Friday September 17, 2010
Community engagement refers to the process by which community benefit organizations and individuals build ongoing, permanent relationships for the purpose of applying a collective vision for the benefit of a community.
In today’s world, more and more organizations are undertaking community engagement. Increasingly, the ability to know your audience, target your donors and to predict future behaviours is a determinant factor in the success or failure of any fundraising campaign. This is especially true in this tough economic environment. Susan Taylor Simpson spoke at an AFP session and brought to my attention the nine leading practice principles of community engagement. They are as follows:
1. Clarity of Purpose
- Understanding clearly why the engagement is occurring and it’s context
- Ensure that the choice of engagement techniques is suitable
- Be clear about who should be engaged
- Implication – Be clear about the “ask”; ask the right people in the right way.
- Allocate sufficient time and resources to the process
- Provide and encourage ongoing feedback throughout the process
- Properly record and document the process and feedback
- Implication – Commit to being open and transparent with donors.
- Communication is multi-faceted: it includes information gathering and sharing, collaborative discussion and decision-making
- Communication is ongoing throughout the process
- Implication – Communicate with donors repeatedly and continuously.
- Use latest research
- Provide quality information to the participants at all stages of the process
- Ensure accuracy and consistency of information throughout the process
- Implication – Provide donors with accurate and up-to-date information about the organization and its work.
5. Flexibility and Responsiveness
- Be flexible at both the planning and implementation stages
- Select range of techniques that enable different communities or sectors to participate effectively
- Implication – Be flexible and responsive in your fund-raising techniques
- Be clear about the time you have for the task
- Ensure participants receive information in enough time to make effective contributions
- Inform participants as to when they can expect feedback on their contributions
- Make sure that feedback is given to participants on time
- Implication – Be realistic about timing; provide feedback in a timely manner.
- Get to know and understand the communities you want to engage
- Acknowledge and respect their diversity
- Avoid jargon and technical language
- Aim for accessibility throughout the process
- Implication – Know your donors; reach out to and include all potential donors.
- Adjust for scales of involvement
- Seek community input at the planning stage
- Work with other agencies operating in the area to avoid repetitive consultations
- Implication – Consider the involvement of donors and partners when planning a fund-raising campaign.
9. Continuous Learning
- Monitor and evaluate as you go
- Encourage community feedback on the process itself as well as the subject of the engagement
- Report back within your organization to ensure the organization learns from the process
- Measurable outcomes
- Implication – Evaluate for donor engagement; measure engagement and donations received.