Communicating Community

I have to admit, I was pretty pleased with myself after reading the first chapter of Heather Mansfield’s book, “Social Media For Social Good: A How-To Guide for Non-Profits.” You see, last year, without any knowledge of the work it would take or the skills required, I started an e-newsletter for my fraternity. We had never had one before, and in an effort to reconnect with alumni and increase fundraising efforts, I volunteered to take on the endeavor. It seems that with only blind luck, my fraternity has been able hit most of the marks. Our layout is simple, yet appealing, we send out about one a month, and we have links to our social media. We use a reputable e-mail marketing service, MailChimp, and have an above-average open rate of 33%-35%.


Of course, our e-newsletter still needs a lot of work and improvement, namely in relying less on text and more on image and video and increasing list size and diversity. In fact, one of the things I appreciated most about Mansfield’s book is the practical and straightforward way it addresses the issues of developing web presence. Instead of esoteric and philosophical ruminations on web-based development strategies for non-profits, she offers a step by step guide with concrete examples and advice.

However, despite this, neither Mansfield’s advice, nor the work of the most experienced social media director, can fix or make up for the structural organizational issues that both Drucker and McLaughin discuss.

Drucker teaches us that non-profits of every size and shape require a core message and mission, a long-term goal to be achieved. Every strategic decision, including those about communications and branding, must refer back to and be implemented with the core service and mission of the non-profit. Without this, non-profits will wander from goal to goal, without any notion of long-term building and success.Even the best communications strategy can overcome this. Communications requires content and substance to be communicated about, and this is best utilized when it is integrated with the larger, more long-term goal itself.


Furthermore, as McLaughlin discusses, while well designed “donate now” buttons and well constructed appeals are necessary for development, relationships and networks are the most fundamental factors in fundraising. Donors give because they are part of a community, and social media professionals must work to build and grow that community.


One thought on “Communicating Community

  1. Hi Will,

    This is a very insightful and thought-provoking post about what we’ve been reading lately. I appreciated your ability to tie a few central concepts together, and to try to make sense of the broader message each author was trying to communicate. On a technical note, I use MailChimp for my organization’s newsletters as well, and have also had success using it.

    To help you connect the concepts you draw from each reading, I’d like to pick out three points you made in the post above and try to work through them together to offer a few of my own thoughts and suggestions.

    First, you mention that “relying less on text and more on image and video and increasing list size and diversity” would be beneficial to the quality and effectiveness of the newsletter. You also mention that, “non-profits of every size and shape require a core message and mission.” Finally, you state that “donors give because they are part of a community, and social media professionals must work to build and grow that community.”

    My question (and yours, I’m assuming) is: How do we communicate who we are [as an organization or community] in the most efficient, graphically/visually appealing, and truthful way? I’d suggest several things:

    – Short and sweet video messages from current members, embedded in the newsletter (possible with MailChimp).
    – A consistent look and feel which corresponds to the look of your web page or your organization’s color scheme.
    – Personal quotes from members about why they got involved with the organization and why the potential donor (or in this case, alumni) should still feel connected and compelled to donate.
    – A photo album (or rotating slideshow) of recent events and activities.

    I hope these suggestions help you “transform” your newsletter! Best of luck and keep up the good work!

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