A Quick Primer on Community Building

Wendy Bolm 02/08/2017
A Quick Primer on Community Building

CommitChange now hosts Fika for Social Good events in the MidWest, an informal series of discussions for nonprofit leaders and tech professionals. During our most recent meeting, we discussed community building. 

An entire industry has sprung up around teaching community building in the digital world. Here are some tips on how to build a base, or add to one, without cutting corners.

There are no shortcuts. 

Every once in a while, I talk to someone who wants advice on where they can go to buy a list of emails to add to their newsletter list. Or, they want a shortcut on how to get their Facebook campaign to go viral. The truth is that community building requires a strong foundation and some elbow grease. 

If you're trying to build your base, the first step you need to take is to figure out who you want to attract and where they are. Then, you need to take some time and show up. Be consistently there. For example, if you're a private school and you want to reach new potential students, put an advertisement in the education section of your newspaper or sponsor a table at a local event. If you want volunteers for your Earth Day volunteer initiative, research applicable hashtags on social media then start posting. 

Be ultra transparent about how people can get involved. 

I work with nonprofits for work and in my off time, and I'm often surprised by how hard it is to find contact information for the person I need at a nonprofit organization. Or how to get involved. Or even what help they need. 

Let your supporters know whether your want them to donate $5 or share a campaign to their friends. Given them the best way to contact you on your website and event flyers. Don't be afraid to publicize your email and phone number to make it even easier. 

Get stakeholders to do the hard work. 

People outside of your staff should be doing a lot of the work in spreading the word about your organization. Have your volunteers post on social media. Your board members should be sharing campaigns and events with their friends. People who donate should be given calls to action to share and get involved further. Specific instructions for how supporters can create peer to peer campaigns for your organization should be easy to find. People like to help; if you give people clear ways to do so, you'll be surprised in how much ground you can cover. 

Every initiative should have a purpose. 

One question that came up at this week's fika was from a participant who doesn't consider himself to be an "event guy." His organization wants to hold events, but they never quite get off the ground. 

When you start brainstorming for event ideas, two important questions are "What purpose does this serve?" and "Who do we want to come?" If you can answer these questions with a clear focus, chances are your event is on the right track. Each programming option you add to your schedule should help you fulfill your mission and your goals.