errors so people click “edit” at least once to fix the glaring mistakes!

3.  Invite them and ask them, over and over.

The ”invite” happens mostly outside and the “ask” mostly inside the wiki. Invite your group (just a few staff members, a team, the whole organization, or your membership base) to use it! This goes beyond the initial introduction. Inviting is something that you should do as often as possible. For example, if you get an email from someone on staff asking about a project that you know is discussed in the wiki, keep your content in the wiki and include a link to it in the email; invite the person to continue the conversation with you and the rest of the staff there. 

As a participant, and as an organizer in the wiki, it’s helpful to include actionable tasks throughout the wiki, especially in the initial phase; this encourages participation. Someone may read a page that explains the early planning of an after-school program your organization might be spearheading and think, “well, that’s nice,” but they won’t immediately see what they should edit on the page. Instead, after an explanation of the project, include a few questions, such as: Do you have kids participating in an after-school program in town? How many staffers should be hired? Which school(s) should we interview? Those questions are actionable—everyone has an answer that is valid and can be included just by hitting edit, typing a quick response, and saving. Plus, once a few folks have entered their answers, the door opens for conversation around their input or even similarities between staff and programs.

To sum it up: Choose a goal, plant some content, invite, and ask.

There is a plethora of information available on wiki adoption including nonprofits that already use wikis internally and externally.

Do you have a project that could benefit from using a shared space, instead of hundreds of emails or lost hand-written notes? Has your organization already considered a wiki? I’d love you to share your success stories.

imageAmy Sample Ward’s passion for nonprofit technology has lead her to involvement with NTEN, NetSquared, and a host of other organizations. She shares many of her thoughts on nonprofit technology news and evolutions on her blog.

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