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3 Ways To Refresh Your Nonprofit’s Approach To Community Engagement

Chris Tourre

Working with nonprofits over the years and previously running a business in Chicago taught me a great many things about building organizational exposure. Nonprofits see themselves as mission-oriented. However, a paradigm shift is happening. Nonprofits are now utilizing branding strategies to further their mission.

Let’s think about nonprofit branding as a tactic beyond a logo or some sweet swag. Let’s think of it as an organizational identity in which your constituents can assimilate. Yes, a large donor base is great and potentially vital to keep you operational. However, strategically building a community around your organization, who then become your advocates, can be equally beneficial to your long-term health and growth.

Here are 3 prompts to get you thinking:

Build A Fire

When I think about building community and exposure, I always go back to this metaphor I picked up from a colleague at the University of Illinois at Chicago while completing my MFA. A campfire is simultaneously simple and powerful, a catalyst for community and dialogue. It is a mentality that you are creating a gathering point for people in a simple, and efficient way.

When thinking of driving your mission or implementing your next fundraising event, ask yourself, “How am I building a fire?”

Rethink Your Partnerships

Nonprofits are always looking for local business partnerships, with the promise of exposure for the business and potentially a nice tax deduction. But, how can you take this to the next level? How will this partnership benefit you beyond financial bliss? Is the partnership really providing exposure to the local business? I’ve been on both sides of this relationship and have noticed some flaws.

If your organization is focused on battling liver disease, you may not want to have your local brewery sponsor your next event. Think about the optics of your partnerships and also what can you offer your local business partner beyond the exposure angle.

I’ve also seen many nonprofit organizations use the “exposure” angle as the hook to try to bring in local business partnerships when they really don’t have the base or marketing reach (yet) to justify this as a selling point. Be honest with yourself on your organization’s true exposure and what you are offering to people for their money, space and/or time. If you are just getting started with your organization, be creative and think about what you can offer your partners beyond exposure. Build trust with your local businesses, find good ideological partnerships and they will be more inclined to return and advocate for your cause.

Whittle Down Social Media Platforms

There are hundreds of social media platforms out there. Some organizations make the mistake of being involved in too many networks or joining ones that may be the most popular without thinking of actual impact. Before signing up for an account on every network, first, think about your mission and how it aligns with that platform’s users.

Posting on social media requires frequent and consistent messaging to be effective for your organization. Keep the posts concise on the social media platforms you choose. Don’t assume that everything you post will be seen as algorithms on these platforms will restrict the amount of content your followers see if you aren’t paying to promote it.

Engage your community by liking and commenting on their content when appropriate. I get excited when I see people like or comment on what I post. Why not provide that positive experience to the people and businesses in your community?

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