Communities are all around us. We’re part of many communities, whether they’re communities of family, friends, or professional shared interests. Online communities have similar principles to in-person communities. They’re just virtual instead.  

For non-profits, online communities have various functions and purposes, from being a social or professional space for discussion, to facilitating projects or providing components for events. Arguably, it could be said that setting up the platform is the ‘easy’ part, and that the greatest challenge is around keeping high levels of engagement, interest, and enthusiasm to keep it going.   

So, what are some of the tactics and strategies should be using to keep user enthusiasm and engagement high?   

1. Two-way communication

Communities shouldn’t only be focused on the organisation developing relationships with its members. Your community members should have the facility to post, message and easily interact with each other. This in turn will mean more active participation, more user-generated content, and a greater sense of purpose and place for members.   

In time, you should find a direct correlation between how connected your members are with each other and how engaged the community is.  

2. Be Responsive

Boosting community engagement starts with you as the community administrator or manager. To show your members that you’re engaged with them, make sure you’re being highly responsive to them – respond in a reasonable timeframe, ensure you’re answering their questions and engage with any content they share. If you can demonstrate that you’re engaged with your members, they should display higher levels of engagement back.  

3. Encourage user-generated content

Content shared on your platform whether an image or video etc is classed as user generated. This is a crucial part of building an online community as it often encourages natural discussion between members. It also plays a part in keeping your overall content up to date and fresh.    

4. Share your valuable content

Building an engaged community is only possible if members feel like they’re getting real value out of it. One of the best ways to provide value to your members is to regularly share your non-profit’s valuable content and ask for feedback. This could include anything from live events or on demand webinars to blogs, guides, and videos. Think about exclusivity too – what content have you got that you might share only within the community?  

It’s all about understanding your members’ needs and offering them innovative content that sparks their interest and encourages them to share.  

5. Welcome new members

Making new members feel welcome from the start will help you increase engagement. As soon as a new member joins, you could send them a welcome message, intro video or signpost them to content which they may be interested in. 

This personalised introduction will hopefully help them feel like they are a part of the community, and as there are often high levels of engagement with new members, this is an important step to consider and plan.  

6. Refine your community

You may have a wide-spanning community, but within this, there could be opportunities to cover different interests or topics. Refining your community to offer relevant sub-groups is an effective strategy to help members find more relevant places or interests to connect over.  

In many cases, members join communities with the hope of finding specific pieces of information or to gain ideas and thoughts from their peers on specific areas. By providing more sub-groups, so long as they’re relevant, will provide more opportunities for engagement.  Sub-groups can also make your community easier to navigate which will ultimately help your members make the right strategic connections and have the right discussions.  

To find out more watch our webinar on demand Setting up and sustaining a community platform, featuring Cantarus.