Preloader Image

Bridge the Gap: How to drive engagement in your nonprofit community

4.20.16 By: Bethany Williams

Virtual engagement has so much promise because it expands your community beyond the scope of the local. But just as it makes communicating across physical boundaries possible, it also makes it that much easier to ignore a correspondence or tune out a message. Getting buy-in from half a continent away, or from strangers who haven’t yet seen your nonprofit’s impact, requires a different set of methods and skills for engagement.

What do we mean by engagement?

Like our fair city of Portland (aka Bridgetown), nonprofits must bridge multiple divides to drive activity and engagement. What we’re really talking about is internal collaboration, external outreach, and developing content to harness the power of your network. Community engagement is not only about making community members feel connected to each other, but also about making sure they’re connected to your organization. Every single touchpoint you have with your constituents is an opportunity to make them feel like they’re a part of something bigger, and providing a holistic experience that’s intuitive and accessible means you’ll keep them engaged longer and stronger.

  • Internal: Collaboration among staff, funders, members, volunteers and other supporters is key to building alignment and accelerating your mission.

  • External: Create momentum behind your cause and deepen engagement with your member and supporters through branded, private, intuitive, and inclusive online experiences.

  • Content: Drive ownership and collaboration through tailored content and connections by region, issue area, events or organizational needs.

When you connect with your partners and constituents, role-based sharing and permissions ensure that the right people have access to the information they need. All of this enables constituents to connect in a way you’ve defined in a structure you’re in charge of that encourages them to stay engages.

Pro Tip: Additional perks to well-defined roles and terms of engagement is enhanced security and privacy. By setting up secure pathways for particular groups, you ensure that the info they need to have (and shouldn’t have) remains intact.

Internal engagement: don’t take your team for granted (from our partners at Classy):

Think creatively about how you are viewing your community, and allow your network to fulfill your needs as an organization in creative ways. A supporter may come in and make a great board member, you may discover that they’re an influencer in their community, or they have some spare time to volunteer. Each supporter has the potential to connect you with contacts in specific areas you are trying to grow into, or they themselves may have a specific skillset that can help build capacity within your nonprofit.

Get to know your supporters and find the hidden gems that can help you further your mission. Smaller organizations often don’t have the budget or bandwidth for an IT staff, graphic designer, or event planners, but you may already have these resources at your fingertips! Look to your supporter base to fulfill these roles. Figuring out why people donated and what interests them enables you to funnel them into a direction that is meaningful and adds to their investment and involvement. Knowing your supporters and keeping them excited can also keep them invested for a longer period of time. For example, after a few years, you might want to turn that once supporter turned board member into the head of your annual gala.

It’s important that your supporters have a great experience. You owe it to them because you’re asking for their help. The greater their experience the more effective they are in building capacity for your org and fundraising for your org. Also, the greater their experience the more effective they will be at attracting other donors and supporters from their own network; an average fundraiser attracts 8 new donors. You can’t ignore numbers like that!  

Learn how to create a custom experience and nurture your supporters with Classy.

Routes of Engagement

Expanding your organization’s reach necessitates an expansion in your approach to engagement. It makes sense that the desire for greater impact demands a more complex toolbox to do the work. Our clients The Mission Continues, a nationwide nonprofit devoted to continuing community service by veterans, used Experience Cloud to enhance and centralize their approach to volunteer coordination. Within their Experience Cloud portal, volunteers can communicate with each other, organize roles, plan community service events, and select venues. This enables a relatively small central staff to easily engage and coordinate local volunteer efforts across the country.

Watch a presentation from The Mission Continues on how they’ve leveraged the tool to drastically expand their network and cultivate engagement among members here.

Get members and donors more involved in your mission by:

  • Connecting them with each other to create a broader sense of belonging and community

  • Informing them of relevant news and current events to inspire participation

  • Making the impact of their donations clear to them

  • Helping them find the resources they need to stay informed and up to date

  • Curate conversations around topics of interests

Welcome to Bridgetown

Achieving your outreach or engagement goal is often a matter of identifying opportunities where others see roadblocks. Engagement can be both difficult to plan and measure. We believe with the right tools nonprofits can easily integrate engagement with all walks of constituents.

Watch our webinar on community engagement here

Newsletter Earth

Subscribe to our newsletter

Where progressive organizations get inspired

Join thousands just like you to receive a monthly dose of user adoption tips, innovation, and industry trends.