May 24, 2012

7 ways to create a fiercely loyal nonprofit community

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Photo by laubarnes on Flickr

Guest post by Sarah Robinson
Fierce Loyalty

The strategies and approaches for community building are changing. And gaining fierce loyalty from your community is becoming increasingly difficult.

There is just so much out there competing for the attention and heart of your members that doing things the same way you’ve always done them will no longer yield the results you are after.

To help you shift your lens on creating and maintaining a nonprofit community, here are seven ways to create a fiercely loyal nonprofit community:

1Decide why you want a community. If the only reasons you can come up with are “so we can ask them for money” and “so we can ask them to volunteer”, hit the pause button. Communities that are created for the sole purpose of being a one-way communication channel don’t last long and they never become Fiercely Loyal.

2Understand the needs of your community. People who want to be part of a community usually have three primary needs: 1) Belonging, 2) Recognition and 3) Safety. Note: Not everyone who supports your organization wants to be a part of a community. Allow them to be individuals.

3Stand for something bold. Taking a bold stand 1) allows you to rise above all the noise in today’s marketplace and 2) attract a very distinct group of people who want to be associated specifically with you and your nonprofit.

4Create multiple connection points. And by connection points, I mean opportunities for two-way communication. Gone are the days of non-profits pumping out one-way messages. Use blogs, social media, live-stream videos and in-real-life gatherings to connect with your community members and give them the opportunity to connect with each other.

5Create a culture of “We”. I often hear nonprofits complaining about “those donors” or “those volunteers,” which tells me there is an Us/Them culture at play. What if you only used the word “we” as in “We are all supporters of this organization. Some of us just happen to work in the office.”

6Keep evolving. Many nonprofits already have a solid, predictable community, so it’s tempting to move into a holding pattern. If you want a Fiercely Loyal community, resist this temptation. Channel your energies into creating opportunities for your community to develop Pride, Trust and Passion- not just for your nonprofit, but also for the community they belong to.

7Love your community. I mean really, really love them. Not just because they can do things for you but because each member truly matters to you. Be interested in them; pay attention to them, get to know them. Treat them the same way you treat other people you value in your life.

These seven strategies are not expensive or fancy. And anyone at any point in their community building process can put them into play. Those who do will get the payoff of a rich, dynamic and fiercely loyal community.

What would you add to the list?

Sarah Robinson runs the blog Fierce Loyalty and just gave a workshop on loyal communities at the Alabama Association for Nonprofits. Download her whitepaper (opt in free), The ROI of a Fiercely Loyal Community, and follow @sarahrobinson on Twitter.
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