Posted by: Natalie Henry Bennon | October 13, 2013

Organizational Identification for Non-Profits

I was particularly interested this week in organizational identity (How Organizational Identification Forms, Journal of Consumer Research, 2011). I found myself trying to relate the findings to a nonprofit that is trying to build support for its work.

The article maintains that people identify with an organization via sensegiving and sensemaking. Sensegiving occurs when the organization formally gives a person a sense of belonging, for example via newsletters or meetings or events. Sensemaking happens informally, via conversations among the constituents, or shared activities among the constituents. Many times, the article claims the sense of belonging is formed via “productive consumption” among constituents. But what is productive consumption? In the case of the CSA, each CSA member consumer the CSA’s produce, and feels they are doing something productive in that. In the case of BLAM, the best I could figure is that productive consumption occurred when they all got drunk together at work; they consumed alcohol, and they felt productive because they did it together and it was fun? I have a hard time relating to this example; I don’t think it encourages healthy behavior and it feels to me like a big frat party where you’re not cool if you don’t drink a lot. But it did create, for many people, a sense or organizational identity.

I am wondering, for a non-profit, how can one capitalize on these ideas to gain any of the following more awareness or support? What kind of productive consumption can a non-profit offer?

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