Written by: Melissa Noyes
Kristin and I facilitated many trainings in 2011 that focused on engaging people in nonprofits as volunteers, staff, donors, and board members. After processing through many of these trainings, we realized that what’s missing from many nonprofits is what we call a “continuum of engagement.”
Nonprofits tend to put their supporters in separate silos–there are staff members, volunteers, donors, and board members. Period. Each has a separate department to manage them. Each hosts their own events and meetings. There might be some collaboration, but not much, and it probably centers mostly on the volunteer/donor relationship.
What would happen if we got rid of the silos and started to look at all these groups not as separate entities, but as “organizational supporters” as a whole. One group. Lots of links. Each group would most likely retain their separate departments for management, but would collaborate often.
Visually, it would look something like this:
As you can see from the picture, the shift from silos to supporters lends a lot more movement and brings a dynamic presence to an organization’s structure. It’s easy to see (and make) connections when all supporters are seen as equals and can move freely from one type of engagement to another.
Here’s how shifting your paradigm might help your organization:
- It eliminates preference for one group over another. Nonprofits often focus a lot of energy on their donors, but forget that volunteers, staff, and board members are helping to build capacity, too.
- It allows for supports to move easily from one type of engagement to another. They might start out as a volunteer, but with a few good experiences, may want to donate money. A donor might want to transition into a move active role on a committee or the Board. The easier this is for a supporter, the more engaged they will feel and the longer they will stick around.
- It allows for more collaboration between all the departments that manage supporters. This allows for more creativity in event planning and creates a cohesiveness within the organization.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be focusing more on creating this continuum and linking organizational supporters. We’d love to hear your comments and feedback so feel free to share what you’re seeing at your organization.