The Similarities Between an Online Community and Non-Profit Development

Most of the examples provided to us in the books that we are reading for #CMGRclass showcase for profit businesses.  Since I work in Higher Education, I’m trying to figure out ways to translate those examples to be helpful for non-profits.

buzzing communitiesIn Buzzing Communities, Richard Millington writes, “For non-profit organizations, a community may often serve no other purpose than to directly support the organizations mission”(Millington, page 214). Although this is often true, I believe social media and online communities can also be directly related to donor dollars for non-profit organizations.

After reading Chapter 5: Influence and Relationships, the similarity between growing a successful online community and non-profit development really stood out to me. Receiving donations is based around the relationship a person has with a certain institution, organization or cause. The job of a development officer is not only to develop new relationships, but to also maintain them, so that they do not fade away, and as a result, the donations don’t fade with it.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 11.43.54 AMIn this chapter, Millington does a good job explaining how to build, maintain and strengthen relationships. Topics he covers include: relationship criteria, building insider groups, volunteers, and recognition. However, the information is not new; non-profit organizations have been using these tactics for off-line relationship building for years. It is almost as though non-profits have done what Millington has done with online communities reversed. Non-profits develop relationships off-line first, and then organize an online community to grow those relationships and continue the conversation.

donate now buttonsWith my experience in Higher Education,  it appears as though some non-profits are struggling to find successful ways to cultivate online relationships and having a hard time proving that they are aiding in bringing in donations. But just because a relationship is formed online, it does not make it any less powerful than an in-person relationship and should be treated equal.

This is the list of relationships criteria that Millington lays out in his book. Your online community will most likely be with members who fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • High levels of activity
  • High levels of expertise or passion for the topic
  • Distinctive contributions
  • Interesting real-life positions
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Great contacts
  • Strategic fit

This is the same exact list that a development officer would use when forming in-person relationships with potential donors. Cultivating people online is really no different.

Do you work for a non-profit organization? Do you find community building to be beneficial to your non-profit’s financial goals? I’d love to hear!

Disclaimer: I encourage online relationships to turn into in-person ones. Social media is a tool to make relationships stronger, but does not replace the importance of in-person relationships.

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