Are You Ready for an Online Community?

Christina Balotescu

March 23, 2024

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

Maintaining a strong connection with constituents, donors, supporters, current program participants, or alumni is paramount for the success of any organization. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by establishing an online community tailored specifically to your members. 

If you find yourself nodding along to any of the following scenarios, it might be the perfect time for your organization to launch an online community program.

1. You Have a Data Foundation

Whether it's an Excel worksheet, donor management system, or CRM software, if your association already has a solid database, you're well on your way to establishing an online community. Transitioning to a virtual community becomes seamless with a robust data infrastructure as it facilitates easier management, analysis, and leveraging of alumni information.

From member profiles to personalized communications, an online community will allow you to maximize engagement and connectivity. 

2. You Want to Build New Pathways for Communication

If email marketing is your sole means of connecting with constituents, you may be interested in the new channels that an online community offers. Once your members join the community, you gain additional access points beyond email. This diversifies and amplifies your communication efforts with notifications, new types of content and messages from other users, providing multiple valuable links to your audience.

Deliver targeted messages, event invitations, and updates straight to your community members. Your online community becomes a central hub for communication, keeping alumni informed and engaged.

3. Social Media Isn’t Cutting it Anymore

You've invested in a Facebook group and LinkedIn page, but lately, engagement has been quiet. With limited access to data, it's challenging to pinpoint areas for improvement.

While social media presence is crucial, accurately measuring engagement and controlling reach is difficult on these platforms. It might be time for your organization to explore hosting an online community outside of social media.

A dedicated online community platform can offer your members a more controlled and measurable environment. Community management software often provides more detailed analytics which, in turn, will help you better understand member behaviors and preferences. 

Moreover, you gain access to greater customization and branding, creating a space tailored to your organization's needs and identity.

4. Your Team is Eager to Work Smarter, Not Harder

You and your colleagues are juggling numerous tasks and responsibilities from managing member data, events, and chapters to fundraising, email marketing, and social media. You’re spread thin across various platforms and tools and are looking for a way to simplify workloads and enhance collaboration. 

An online community can serve as a centralized hub, streamlining these efforts and providing a single platform for all your activities. It allows multiple team members to work together seamlessly and access the resources they need in one place.  

5. Nurturing Long-Lasting Relationships with Donors Is A High Priority

For organizations looking to build long-standing relationships with donors and participants, continuous engagement and targeted marketing are vital. An online community provides the perfect platform to nurture these ongoing connections.

Community software can keep your audience actively engaged, help tailor your messages, and gain valuable insights for more effective marketing. Beyond maintaining engagement, it becomes a strategic tool for building loyalty and securing repeat support for your organization's mission.

6. You Want To Boost Network Value

If you’ve been asking yourself, "How can we unlock the value in this network for our people to benefit from?", creating an online community is the answer. Here, members can connect with one another, not just with your organization.

As your community members actively participate within this specialized environment, the network's value expands exponentially. Expect to witness more vibrant discussions, diverse insights, mutual support, and a strengthened sense of affinity among members. 

By curating a convenient and dedicated space for your members, engagement, and value are poised to blossom.

7. Your Organization Can Commit To Online Community Management

All this said, an online community requires human and financial resources to cultivate and to achieve return on investment. To succeed, you will need the necessary bandwidth and a commitment to executing a strategic roadmap for its development.

Before diving into the process, ask your team some key questions:

  • Are we ready and able to invest time in the communications needed to develop the community?
  • In addition to the software subscription, do we have the skills and resources to manage this community ourselves or will we engage a community development team to support us for the first 6-12 months? 
  • Are we prepared to assign dedicated roles and responsibilities for effective community management?

Managing an online community involves overseeing its day-to-day operations, engagement initiatives, and growth strategies. If your team answers these questions in the affirmative, then congratulations! Your organization is ready to navigate the challenges and opportunities of managing an online community. 

So, Is It Time For An Online Community? 

Investing in an online community can be a transformative step for your organization. With the right strategy, it can amplify engagement, simplify processes, and unlock potential.

As you assess these key indicators, consider how an online community could be the missing piece to bring your network to new heights.

Don’t know where to start? Explore 360Alumni’s online community platform, featuring member directory software, interactive features, and fundraising tools. Let us help you build a thriving digital community! 

Editor/ Contributor: Joy Therese Gomez

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