How to increase community engagement

Nonprofits can strengthen community engagement through membership management software. As integral parts of any neighborhood or city, charitable institutions must be present in the lives of locals in order to reach their goals. Similarly, residents need to be involved to effect real change.

It's imperative that each organization define for itself what it hopes to accomplish through community engagement. According to Creating the Future, launching any program or targeted effort to better connect with people benefits from a specific direction or goal. A nonprofit's location, focus and experience, the definition of community engagement may change.

Give gifts
The Nonprofit Technology Network noted that first and foremost, nonprofits should give their communities two essential gifts as they build connections. The first is value. Provide something unique and important to the residents in a community. They will be more likely to participate in events and donate funding to help a cause that they know benefits others around them. Think about key improvements the city requires and look for ways to help make them happen. Provide a sense of hope and growth for residents. 

"Finding ways to surprise and honor donors is a great relationship builder."

The second gift is gratitude. There's no way an organization can thank constituents too much. Showing appreciation for the hard work, time and funding contributors put toward a cause should be a top priority for all nonprofits. Consider handwritten notes or blog posts featuring outstanding individuals who've made a difference, either in the community as a whole or specifically within the charity. Finding ways to surprise and honor donors is a great relationship builder.

Communicate through various channels
Writing in general, whether on a nonprofit's blog, website or newsletter, is a terrific method of engagement. If people can't read about an organization's activities, getting involved will be out of the question. Contact local newspapers, journalists and magazines to see if they can feature the nonprofit in a story or cover a particular event. Depending on the charity's focus, niche publications may be a wise route to take. Writing that comes directly from the nonprofit provides an opportunity to share personal stories, future goals and educate readers on why the organization exists in the first place.

Speeches are also excellent methods of communication. Having board members or staff speak publicly at community events, school assemblies or even in an online setting can inform residents about the nonprofit's mission. This also is a great way to humanize the organization. Rather than an electronic newsletter a few times a month, listening to someone speak passionately about their goals just once can have a greater emotional impact on a potential donor.

Engaging with community members in person makes connections more meaningful.Engaging with community members in person makes connections more meaningful.

In a public setting, speaking to community members opens the door to private conversations. Perhaps there are other residents working on similar projects that could help the charity grow in new ways. Be on the lookout for these types of unlikely connections, as they are often the building blocks of a tightly-knit community of people. In addition, don't be afraid to sit down over a cup of coffee with a prospective donor or volunteer and find out more about his or her life and why the nonprofit sector is of interest. He or she could be the next campaign liaison between the organization and the public.

Online interactions
Engagement of course is best in person, though online platforms work very well to connect with constituents.

A recent survey completed by FreemanXP and the Event Marketing Institute found that the social media sites marketers use to promote events vary depending on when users are posting content. For instance, leading up to an event, 77 percent of advertising professionals find Facebook to be the most effective online tool for promotion. During the festivities, Facebook drops to second place, as 73 percent of survey respondents believed Twitter was most successful at that point in time. Post-event, 55 percent chose Facebook and 44 percent chose YouTube as the platforms that help them market their causes best.

These figures should be taken into account as organizations plan their fundraisers. Nonprofits should also look into utilizing membership management software. A program that effectively tracks donor and volunteer information and makes communication more reliable is essential to any charity looking to build meaningful relationships with its community.