Private professional networks are most commonly known as ways for members to come together and connect for the greater good. But when implemented correctly, they can do even more. In fact, they have the power to strengthen nonprofit organisations to build more robust, resilient communities.
Operating a successful nonprofit in today’s environment can be a daunting task. Organisations are increasingly becoming concerned about a number of different factors that have the potential to limit or hinder the effectiveness of what they do. The top three concerns right now, according to recent reports, are growing and scaling, donor reluctance and funding for the nonprofit sector.
Private professional networks are being proposed as a powerful solution to current challenges. These networks – which operate as a nonprofit’s own private alternative to platforms such as LinkedIn – empower members to discuss, chat, network, collaborate, and communicate seamlessly with others. Essentially, they’re private social networks that are designed to facilitate meaningful connections.
But they’re capable of much more. They can strengthen your organisation.
Through your nonprofit you’ve already built, maintained, and grown a community. Now, with a private professional network, you can take that community and transform it into a powerful entity that drives real results and sparks real change, from the real people within your network.
A private professional network is key to strengthening three particular areas of operation:
Donors are, of course, the backbone of any nonprofit organisation. But are nonprofits engaging enough with their donors, and in the right ways? Unfortunately, many donor relations tend to be quite transactional; a sort of ‘help us solve this problem’ kind of relationship. But what we’ve come to learn is that deeper, more personal connections can produce better, longer-term outcomes.
The norm today is to build and nurture donor relationships at events, conferences and fundraisers. But it can be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Once those events are over, it could be months – or even a year or two – before that relationship is nurtured once more. There needs to be something to bridge the gap, and that’s where private professional networks can be a big help.
Private professional networks provide new opportunities to interact with donors, communicate with them and draw them closer into the cause; to truly make them a part of it beyond simply handing over a cheque. There’s huge value to be pulled from this, with donors not just a source of funding but a potential source of education, insight and motivation for all members of the team.
By developing stronger donor relationships, we can develop a stronger nonprofit organisation. Private professional networks are capable of turning nonprofits from faceless associations into more personal, more characterful organisations that donors are excited to be supporting.
The value of any nonprofit doesn’t just come from its members, its volunteers or its donors, but from the wider community supporting it. Having the ability to facilitate effective, two-way communication between the organisation and its community is essential for success. A strong nonprofit is one that’s inclusive of, and available to, all those involved.
An ability to reach out to the broader community comes with multiple advantages, with each individual – from researchers to the people we’re trying to help – providing their own unique value. But we’re only able to benefit from this value if members of the community have the mechanism to be a part of what you’re doing. Private professional networks are the tools that will achieve just that.
Private professional networks are the platforms nonprofit organisations need to reach out to the community with consistency, keeping those valuable individuals engaged and actively participating regularly, rather than just once or twice a year at scheduled events. Inviting people to be a part of what you do can give the smallest part of your community the biggest voice, ensuring they’re heard.
It’s often said that the best and most successful nonprofits are the ones built with people, not for people. And so running a nonprofit organisation shouldn’t be a single responsibility but a shared one; one where we grow together; one where the community shapes how the organisation develops.
It’s no secret that all organisations – nonprofit or otherwise – are facing a productivity crisis. With a need to do more with less, it’s essential that we all uncover ways to work with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Of course, it’s also no secret that data is becoming a powerful tool for improving operational efficiency and effectiveness. But do you have the data you need to support those efforts?
If you already utilise networking platforms such as LinkedIn, you may already have access to useful insights that can help you work in a smarter, stronger way. But LinkedIn is often – and quite rightly – likened to a huge apartment building where you rent a single room. Everyone from your network is in that one room. Everyone’s talking at once, and you don’t own anything that’s said in that room.
A private professional network, on the other hand, is like owning a house. You decide who lives there. You decide who occupies each room. And you maintain full ownership over every conversation. You’re able to fully utilise this data to understand more about how your community works and what your members need, to make the right changes – at the right time – to boost impact.
When a data-driven approach to creating a more efficient and effective nonprofit organisation is taken, it’s possible to streamline internal processes, ensure that critical information is available to the right people, at the right time, and that you’re creating meaningful experiences for everyone.
Right now, too many nonprofits are operating within a bubble. But that’s not how we work best. We work best when we work together; when we have the means to work productively alongside members, alongside the community, alongside donors and alongside other valuable, relevant stakeholders who share the same vision for the future. Together, we can get there. And private professional networks are helping us on our way. Get in touch with us for more information.