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Does your nonprofit or charity have a community?

I’m sure the answer is yes. But what does that really mean to you?

Do you have access to that community?

Is your community on Facebook on an email list somewhere else? Do you send regular mail to them? How do you interact with them?

There can be tremendous benefits to having an active and engaged online community of your followers, donors, and event participants. An engaged audience is more likely to donate, attend events, volunteer, and share your social media posts.

So here are some ways you can build and foster an active online community. 


If you’ve been on Facebook for more than a few years, and you have a large audience, you may have noticed that over the last few years your posts are reaching less and less people. That’s because Facebook has changed their algorithm (that’s the formula they use to decide who sees your posts).

They are now favoring personal interactions over posts that link to a website. You might have even seed their ad on TV about focusing more on these kind of interactions. 

So you need to consider that you may only be reaching maybe 5% or less of your Facebook audience with any given post. Just let that sink in for a minute. If you’re depending entirely on your Facebook audience to promote events, new inititatives, and donations, only about 5% of them are seeing what you post. In many instances it is much less but we have noticed that non-profits tend to do slightly better than for profit business pages.

So if you have 1000 “likes” on your page, only about 50 of them will see the post. Of that 50 only a small percentage will interact with the post or take the action you want.

One way you can use Facebook more effectively is to get your audience into a Group. Groups are more interactive and have more of a community feel. A higher percentage of group members will see things you post in the group. In fact, members can choose to see all the posts in a given group if they want. It  is a good practice to have a post pinned to the top of the group explaining how they can do this.  


Second, get them on an email list.

You don’t own Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg does. If you are only on Facebook then he owns your audience. If you don’t have email addresses, physical addresses, or phone numbers, then you don’t really have an audience.

So make sure you taking steps to collect names and email addresses whenever you can so that you can interact with them on your terms.

That being said, email has a very low interaction rate as well. If you’ve been using an email address for a while, you know that your open rates are probably in the 30 to 40% or even lower, and click rates are probably 3%. So there are other things you can do as well.

Related: Building An Email List For Non-Profits


Next, you can try using chatbots.

You may never have heard of chatbots, but you probably have interacted with one at some point if you’ve used Facebook Messenger to interact with a large company. If you received automated responses based on what you typed or clicked, that was a chat bot.

So how do you use these to build a community?

What you may not have known is that once you interact with that chatbot, you’re subscribed to a list and they can send you messages, follow up messages, let you know news, and keep you updated about what’s going on with the company.

There are are some pretty strict rules as far as using chatbots to promote sales and ask for money so you need to know them if you’re promoting an event or asking for donations. But if you’re just sending out information about your organization, pretty much can do that as much as you want with without knowing your audience.

So the big benefit to chat bots that they have a very large or very high interaction rate. Message open rates are often somewhere in the 90th percentile and interaction rates are could be as high as 30%, 50% or even higher. That’s because of how people use Facebook Messenger. It gets their attention more than email. Of course, that might change over time. But for now, it’s a great option for engaging with your people. You can even use it to collect email addresses, phone numbers, and other information about your audience. 


Another way to build your audience is to have a forum for interaction right on your website. 

You can build an online forum where people can message each other, interact with each other, share stories…all related to what your organization does.

These can be a little tricky to set up though. So if you want to do this, you may need to get in touch with someone experienced in building websites with forums. 

Direct Communication Apps

For smaller groups within your organization, such as a group of volunteers, or maybe a group of people that that work for your organization you can use a communication too like Slack.

Slack is an app that we hear a place forward use within the organization to communicate with each other, you can create multiple channels for different needs are different topics to discuss.

The big benefit of that, as opposed to using texting or email is that everyone is seeing the conversation and the conversation if you set it up, right in a particular channel is defined by topic. So you can go back to that conversation and see what was discussed. See what was decided about what to do for a certain topic. You can also share things like files and pictures within slack and they stay there.

Tools like this are a great way to keep smaller groups engaged.

One great use of slack for non-profits is to have a channel just for volunteers. This way the volunteers can talk to each other, interact with each other, share stories, and share what events they’re volunteering at.  It generally adds to the excitement or the community feeling of being a volunteer for your organization.


If you aren’t doing at least some of these things to build and engage with your audience, then you may not be getting the most out of them. 

Active engagement keeps your organization top of mind for them, it builds more trust in your organization, and makes it more likely they will respond positively when you do reach out to them to register for events or for donations. 

Are there other ways that you are using to effectively build online communities for your organization? 

Let us know in the comments below. We want to hear from you about what’s working on a daily basis. 

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