December 16, 2014

Five Nonprofit Online Communities that Inspire Action & Generate Results: The Sequel

Back in March, I wrote an article Five Nonprofit Online Communities that Inspire Action & Generate Results. So… I’ve come back to write the sequel. For this version, I follow up on some of the communities I profiled before and mix in a few new ones.

Creating community helps strengthen the ties between your nonprofit and its constituents. Online communities provide many options for their members to get more involved with your organization, unencumbered by the requirements of being in the same location at the same time. More involvement… well that leads to all sorts of goodness: improved fundraising, better volunteer participation, more effective advocacy & awareness, increased revenues, and improved return on mission.

If your organization is evaluating its existing online community or considering creating a new one, check out what some of your peers are doing and have accomplished with their online communities.

Update on Previously Profiled Communities

Relay for Life1. American Cancer Society:  Relay for Life | Event Participant Community

With Relay Nation, the online community for the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay For Life event fundraising series, we see a community that has moved from the “good idea” stage to a position of strategic importance to the organization’s revenue performance. Relay Nation is designed to connect event participants, fundraisers, team captains, event committee members, and staff with each other. The purpose? To help them learn from and collaborate with each other in order to become better fundraisers and support the organization.

The results: Since our first review of Relay Nation, American Cancer Society presented their community’s results at the Engage P2P Conference in Washington, DC in October. ACS supporters who join Relay Nation begin fundraising 87 days earlier than before, set fundraising goals that are 163% higher, and achieve their fundraising goals 72% more often. All of this translates to a 352% fundraising increase per member. For an organization the size of ACS, that’s a big, big number.

Learn More About Relay Nation (video link)

  Girl Up Clubs2. United Nations Foundation:  Girl Up Clubs | Youth Volunteer & Fundraising Community

Girl Up is a program delivered by the United Nations Foundation to give American girls the opportunity to become global leaders in the fight to raise awareness and funds for UN programs that support adolescent girls in the developing world. Using its online community, the Girl Up program enables student volunteers to create new clubs at high schools and colleges, organize club activities online, and compete with other clubs across the country.

The results: Last time, we reported about the fundraising increase for the Girl Up program before and after adding an online community to the program. This was a twenty-fold increase! The upward trend has continued. Since the start of the 2014 school year, membership in Girl Up Clubs has increased by more than 100%; year over year fundraising is up another 44%; and the Girl Up community has added offline activity tracking, giving program coordinators a 360-degree view of each club’s progress, both online and offline. Girl Up Club community managers were also invited to speak and present their results at the Engage P2P Conference in October.

Learn More About Girl Up (video link)

  EcoLeaders | Student Advocacy Projects3. National Wildlife Federation: EcoLeaders | Student Advocacy Projects

EcoLeaders is an online community for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that enables student environmental leaders to create and collaborate on sustainability projects, share them with others, and be recognized for their efforts. When we first profiled NWF EcoLeaders, they were just about to begin their closed beta period.

The results: The EcoLeaders community moved out of closed beta and is now in the end stage of its open beta period. During the closed and open beta periods, more than 400 student leaders have come together. They have taken more than 12,000 engagement actions and started 32 group sustainability projects; nine of those projects have already been certified by the organization. Based on learnings from the beta periods, National Wildlife Federation is making some user experience updates in preparation for the first quarter of its public launch.

Newly Profiled Nonprofit Communities

  CancerConnection & ParlonsCancer | Multi-Language Support Community4. Canadian Cancer Society:  CancerConnection & ParlonsCancer | Multi-Language Support Community

For many people, struggling with cancer can be an isolating journey. CancerConnection (in English) and ParlonsCancer (in French) help to change that. Canadian Cancer Society’s online communities serve as a place where people facing cancer as well as their loved ones can share experiences and build relationships to help them through their cancer journey.
The results: Canadian Cancer Society’s support communities definitely fulfill a need. Not only have more than 4,000 cancer survivors and their loved ones joined, but also per-capita engagement is very high, with over 6,000 member-to-member engagement actions per month and more than 18,000 support conversations to date.

5. The Institution of Engineering & Technology: MyCommunity | International Membership Community

MyCommunity | International Membership CommunityThe benefits of purpose-based online communities are certainly becoming known. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, The Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) provides a good example of an online community designed to add value to its professional membership base. The IET serves members from across the globe individually, as well as via several geographic, technical, and professional network groups.

The results: More than 70,000 discussions await MyCommunity’s nearly 30,000 members who have joined thus far. Members engage freely across topics, as well as collaborate within many of MyCommunity’s more than 375 online committees or sub-community groups. Know an engineer looking to network with his or her peers? Pass it along.

Bonus Community
American Heart Association:  Teaching Gardens | Mission Program Community
 Teaching Gardens | Mission Program CommunityLast March, we profiled American Heart Association’s (AHA) Professional Online Network and its remarkable results — 74% increase in membership upgrades, 54% increase in event revenue per person, and 10% increase in membership retention. This time, we look at an emerging AHA project, the Garden Community.

AHA’s goal is to improve cardiovascular health for all Americans by 20% and reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%, all by the year 2020. To accomplish a bold goal like this, AHA has to be aggressive about educating and mobilizing the public to make better health decisions, including the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The Garden Community is a free and open online collaboration hub,  which brings together gardeners of all skill levels, hosts lively debates, provides resources for gardening, convenes a Teaching Gardens program, and stewards gardening grant opportunities to promote healthier eating habits.

The results: The Garden Community just launched. Interested in creating a vegetable garden to support heart-healthy living? Check it out!

We’d Like to Hear From You
What do you think? Do any of these communities map with a program at your nonprofit? Let us know in the comments below.

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Michael Wilson
Michael founded Small World Labs with the goal of providing organizations with the collaborative technology and solutions necessary to better connect with and empower their constituents, in a manner similar to which Michael saw early Internet technologies empower his deaf parents and connect them with the outside world. Prior to founding Small World Labs, Michael served as the Director of Product Management at Coremetrics, a leading provider of web analytics solutions (now a division of IBM). As head of the group, Michael's responsibilities included delivering new products and services, evaluating new markets, and assessing partner technologies. Prior to that, Michael was a management consultant for R. B. Webber & Company (a spin-off of McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group associates) where he led projects for high-tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Sprint, FedEx, ReSound (a hearing assistance accessories provider), and several start ups. Michael holds a B.A. in economics with summa cum laude and departmental honors from Yale University, and has completed studies in international economics at Oxford University. Michael also serves on the board of the Texas School for the Deaf Foundation.
Interest Categories: Community
Tags: digital storytelling, online community