November 23, 2014


Community engagement a key to success

Michele Savoldi

Michele Savoldi

Operating a nonprofit organization can sometimes feel like an overwhelming and expensive task, especially in the current economic times.

Competing with big organizations and big dollars can be intimidating creating a loss of direction, focus and funding. To avoid feeling intimidated, rethink your strategies and take a closer look at who is in your backyard.

Upon meeting with different people throughout the community, it will not take long to see that everyone wants their neighborhoods to be amazing places to live.

Take time to interact, connect and build strong relationships with community members. By doing so, an army of support for the organization will be established.

Engage community partners by drawing connectors to the core of the mission. Visualize throwing a pebble in a pool of water. Once the pebble hits the water, ripples extend from the center point creating a ripple effect. The core of the mission is the pebble and the ripples are the community connectors.

From the mission's core and moving out start defining the ripples:

  • 1. Look at the organization's current volunteer base. What volunteers live or work in the community? Reach out and get introduced to their community contacts.
  • 2. Look at the board of directors. What board members live in that community? Request they host an intimate cultivation event at their home, business or favorite restaurant for a handful of their associates.
  • 3. Look at the current supporters. These people are already passionate about the mission. Create a speaker's bureau asking them to speak and raise awareness.
  • 4. Look at the school district. Schools are encouraged to do philanthropic work. Do the children of volunteers or board members children attend those schools? Ask for assistance in scheduling a meeting at the school or in front of the parent-teacher group.
  • 5. Look at large community corporations. Local corporations recognize the importance of community giving. Can they host an employee-giving fundraiser, match employee funds or sponsor an event?
  • 6. Look at local businesses. What stores, small businesses, restaurants or vendors can execute a cause-marketing campaign on your organization's behalf?
  • 7. Look at community clubs, churches and groups. Would they be willing to host an external event?
  • 8. Look at local media. What newspapers, TV, radio, or newsletters support the community? Distribute press releases rallying the community with a local heartfelt, human-interest story.

To successfully engage with a community member, merely share the issues concerning the community. Do not ask for money right away.

Instead, ask for their wisdom and start building the connection between their passion and interest to the mission.

The key is to engage in a real relationship, accomplishing the goals at hand while appealing to their caring and wisdom. After, follow up with a thank-you note for their time and some information about the organization.

Continue to follow-up on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Ask that person to suggest a couple other people in the community who might want to know about the organization and request assistance with an introduction.

Engaging the community in this way, people will be given a personal introduction to the organization's work and will understand exactly what the mission is.

Once community members are deeply engaged in the work the organization is doing, needs begin to fall into position all while making the community a better place to live.

Michele Savoldi is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Columbus, Ohio, and an Affiliate with Shoestring Creative Group (www.shoestringgroup.com/MicheleSavoldi).  Michele can be reached at affiliates@shoestringgroup.com or 1-888-835-6236.


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