4 Characteristics of a Successful Online Charity Community


Engaging your charity’s stakeholders online can have transformative potential. Charities have a unique ability to engage communities, but not all charities make the most of the opportunities that the digital world offers.

In this blog post we’re going to talk about four characteristics that contribute to the success of an online charity community. An online community provides a unique space for your volunteers, beneficiaries, partners, and donors to connect with each other, and engage with your charity.

A successful online community requires the right strategy, technology and efforts. Here are four characteristics from which you can draw inspiration to create a unique space for engaging your stakeholders online.

Charity online community on mobile
An online community is a way to connect with your charity’s supporters wherever they are.

1. A successful online community is more than a social network

While social media offers you a great opportunity to reach new people, a dedicated online community gives you a place to build deeper relationships with the people who matter the most – your supporters.

In an online space where everyone is connected to your charity and cause, conversation can be more open, in-depth, and passionate. You can also include features that bridge the gap between online and offline, such as event bookings, application forms, and volunteer scheduling.

Scope is a charity that has created a successful online community. Scope provides support for people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. Over 6,000 members use their online community on a daily basis to give and receive peer-to-peer support. A dedicated online community with several forum threads caters better for these conversations than social media does.

2. A successful online community is tailored to your charity’s needs

Another reason why we think Scope exemplifies a successful charity online community is that they place extra importance on their website accessibility and offer features that are relevant to their members, such as the opportunity to talk with experts about, for example, independent living.

The features of your online community should depend on your audience and what they value. Before taking decisions regarding technology, it is vital to research what your audience wants and think about the wider aims of your online community. In this way you can decide on features that will be mutually beneficial for you and your community members.

Regardless of what features are right for you and your members – volunteer management, event bookings, grant applications, or just a place to talk – we at VeryConnect have the expertise to help you. Learn more about what we can do for your charity here

Charity online community global map
A charity online community helps you to connect with your members locally and globally.

3. A successful online community promotes active involvement

A successful online community encourages organic member involvement. The Rank Foundation does this very well.

With the mission of improving people’s lives through leadership and enterprise they offer members a marketspace online. In this way the Foundation both encourages entrepreneurship and lets members connect with each other through offering and requesting skills.

To sustain active involvement you need to keep looking after your community after the launch. Like other best-practice online communities the Rank Foundation has an appointed Community Manager, and encourages Community Champions.

A Community Manager is your organisation’s main representative in the online community, and  is key to engage members, provide content, and oversee strategic direction. Community Champions are members that are taking on engagement responsibilities in order for activity to be organic.

Community Managers and Community Champions help your online community to come alive. An example from beyond the charity sector comes from giffgaff, where Community Managers and Champions frequently lead conversations on a wide range of topics that appeal to members.

4. A successful online community integrates with wider operations and strategy

An online community can become a real asset to your operations. Fundraising, for example, can be be made more engaging through personalisation and gamification.

Cancer Research UK used gamification in their fundraising initiative Dryathlon. Signed up ‘Dryathletes’ could fundraise their way up a leadership board and earn badges. The pilot year raised over £4m and helped Cancer Research UK to tap into a new male audience for their fundraising, showing how clever use of an online community can help to reach fundraising goals.

An online community can also be the voice of your stakeholders. Empowering your community by letting them share their ideas online helps you to integrate their opinions when making strategic decisions. At VeryConnect we believe that inviting your stakeholders to the conversation, and listening to the voice of your community, is a way of bringing out the full potential of your charity.

Get in touch to see how we can help you create an online community for your charity

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 By Annina Claesson, Online Content Contributor at VeryConnect

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