Thursday, October 14, 2004

MCN Conference: Developing Database Driven Communities of Change

This was a 3 hour session by Chris Hanson of This post includes some highlights and my take on the session.

Some highlights and my take on the session:

  1. People want to be part of a community. They want to share their interestes, experiences and needs. They want to have a sense of belonging and of being needed. They look to communities as part of their identity.
  2. A very basic online community is similar to a sales model. A nonprofit advertises a conference, class, workshop event or service on-line and the clients buy it.
  3. The more involvement people have the more the more they feel like a member of the community. Involvement may be letting people tell your organization their opinions. Involvement may be asking people to do things for you.
  4. Getting people involved in your organization makes it much more likely that those people will donate money to your organization.

Online communities are important for long-term sustainability of your organization:

  • Direct mail results are going down while cost going up—same with telemarketing.
  • People who are active in your community are more likely to give.
  • Use the community to know more about your donors.
  • Direct mail response is from the older part of the audience—they are getting older. Younger audiences use online much more.
  • Easier to give on-line and easier to take action online.
  • Internet is getting to be the primary form of communication. (e.g. email has surpassed phone in business.)

Before you start using online tools to build a community, you need to think about:
The purpose of the community.

  • How are you going to provide the staff support for the community (building a community requires a community organizer)
  • What is the overall cost of the technology and staff time
  • Is it worth it

Don’t believe the basic myth of the Internet—“If you build it they will come.” Without an effort to get people to your community, they will NOT come.

Tools for online communities:

  • Chat rooms
  • Bulletin boards
  • Central sharing resource
  • Email discussion list
  • Web based discussion groups
  • Newsgroups
  • Blogs
  • Online conferences
  • Instant Messaging

In building or choosing the technology, the technology should

  • Allow building relationships based on interests of participants
  • Allow collaboration with similar organizations
  • Allow as much control as possible by the participant
  • Keep the amount of personal information required low

Some examples:


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