5 Tips for Online Community Management in Philanthropy

If you build it — they will come.

Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?

That strategy rarely works. When it comes to online communities — especially those in philanthropy — building engagement and participation is like tending to a new garden. You plant the seeds.

You nurture it to help it grow. After a while, you get out of the way as it bears the fruit of your labor.

The online community manager in philanthropy is considered the master gardener of this process. It’s someone who wakes up every day and cares about reinforcing the goals of the community, connecting people to each other and uplifting the causes the community cares about.

5 Tips for Online Community Management in Philanthropy

  1. Inclusion builds loyalty – When the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading started its online community to connect leaders in the 230+ communities working to improve childhood literacy, they started with a core group of highly engaged people and asked them what they wanted to see in the revamped online platform called The Huddle. This approach helped the Campaign build a loyal core group of users who felt invested in the online community before it even launched.
  2. Quality over quantity – In the early days of online communities, it’s easy for leaders — and community managers — to become swept up in analytics. It would be a mistake to focus too heavily on growth metrics for a nascent community — instead, look at metrics that show quality of interaction and interest, such as the login-to-post content ratio (showcases whether or not your community is seeing an increase in member contributions) and a post-to-comment ratio (tells you if content being produced by the community is driving engagement).
  3. Create opportunities to bond offline – Community can –and should– be built offline. Have you tried organizing meetups that are focused by issue or geography? This kind of engagement offline will solidify bonds online.
  4. Don’t let small victories go unnoticed – Many online community managers for nonprofits and philanthropic causes worry about nurturing buy-in from executive leadership and board members. Our advice is to not let even the smallest wins go unnoticed. In the early days of an online community (especially when metrics only show part of the picture) — screen shots of quality interactions can go a long way to demonstrate value. Share these wins with people who need help understanding that online communities don’t grow to 1 million members overnight.
  5. Unplug – Don’t let FOMO get the best of you. Community managers live and breathe being online, but unplugging helps you recharge. Watch the ideas flow when you step away from your devices — even if it’s for a day.

Want to learn more about the State of Online Community in 2016? Check out this annual report from The Community Round Table.


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