In a digital world, there are ample opportunities to stay connected to people, ideas and information. From texting and email to social media and Skype, there are more options than ever to plug in — especially when it comes to rallying support for your organization’s cause or mission.
But amid all of the digital opportunity, there’s a bigger question: are the connections your nonprofit or foundation is making deep and transformational or shallow and transactional?
Social sector communications is coming of age and is demanding the authenticity and connection that is capable of the deep societal transformation changemakers seek. One of the ways this is happening is through nurturing online communities.
Start with a goal when considering an online community
With support from funders, including private foundations, online communities begin to take shape when there is a common goal or cause to serve as a rallying point.
In the case of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the common goal is literacy. More specifically, it’s working toward ensuring all children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade by addressing the barriers many face during early childhood. When children –especially those from low-income homes– meet this milestone, the trajectory of their lives is much more positive.
This goal of moving the needle on early childhood literacy is the rallying point for the Campaign’s 250+ communities nationwide.
Signs an online community will deepen relationships related to your mission
How do you know an online community is right for your organization’s cause or mission? In many cases, a highly engaged network already exists and could benefit from additional support to take it to the next level.
In the case of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a network of more than 250 communities working toward a common goal existed — but how were leaders in disparate communities taking advantage of the power and intelligence of the collective group to move the needle where they live?
A more formal online community called The Huddle — one with a dedicated community manager who wakes up every day striving to connect people and ideas –was the answer. Leaders ask questions, but more importantly, they get answers when it comes to tried and true solutions from across the country.
In other instances, a highly engaged network might only have 50 people — and that’s OK. This kind of deep interaction might take place on a closed Facebook group instead of a larger platform with a lot of bells and whistles. When it comes to online community vibrancy it’s definitely quality over quantity.
Ways to improve quality of conversations and engagement
Whether your community exists on Facebook or elsewhere, there are several activities that will keep community members coming back. Besides asking questions and getting direct answers from others doing similar work, on The Huddle, people can join webinars, write and comment on blog posts, watch videos, participate in group chats and more.
Social sector communications is changing at the speed of digital innovation. Nonprofits and philanthropic organizations that plan with this in mind will cultivate the most authentic and deep connections on and offline.