Building a Social Tribe for Your Organization


On Thursday November 7th I was a guest speaker for AFP Westchester’s National Philanthropy Day Conference, a fabulous event for Nonprofits. I was excited to speak about building a community online. Here is a brief recap of my presentation.

Changing the Approach

Building a Social Tribe means putting the individual at the center of it all. This is not a typical approach for many nonprofits because for these organizations the main idea is often that we have an important message to get out. That’s true you do – but people need to feel like they personally make the difference. By putting the individuals who spread your message at the center of it all your organization is saying – “You Make The Difference.”

Q: How do you drive one person to take up your cause and spread the message about your organization?

A: You build it with these four pillars: storytelling, building a connection, being authentic, and leveraging powerful tools.

  • Storytelling

    When you think about creating a story to tell, your organization will have lots to choose from, probably too many, but you need to think about certain factors when creating your story. First, how does your story orient the reader to feel and get involved; think about how you draw someone into the conversation. Two, self-discovery: the person reading or listening to your story has to see themselves in the story in order to motivate them to get involved. Three, your story needs to have a focal point; if you tell me too many stories about too many people I’ll lose focus on the clear reason that I should get involved. Four, you need a conclusion; all stories must come to an end and your story needs to as well. This gives your community a sense of accomplishment and pride that they reached a goal and then you can start the cycle over again.

  • Make It Easy to Help

    If you want to build a tribe, you need to give them the tools to take up your cause and message. To do this, you should leverage your website and social outlets for providing the tools.

  • Create Badges to Share

    You know what a badges is, you see them from organization like Facebook and LinkedIn, they are iconic visuals that people paste on their websites or blogs. A badge is a great way to get visual exposure and for your community to feel a sense of pride in what they are doing to help your cause. Ask them to post this badge on their social media or personal blog.

  • Give Ideas

    If you want someone to help you spread the word or raise money you need to give him or her ideas. Provide ways, big and small, that they can make a difference; from running in a local 5k to hosting a dinner party. Ask them to take photos and videos of their event and share them with you.

  • Spotlight Your Tribe

    Take the time each week on your website, on your social media and even in your email to show your gratitude. Ask the individual for a photo and a short bio. Share their story and success, whether they raised $200 dollars or $20,000 dollars. People get involved because they feel they make a difference and spotlighting their contribution shows them that they have done just that.

Growing and cultivating a tribe means clearly understanding what drives them to join the movement and what they need to stay motivated. Outlined above are some of the pieces you need to get going. Next we will further explore how to leverage specific social media platforms for success. Stay tuned!

Leave a Reply