Fierce Loyalty

Fierce Loyalty, by Sarah Robinson

Is your nonprofit or charity part of a national or international movement?

  • Maybe you want to bring dental care to people everywhere.
  • Maybe you want to help children going through the courts systems.
  • Maybe you are part of a national faith movement.
  • Or maybe your #1 goal is to get single parents to finish college.

Who else is doing what you’re doing around the country? How can you act as a hub or a connector for all of the different people who care about what you do? Think about creating an online community for your nonprofit.You may say, well, we already have a website! But if you didn’t make that website with a community in mind, you don’t have a website that is necessarily good at nurturing community for your nonprofit.

I was just reading Sarah Robinson’s new book. It’s called Fierce Loyalty. Here’s why I liked it:

Our nonprofits are now media companies. That means we are responsible, more and more for what we put out into the world, whether it’s a website, newsletter, or annual report. If people don’t hear from us, they assume that we’re not doing anything worth noting. Or they assume that you’ve forgotten about them and their donations!

You and I know that this could not be farther from the truth! Your supporters need to hear from you all the time. They need to hear from you when the seasons change. They need to hear from you if you have an awareness day or month. They need to hear from you when you’re having an event, when you’re doing well, and when you’re not doing well.They need to hear it all. This is how you build friendships, and relationships with your donors. But you can do this even more effectively.

You need to be communicating all the time. That’s what I mean by we are all media companies now. This concept comes from Tom Foremski, journalist who writes at SiliconValleyWatcher.com. even though he focuses on the for profit world, the nonprofit world is held to the same standard, whether we like it or not, by people who find us online.

Which means we need to think about online community. There may be people all over the country or all over the world visiting your nonprofit website. How can you engage them, keep them coming back, and create loyal donor experiences for them? If they are not going to volunteer, but if they can give to you in another way, how can you engage them? How can you create a fiercely loyal community? Sarah Robinson asks this question, and answers with these 11 ideas for you to create a loyal community for your nonprofit.

1. Make members feel valued and important. Communicate with them often. Give them special things, like a personalized thank you note, a little giftcard or happy birthday wishes. Communicate at least 7 times before you ask for money.

2. Create something together. This is why donor brick walls are so popular around the country, I expect. Everyone can create a tile, or a brick, and find their piece each time they walk into your space. If you want to flout convention a bit, why not send them a square of cloth to decorate? When they send it back, that piece will be part of a giant quilt, to display in your meeting room. If that’s still too tame for you,  or if your nonprofit operates out of a virtual space, why not put their comments, testimonials, thank you notes on display somewhere on your website? Make a place for fans or donors or members of your community to go and see that you noticed that they cared, and that you’re grateful.

3. Fight a common enemy. Maybe your common enemy is ignorance. Poverty. Erosion. Pesticide.s Cancer. Whatever it is. you need to survey people who are on your list, to see which part of your mission they care about the most. What is your most common enemy? This is how you can learn to speak to their deepest interest. Make that common enemy front and center. Make sure they know what will happen if we stop working towards our common goals against this common enemy.

4. Create a culture of “we”. This means helping your donors and supporters see themselves as a part of a larger community. Maybe you have a community manifesto. You say, WE believe! WE fight for! WE produce!  Then, Join US! And you can help people join your nonprofit community. Look at the Livestrong community. They invite anyone with cancer, or allies, to use their site, to get FAQs on cancer, to use their forums, to organize bike fundraising across the country, and more. That is a powerful community. Rest assured, they didn’t just make a community out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it’s good for their donations. It becomes part of people’s identities.

5. Empower members to contribute to the community on their own. The forums on your website can help people contribute to the community. The support groups or meetups can help people get offline to meet more members of the community. Get people to do some fundraising for you via trips. Invite your most loyal community members to blog for your nonprofit, perhaps on the subject, “Why this cause is so important to me”. If there are different facets of your mission that people are drawn to, you could potentially find a person who cares about different parts of what you do, and ask each of these people to do a guest blog post for you. In her comments after her interview with Sarah Robinson, Debra Askanase says, “I’ve also found that finding ways to allow members to create content (submit photos, answers, polls, moderate chats, etc.) is also a good way to deepen engagement. When they are engaged creators for the community, they’re more likely to invite friends.”

6. Build in exclusivity. When you talk about your community, talk about who was there at your event last night. Or talk about the giving club where you get together and have house parties and everyone pledges to give $1,000 to you in 2013.

7. Create a barrier to entry. Whether it’s a membership section on your website, or a giving club, give people a hurdle to jump over. Not EVERYONE can join your community. Then it wouldn’t be special anymore.

8. Stand for something bold. Maybe you’re trying to raise $100,000 in 100 days for your nonprofit. That is a bold goal. Maybe you’re trying to get 50 more kids uniforms for their school before the year ends. Maybe you’re trying to eradicate mis-diagnosis and mistreatment of children with autism worldwide. Whatever it is, show your bold vision and invite people to be a part of it.

9. Build organizational structure with an eye towards fostering Pride, Trust, and Passion. Create a space on your website for people to show their PRIDE at belonging to your nonprofit, maybe a place for their thank you letters, or a place where they can upload pictures of their accomplishments. Create a space in your annual report for people to show their PASSION for your nonprofit. Maybe it’s the day you did a walk-a-thon and 100 people came out wearing your t-shirts. Create a space on the back of your appeal letter to put testimonials from community leaders, to foster TRUST in your nonprofit.

10. Initiate opportunities for shared experiences. Can your most loyal supporters come to a friendraiser on your behalf? Can they organize a house party for you? Can they turn each board meeting into a cheerleading session, reminding everyone, each time, this is why we’re doing this? What about a park cleanup? An event with a community partner? A day where you do a festival, or chalk drawings on the pavement to help draw awareness to your issue? If there’s an annual employee volunteerism day with a local corporation, how can you create a memorable experience for those volunteers?

11. Love your community. Show your community the love. This connection is what people crave. Highlight members of your community in your enewsletter, annual report, blog, or other social media accounts, if they are active there. If your community member is active in their faith community, then acknowledge them there. That will mean more to them than acknowledging them anywhere else.

If you want to get this book, go to http://fierce-loyalty.com. I highly recommend it. Chances are, your donors are online. We need to start nurturing them, no matter how they connect with us. They should get a good experience whether they come to our office and shake our hands, or whether they say hi to us on Twitter or Facebook. And we should have a series of processes that they can go through to feel valued by our community, before they’ve even joined it. I want to say thank you to Debra Askenase (@askdebra on twitter) who invited me to the #commbuild chat, and introduced me to Sarah Robinson’s new book! I’m so glad she stopped in to answer questions!