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Private Social Networks: What’s the Magic Formula for Non-Profits?

privatenetworkMany non-profits think there is a secret formula to make their private social networks successful, but there actually isn't one. There are, however, a number of best practices that non-profits can follow to help improve experiences for members and donors as their online communities grow and serve as an information hub about their organizations.

Non-profits shouldn't feel pressured to maintain communication on their sites, rather, they should act as hosts-once they are created, it's up to constituents to cultivate relationships, start discussions and share knowledge. The role of organizations is to help enhance the experience to ensure that members and donors get as much value from them as possible. If non-profits keep the following tips in mind, they can ensure they are providing compelling social networks for their audiences.

One of the greatest benefits of private social communities is that they provide opportunities to network and learn from one another. According to ASI partner GoLightly, when first launching their sites, it's helpful for non-profits to seed them with groups, blog posts and discussion questions and any other ice-breakers. Once there is active participation taking place, organizations can step back and let members and donors build relationships and create their own content. If organizations notice that activity is slowing down, then it's a great idea to start a discussion and get things moving again. To encourage participation and growth, non-profits should also showcase their private social networks at every opportunity. This can be done by sharing information at events, in newsletters and on their public social media profiles including Twitter and Facebook.

Private social networks are also a great way for non-profits to learn more about their constituents. Since the information is plugged directly into organizations' databases, non-profits can use this knowledge to get to know members and donors better, tailor future communications and incorporate it into other programs. GoLightly says it's helpful for organizations to ask for input on how they can make improvements to their networks. Once non-profits have a better understanding of constituents' needs and interests, they can make any modifications-by taking what is learned and putting into practice, organizations will prove that they are listening. Additionally, to keep the community motivated, non-profits should create a reward recognition program. Fundraising organizations can select top fundraisers for each month and do a Q+A interview with them to feature on their sites or in their newsletters. Membership associations can also acknowledge those frequent users by selecting a member to spotlight for the month.

It's important for non-profits to remember that private social networks should serve as a knowledgebase for members and donors. It's helpful for organizations to post announcements and news to their sites and have them serve as a main source of information. GoLightly also suggests providing forums to encourage communication and knowledge sharing. Private social networks offer non-profits a chance to help new members or donors to get acquainted with organizations as well. Launching special sections of the sites can be a great way to do this-for example, with associations, there can be a how-to guide that shares tips and tricks for getting the most value out of their memberships. They can also be matched up with veteran members to get an inside look into how things work and the opportunities that come along with being part of the association. In fundraising organizations, it's helpful for new volunteers to connect with returning ones to gain insight into how the event works and how to prepare for it.

When it comes to private social networks, there truly is no magic formula. Non-profits need to remember that their relationships with constituents are unique-any guidelines for how to successfully use them should just serve as templates. While it's up to organizations to act as facilitators and help constituents have the best possible experience with their sites, in the end, it's the members and donors that need to use private social networks be active participants, build relationships with peers and gather valuable knowledge about their organizations.


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