Why are online communities important for nonprofits?
Americans are engaging online in more ways than ever
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly eight of ten online Americans use Facebook. Internet users have an average of seven social accounts. New forms of social media, messaging, live streaming, and other apps are constantly experimenting and innovating on how people communicate. Not to mention the more “traditional” discussion forums and message boards that are still important tools for communication and collaboration.
Nonprofits want to engage constituents in online communities
Nonprofits have a general knowledge that deeper engagement with donors, members, volunteers, etc. leads to improved outcomes. Therefore, nonprofits often look to engage with their audiences in multiple ways—and increasingly, that includes online/digital channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others. Digital engagement also might include a nonprofit building its own online community.
But what is an “online community?”
Nonprofits often serve as curators of communities, both offline and online. They help foster connectivity, make new members feel welcome, and help grow a strong and vibrant community.
When you think about the word “community” it conjures up images of a place that you feel a part of and connected to. It’s a place where you know you can get help, and you stand willing to offer help when needed. It’s a place where you feel invested.
In the context of this blog series, when we use the phrase “online community,” we are referring to a “separate” community (in its own space; not on Facebook or another social media site) where the nonprofit organization has control over the community features, membership, and branding.
Online community success stories
There are plenty of success stories surrounding the use of online communities. These successes include such statistics as:
- Increased attendance at revenue-generating events by 50%
- Increased member retention by 11%
- Increased fundraising revenue by 352%
- Increased number of volunteer hours by 20%
- Increased “sustainer” giving by 15%
Putting an online community to use for your organization
The value of an online community is that it may offer ways to increase constituent engagement. This can translate into better outcomes for your organization! Read the next post to see some of the potential uses for your online community.
Jumping in at the middle? See the introductory post for this series: “Driving Nonprofit Impact Through Online Communities”