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4 Reasons Why You’re Failing at Building Your Tribe

Who’s Your Tribe? Passion-Based Marketing Segmentation to Build Stronger Online Relationships,” a 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference session, examined why nonprofits cannot overlook their passionate supporters. Session speakers Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, Sea Change Strategies, find that nonprofits are bad at building relationships with the people that want to have relationships with them. Nonprofits overlook passion, how passion can spread ideas and unite people in support of a common cause.

Passion elevates the average supporter to super supporter status – a member of a nonprofit’s tribe. Tribe members are not created by senior management; oftentimes they come to a cause on their own. Nonprofits can help their tribe members by connecting them to one another and welcoming their capacity as free agents.

Nonprofits have a lot to benefit from building and working with their tribes yet they often fail in the following ways:

  1. Using the wrong measurements: Organizations are so focused on growing their email subscriber lists, increasing their page views, etc. that they’re missing the mark. Data doesn’t tell us who our most important people are. Organizations should identify supporters like the serial activists who always take action or the serial givers who always give whatever they can, whenever they can. However, if your organization would prefer to take an analytical approach to identifying their tribe, it can use the Net Promoter Score, a tool used by for-profit companies to identify loyal enthusiasts.
  2. You’re boring your supporters: Nonprofits are often so eager to avoid offending potential supporters they take the boring route. When organizations play it too safe and boring they can come across as failing to take a strong stance. Taking a stance can be polarizing but it conveys passion. Tribe members who do not feel an equal amount of passion for a cause from an organization will be inclined to take their passion elsewhere.
  3. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to communications: It’s easy to send a mass email or newsletter. It’s harder to do something more meaningful but it’s worth it. In most organizations a small percentage of people account for a large percentage of giving and action. Unfortunately, nonprofits often treat that small percentage like everyone else – a risky move if organizations want to keep those super supporters. Take for example Charity: Water who took the unorthodox approach of having their staff film short personalized thank-you videos to donors who gave up their birthdays to raise money for the organization.
  4. Thinking it’s all about you: Most organizations are not the only organization of their kind doing what they do. Your supporters engage with your organization because they believe in your cause and mission. Mistaking the brand with the cause will turn off tribe members – a lesson the Susan G. Komen organization has come to learn this year.

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