Advancement leaders talk a lot about “engaging our community.”
It could be engaging our alumni community. Or, even more specifically, engaging our young alumni community. It could be engaging our town, city, or region. It could be engaging our campus community. Or, engaging our school community.
But, we talk about “engaging our community” a lot.
We make two mistakes when trying to engage our community. First, we focus almost exclusively on the whole community, the entire crowd. We focus on the mass of people who make up that community. And, second, when we use the phrase, “engaging our community,” we typically jump straight to what this mass of people can do for us.
We want more young alumni to show up for an event.
We want more alumni to follow our social media accounts.
We want more community members to show up for basketball games.
We want more faculty and staff to give.
So, we sit in meetings and come up with new postcards, fresh invitations, and creative social media campaigns. All in an effort to catch the attention of and encourage members of these communities to respond.
But what if the first (and most important) goals are not to “engage the whole community,” or even to get the whole community to respond.
What if, instead, the first goal is to build more trust?
Far better to identify only a few members of these various communities who believe in our cause. Build trust with them. Share our goal of “engaging our community” with them. And, then, invite them to help us involve others.
We can invite 10,000 using the most creative postcard every printed, or the stickiest meme every distributed via social media.
Or, we can build trust with 10 and invite them to help us engage the other 9,990.
Guess which strategy will lead to more consistent “community engagement?”