Monday, July 19, 2010

Want to Build Community Online? Become a Bridge Builder.

This magnificent photograph is from Giorgo's photostream on Flickr.

In her new book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause, Kivi Leroux Miller asserts that in the "Connected Age" marketers have to learn to become community managers vs. mass marketers. 
"The nonprofits that are best at building supportive communities around their causes that they can tap into over time -- not just for money, but for everything from favors that open the right door to got-your-back moral support -- will ultimately be more successful in achieving their missions than those who forgo community in favor of the traditional mailing list approach to managing relationships."
 I agree!  In fact, I've been thinking about this a lot.

Marketing online, in particular, is much more than putting up a static website to announce your gala or ask people to volunteer.  It's about having a CONVERSATION with people who care about your work and can help you reach your goals.

OK, you've heard this before.  But the real question is, HOW do you become a community manager and/or how do you find the right person for the job?  What is the skill set you should be looking for?

According to Fever Bee - The Online Community Guide, there are 5 roles you need to fill when building an online community team and/or hiring an online community manager.  Note: It may be hard to find all these roles in one person.  I've lifted this list directly from their site.
  1. The friend: engages people individually. (S)He participates in an online community, he messages lots of people to get them involved, he takes the time to cultivate loosely interested members into regulars.
  2. The recruiter: persuades people to join the online community. (S)He finds people that have something to contribute and builds relationships with them to join and invite others to do the same. He ensures steady supply of members to replace those that leave.
  3. The enforcer: The enforcer keeps things clean. (S)He removes the naughty posts, scolds the bad members and ensures nothing gets in the way of members participating in the online community.
  4. The editor: Implements much of the community strategy. (S)He solicits content, decides who/what matters. He has the power to shine a spotlight on members of the community and reward positive actions. Whenever you want the community to do something, he motivates them to do it.
  5. The entrepreneur: is to an online community what a business development manager is to a business. He looks for opportunities to add value to the community. Creates alliances, advocates on behalf of the community and generates the income.
I would add a sixth role to the list - the bridge builder.

The bridge builder: is a person with a large and diverse network, who is adept at connecting with people across "borders."  (S)he seeks out people with different cultural experiences, ethnic identities, worries, competencies, and concerns and revels in engaging with people who have different identities and points of view.

Why do we need more bridge builders?  We live in a DIVERSE world!

For example, the Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the U.S. be a "majority-minority" nation.  In fact, in four states - California, New Mexico, Texas and Hawaii - "minorities" already comprise a majority of the population.  And, in Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Mississippi, the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents has fallen below 60%.

Being responsive to the changing demographics of our communities and our nation can only serve to enhance our work by helping us:
  • design programs that work for more people;
  • make our communications resonate;
  • raise more money; and
  • win more advocacy battles.
In short, it's good for the "bottom line(s)." 

So, here are some questions for you.  I'd sincerely appreciate any insight you have re: bridge building at your nonprofit.  Please leave your feedback in the comments!
  • How are you reaching out to diverse constituents online?
  • Do you know key demographics (i.e, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, age, etc.) of the people you serve and the people who give to your organization?  If so, how did you discover this information?
  • Does your staff, particularly your key leadership, reflect the community that you serve? If so, how have you been successful at recruiting and retaining a diverse staff?


Jay Geneske said...

Wonderful summary. I've filed this away as a reminder. One thing I'd add to bridge builder: eager and willing to experiment and share results with others.

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