Creating an online community for your organization will help you improve donor recruitment and retention. It will allow you to turn your digital environment into a fundamental asset within your fundraising strategy because it helps you capture leads, expand your audience, and increase the feeling of belonging of your social base.
An online community enhances the attraction of supporters as a preliminary step to converting them into economic collaborators of the entity and, in this way, contributes decisively to the growth of the audience and the capture of resources for your organization. In this post we will see what an online community is, why it is useful to meet your goals and what you need to develop one.
What is an online community?
An online community is a group of people who share content and communicate with each other through a digital platform. By online community we can understand from a simple email subscription newsletter to a sophisticated web environment with endless features. However, when we talk about developing an online community, we usually refer to developing a web environment where community members access under prior registration.
In an online community, the host organization shares valuable content for its members and plays the role of facilitator. Therefore, it is necessary that before deploying one you ask yourself a series of questions:
- What specific purpose will your online community serve?
- What value will you provide to your members and how will you provide it?
- What kind of content do you want to share with members?
- How will you keep the community active?
- What level of interaction do you intend to establish between members? And between members and your organization?
Broaden the base of the conversion funnel
Creating a community on the web allows your organization to offer online help (downloadable, webinars, forums…), and expand the scope of your social action and the number of people you help beyond geographical limitations or service capacity. With it, you establish a new type of relationship with your potential audience that allows you to broaden the base of the fundraising conversion funnel: you offer a reason for your website visitors, followers on networks and sympathizers to link with your organization and you obtain your contact details.
Let’s look at the example of a patient organization: Currently, eighty percent of adult Internet users in the United States search for health care information for themselves and their loved ones, and health searches are one of the most popular uses of the Internet. Additionally, 1 in 4 people with a disease have gone online to find others who share similar experiences.
This offers us enormous potential to contact all these people and offer them a space that responds to their needs. And, from establishing this relationship, it allows us to work on all these people to turn them into economic collaborators of the organization.
Whatever your cause, establishing a community will help you attract people who are sympathetic to it. Creating an online community as part of your growth strategy makes sense because:
You will reach further
You will attract a large number of people who are aware of your cause, which means that you will get high-quality leads. This will result in a community of potential economic collaborators of the organization. An online community will allow you to establish a conversion organically, generating real interest in your cause and without large investments in traditional advertising.
A more solid and lasting relationship
To maintain an online community you will need to provide valuable information to its members. This will help you gain loyal followers who are genuinely interested in your content, and you will establish a stronger relationship with your organization that will last over time.
Through the community, you will be able to constantly interact with your audience. You’ll have endless options to create valuable content for your community and get immediate feedback on what they think. This level of relationship increases the feeling of belonging and the level of commitment of these people and predisposes them to respond to your requests.
What functionalities does an online community offer?
Online communities need tools to facilitate direct interaction between users and the organization, as well as between users themselves. Below you can see some functionalities that you will need to develop:
A membership system
Enabling users to register, create profiles and log in with a unique username and password is vital. This functionality allows the user to easily interact with the content of the community through comments, recommendations or “likes”, among others, which will increase the level of engagement.
Content, services and participation functionalities
You will need to develop a blog that allows comments, an agenda with virtual events such as webinars or workshops, a resources section with downloadable content (ebooks, guides…), surveys… The content will be the key for a person to decide to join your community.
Features to encourage interaction
Forums, chats, groups, hashtags, mentions… will notably increase a user’s participation options in the community.
All these elements contribute, in short, to building that idea of community and to the people who make it up feeling part of a group with shared interests and sensitivities around a specific area.
Ultimately, the types of tools you will need directly depend on the purpose you want to give your community and your ability to generate valuable content.
What technological tool do you need?
Technology is not a problem to develop an online community, it is available to anyone. Our recommendation is that you use WordPress for your project for several reasons:
- It is the most popular CMS. WordPress has a 65% market share for website content management systems, while the second most used CMS, Joomla, barely reaches 4.6%.
- It is built specifically for content. It is, therefore, ideal for developing a user community ecosystem around shared content.
- Integrates user management: you won’t have to worry about developing a reliable system based on usernames and passwords because WordPress already provides it for you.
- It includes a mechanism to publish and comment on content, in addition to enabling direct communication between users. This makes it easier to implement interactivity features that are key in the context of an online community.
All these elements, together with the flexibility that WordPress offers us to add features developed by third parties, and the powerful ecosystem of plugins and developers available to the tool, make it the perfect option to build your online community.
Now it only remains to take the step!
Once informed of what an online community is, its advantages, needs and the elements to take into account, all that remains is to define the type of community you want to create and take the step. For any questions, do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to help you with your online community project.