Community engagement is an integral part of every nonprofit’s mission fulfillment. However, many charities may find it difficult to maintain quality relationships with members of their neighborhoods and cities. In fact, some organizations may not even be aware that their community engagement strategies are lacking fundamental elements that are vital to building awareness. It takes excellent communication through a variety of channels to ensure community members stay engaged with nonprofits.
Creating the Future, an organization that focuses on helping nonprofits improve their operations, stated that the first step is defining what community engagement means to a charity. This may vary depending on the nonprofit’s location, goals and current membership. Creating the Future defined engagement as developing meaningful relationships with people who share the organization’s goals and who will work with the charity on a regular basis to help turn the community into a better place to live. This is a great start, but again, each nonprofit must decide for itself what engagement really means. Think about what the organization wants to accomplish in the next year, and every few years after that.
Then, the fun begins.
Write a lot
If the community doesn’t know about a nonprofit, it can’t hop on board and help it achieve its mission. One of the best ways to get the word out is through writing. This can include everything from articles in local newspapers to blog posts online. Reaching out to local publications – newspapers, journals, magazines, academic newsletters – is an efficient way to communicate with many people in the community at once. Blogs are also excellent platforms for keeping people updated on activities the organization is planning or has completed in the past. Seek out publications that fall into the same niche category as the charity. For instance, an animal shelter should reach out to journalists, bloggers and groups that publish information on pet ownership. It could also post information near local pet stores.
Speak in public
Giving a speech to a large group puts a face to the nonprofit’s name. Town hall meetings, community events or even school assemblies are valid options for speaking to neighborhood residents. Video-taping or recording these speeches is also a good idea, as it can later be posted to the charity’s website or blog. Keep in mind, however, that any speech should not come across as a plea for funding. Its focus should be to share information and ask people to join the cause. Focus on the relationship, not the finances.
Talk in private
Make it a point to have one-on-one conversations with community members about the organization’s mission. It’s easy for people to misunderstand or misinterpret an email message or flyer. This is also a great way to let people know the organization has a real interest in the well-being of local residents. This personalizes the encounter.
The Nonprofit Technology Network reminded organizations to show appreciation whenever possible. Giving thanks for the hard work, support and dedication community members contribute is essential to continuing healthy, meaningful relationships. Mention volunteers and donors (with their permission) on the charity’s blog and in email newsletters. Remember that what the nonprofit puts into a community likely reflects what it will get back. Gratitude goes a long way.
Nonprofits may not realize it, but they also have the power to facilitate new relationships between community members and other organizations. Strong communities are built on valuable connections between residents, businesses and groups. By helping these relationships blossom, a nonprofit becomes a more integral part of a city.
Fellowship management software provides charities with tools that help maintain ties to community members. Staying connected and consistently communicating is essential to meeting goals.