The purpose of an online community is to bring together people with a common goal or purpose. Non-profit organizations need support, spread their message, and ensure the longevity of their missions, just as brands do. Using online communities can help non-profits raise money, recruit advocates, and mobilize more people.
Creating an online community around your organization’s mission will connect your supporters and amplify their message. Your engaged community members will eventually become donors and help you attract new members and donors.
The success of online fundraising for nonprofits depends greatly on having a community behind their cause. Your cause and all new initiatives will be supported, cheered on and spread the word by this group.
What is an Online Community?
Basically, an online community consists of people interacting online. There are many types of communities online, ranging from the billion-member Instagram community to a private group of coffee lovers that rate artisan cafes in their city on Facebook or other community platforms.
To build your own online community, you need to understand what kind of online community works best for your brand.
Our aim with this article is to provide you with helpful tips on how your non-profit can build a community online.
Start With Why
What is the purpose of creating an online community for your non-profit? If you want to know how an online community can assist your organization in reaching its strategic goals, take a moment to consider them.
Here are some potential goals:
- Increase the number of donations
- Increase the number of volunteers
- Enhance the retention of volunteers
- Make your brand more visible
- Promote sponsorships and partnerships
- Contribute to knowledge sharing and collaboration
- Empower your organization’s community champions
1. Create a Community Mission Statement
As soon as you have determined your goal(s), you can write your community mission statement. Your community’s mission statement explains why your community was created and what it aims to accomplish.
The Foundation is a fundamental part of your community, and you should seek guidance from it for all decisions. It is used to define future goals and determine the operational tactics needed to attain them.
An organization’s mission statement should encourage members to join, explain the culture and values of the community, and state the benefits of belonging to the organization.
2. Laying the Foundations
Consider the following points when setting up your community:
- Who will manage the community?
Managing, engaging, and growing the community is the responsibility of the community manager. It is their job to ensure the community is a vibrant hub where people want to engage.
- What are the rules?
A safe online space where members feel surrounded by people with similar interests is essential to the success of your community.
In addition to ensuring that users are safe, it is your responsibility to make sure you understand the rules. Establish guidelines for how members should interact with each other. Explain what is and isn’t allowed, as well as the consequences for breaking the rules.
- How will you engage members off the bat?
Gather and create seed content for your online community before launching. In addition, you could reach out to certain members to generate discussion in your community before the official launch.
By doing so, you will engage members from the beginning.
3. Ensuring Engagement
Engagement is the key to building a successful online community. Growth is important, but your community is really valuable if your members are engaged.
Engaging your community will strengthen your organization’s relationships with its members. Positive outcomes will result from stronger relationships.
The following techniques work for most types of communities for improving community engagement:
- Make it incredibly easy for members to participate
Provide multiple entry points (your organization’s website, email, newsletter…) and consider its design carefully–make calls to action clear and easy to understand!
- Create an outstanding onboarding process
Ensure that new members understand how the community works and how they can get involved.
- Identify your community champions
You can improve your community by getting feedback from your power users. Newcomers should be invited to introduce themselves and be encouraged to participate.
- Create a safe online space
Your community should be a safe space to foster authentic self-expression and a sense of belonging.
4. Create targeted engagement strategies
Create specialist groups within your online community to offer members more customized support and content.
Ensure that your community is consistently providing value to its members by regularly surveying them. You should keep in mind that most members are not engaged at the beginning.
In most cases, members observe before becoming more involved. Communities should experiment with engagement strategies and use a test-and-learn approach.
5. Identify and Empower Your Advocates
You need to identify the community champions once your community is up and running. Those who are engaged in the community are your community champions. They are recognized for their motivation and willingness to get involved. In addition, they demonstrate leadership skills in the community.
The best advocates for your organization are your community champions. They believe in the mission of your community. They are active in your community and are invested in its success. You can promote your community and organization, find new members, and create content with them.
Members of your community can also provide invaluable feedback on how your community can be improved from their perspective.
Encourage community champions to continue their contributions by thanking them. Offer them shout-outs or extra admin privileges. Alternatively, you may want to ask them to lead a specialized community group.
6. Measure Success With Meaningful Metrics
Look for metrics directly related to your goals rather than counting clicks and comments. How will your community define success?
Here are some examples that might inspire you:
- Volunteer participation rates
- Donation rates
- Number of community champions
- Event participation rates
- Participant satisfaction, feedback, and retention
- Number of sponsorships and partnerships
- Engagement with resources
- Volunteer feedback and satisfaction
- Number of collaborations
- Number of active members
7. Choose a Platform that Serves Your Community’s Needs
Once you have developed a community strategy, you can look for software to support it. The requirements you have will be specific to your organization. Therefore, there are some features that all great community management platforms offer to strengthen engagement and create the best user experience:
- A searchable and interactive member directory
- Membership management features
- (Virtual) event management
- Donation management
- A jobs board
- Analytics and engagement scoring
- Group features for targeted engagement strategies
- Media centre for sharing resources
- Email suite (complete with email templates and campaign reporting)
- Project function for collaborations
An Invaluable Asset for your Non-Profit Organization
Community – whether physical or virtual – is central to human existence. Their closeness and connection appeal to our need for belonging, and they give us a sense of belonging.
Community building, meaningful exchanges, support, and friendship can all be found in the best virtual communities. Your goal should be to create a safe, private environment and to encourage members to interact with each other and with you.
Any non-profit organization can benefit greatly from an online community when it is done correctly. Creating a vibrant virtual community can drive loyalty, brand awareness, new donors, more volunteers, and feedback.