Many of Idea Engineering Agency’s clients and the people we are meeting in NYC are non-profits or NGO’s (non-governmental organisations.) As they grow, they are faced with an increased interest level from not only foundations but also from potential partners, collaborators, or even the press. Many new successful non-profit organisations or NGO’s receive more requests for support from individuals or groups who may be outside of the organisation’s usual scope. The challenge this creates is a need to keep up with increased demand, without losing sight of your vision.
A tip for managing this is to understand who your audience is and to recognise who your community is. Your audience is the people whom you’ve identified to be most appropriate for you to help via your non-profit. Your community is your team, partners, investors, your advisors/board, your media relations, the independent contractors you work with, and anyone who might be interested in learning how they can help you or how you can help each other.
The idea is to identify which interested people or groups fit within the scope of your organisation as a core audience. The more you segment your audience, the better you can serve that smaller, core audience, and the better your organisation will be doing its job. If you are approached by others outside of this core audience who want help from you, you can support them by including them in your community: invite them to a staff meeting once a month, or encourage them to volunteer with your organisation, and they can learn by working with you how to emulate your organisation’s activities within their own community. For example, an after-school tutorial programme shouldn’t diverge resources towards developing neighbourhood clean-up programmes, but it can provide guidelines for others to start such a program by consulting on how to best recruit weeknight or weekend volunteers. That way, the neighbourhood still gets cleaned up, but you’ve also empowered a new group of thoughtful citizens to get involved and you are able to keep your vision focused on the core group you’re meant to support in the first place- making sure that those kids are getting read to or tutored in math.
At the same time, while interests from new audiences might arise, you may find that you’ve narrowed your community too intensely. Even in an age of virtual communities (you know the ones) that allow us to connect with individuals all over the world, many of us tend toward connecting with only the individuals or groups who look like us, act like us, or live near us. It’s a defence mechanism. It’s easier to band together with the people who get you than to even attempt to communicate with the people who don’t yet get you. But you risk homogenising your thought process if you build communities this way (the easy way) and don’t reach across the proverbial table to connect with less familiar communities. If you get outside of your comfort zone, you might have to work quite a bit harder to be understood, but you will gain insights, knowledge, and awareness from people with pools of thought so varied from your own you might not have even considered the existence of these ideas before.
Here’s a few ways to really, truly expand the community of your organisation:
- Don’t be afraid of devil’s advocates- the hard questions they ask will help you build a stronger case for your vision as you try to articulate answers. In fact, you should invite a view of these to your meetings or to sit on your advisory panel.
- Attend one public event each month where you can meet new people outside your current industry, neighbourhood, etc.
- Be strategic: think about the areas of activity that surround your organisation’s vision and consider what you don’t fully know. For example- you are an arts organisation in Paris. How are the various political groups potentially affecting the arts in France? Are there model organisations in other cities that you could learn from? If so, reach out to them to learn how they’re handling such challenges. In other words, don’t just network with other arts organisations in Paris.
- Think beyond your sector- are there lessons to be learned from the private sector?
All of these efforts towards expanding your community and going out of your comfort zone also increases the dopamine response in your brain that inspires fresh thought, increased motivation, and a more positive attitude- all things that will definitely help any organisation succeed.