‘Content Curation’ is one of the essential concepts when it comes to preparing and writing stories for online consumption. The term refers to the activity of collecting, sharing, and responding to information on the internet in a consistent and focused manner. A ‘curator’ is traditionally defined as “a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.” And the new concept follows a similar line, albeit for a website or social-networking account. In a sense, many of us are already doing it, both as individuals and as spokespersons for our nonprofits and charities. If you are updating a Pinterest account or sharing what engages you on Scoop.it!, then you are already a ‘curator’ in some sense. But how can you push that activity to the proverbial next level, and how might curation be a boon for your nonprofit?
What many communications consultants and social-networking experts agree on is that curation goes beyond re-posting or back-linking. An online curator focuses his or her interests on a few areas, and seeks out the best work on that area. She or he then brings that work together while adding useful information to explain and relate the collection to a new audience. Think of The Guggenheim Museum in New York or the Walters Art Gallery of Baltimore: they are trying not to present the history of art but to educate people on the best examples of particular eras or movements.
One of the highly respected curators out there is Robin Good, and he provides an excellent working definition of curation (and how it is not the same as marketing): “Curation is an effective means to build a strong relationship with a niche audience of passionate people to engage, not a marketing strategy that caters to gain a broad audience of readers by virtue of quantity and breadth.”
While developing this story, I came across a few curators who others pointed to as leaders in the field. I list them here as they might serve as examples/models. Notcot.org looks like a smartly-designed Pinterest page and seems to encourage greater sociability than other curators in that readers can recommend stories within the ‘notempire’. Coolhunting covers design, technology, travel, culture, and gastronomic interests. A personal favorite, BrainPickings.org by Maria Popova, curates great reading, great writing, and what great readers and writers have to say about it all.
But what about curation for the nonprofit? A recent post drew attention to OneClimate.org, a social-networking site focussed on climate and environmental issues. The OneClimate staff work as curators of news stories, reporters of events, and advocates of the issue. What a smartly curated part of your organization’s web presence could mean is focus, attention, and influence. If your nonprofit worked on local housing concerns, for example, you could develop a web page (or even a distinct site) to collect, consider, comment upon, and disseminate information about larger housing issues. The curation presence of your nonprofit would likely bring those already engaged in the issues, and your nonprofit could become one of the go-to sources for developing information and engaged commentary.
The tools for curation are manifold (we named a couple of the better-known ones above). Robin Good (again) offers an excellent survey of the tool shed, including some that have fallen by the wayside or are promising betas just over the horizon. His ever-developing map we share with you above. Tumblr, Typepad, Tweetdeck, even Wikipedia are on his list. The tools should not be the focus, of course. Content is king. Curation will not bring thousands of new eyeballs (read: ‘potential donors’) to your nonprofit’s web presence. Curation can bring many more hundreds of committed viewers to your site. And commitment is queen.