I was driving to a client meeting, getting off the freeway and unapologetically singing along to Taylor Swift on the radio (Blank Space, in case you were wondering which song). That’s when it hit me: I had within me the seeds of a secret dream.
That dream is about having a community of people who want to connect and support one another. It’s not about fundraising. It’s not about storytelling. It’s about people. People being vulnerable in a “professional” context and that being 110% okay.
In a sector where we are constantly talking about relationships, we forget that it is okay to be our imperfect selves as we build relationships with others. We are under so much pressure to change the world (no big deal, right?) that we have forgotten about ourselves and each other on the personal level.
Because associations are doing next to nothing to build meaningful community, I’m taking matters into my own hands. Those are the seeds of my dream.
This dream and the desire to give voice to the opportunity I see have arisen from an experience of unintentional community building. A few weeks ago in one of my weekly newsletters, I decided to be really honest. I wrote about the terrible week I was having. As I was writing to you, I felt lucky that people in my life who encourage me and cheer me up. I thought, “What if other people don’t have this?” So I asked if you needed encouragement and invited you to send emails telling me what was going on you life.
I was awestruck by the response. I spent hours responding to the dozens of emails I received from people; brilliant, struggling, amazing people. It wasn’t the first time I had received a lot of personal emails from readers. Over the last two years, I’ve been lucky enough to receive emails, tweets, blog comments, and snail mail from many wonderful people. But this time, as I was answering all of your emails, I thought, “I wish everyone from this special community were better connected.” All of you know me, and you are secondarily connected in this way, but I don’t want to be the hub of all of the spokes. I would rather see a web of meaningful connection. I believe that meaningful connection within community leads not only to less isolation, but also to knowledge exchanges, friendship, and authenticity.
As a part of my commitment to community-building in 2015, I started The Storytelling Non-Profit LinkedIn group. This is only the beginning of the conversation. If you’re interested in joining us, sign in to your LinkedIn account and search “The Storytelling Non-Profit” in groups.
What does the concept of community building mean for fundraisers?
I think that community building is a key part of donor relations and donor retention. Right now, non-profits are the hubs that connect all of the spokes. For us to have truly robust communities of loyal donors, you need to be the one to connect all of your donors, to create a beautiful web of people who care about your cause.
How do we create this web of connections?
We invite people to share their stories. I think there is a shift happening in non-profit communications. No longer can we act like megaphones doing one-way communication. There must be dialogue. Whether it’s through email, social media channels or over the phone, let’s create space for people to share their stories. The bottom line is that we are all people. We desire to be seen and heard—even by strangers.