NGOs and how they relate to their communities
NGOs and Communities: how to find a common language
What does a community manager do? Does an NGO need a community, and is it worth specifically creating one? Fedor Skuratov, founder of Russian Community Managers and co-founder of the Combot group-chat service, spoke to ASI’s charity sphere media centre about just this.
What exactly is a community?
A community is an NGOs’ social media audience or the number of people at its events. A distinctive feature of the community is that it’s based on participants’ personal relationships with one another. Typically, a community consists of between seven and 100-150 people.
A community doesn’t just appear at the request of an NGO. Rather, communities develop through people getting together and getting to know each other because they want to achieve something that they can’t do on their own. This might be, for example, facilitating the import of medicine into the country or achieving the adoption of a law. NGOs and their projects have been around for decades, but if community members change, it’s a new community.
Communities, like most interpersonal relationships, experience several crises at 1 year, 3 years, 7 years, and 14 years. Many participants leave the community in the third year, because not everyone is ready to give a lot of time and effort to the project.
Do we need these communities?
In most cases, NGOs do not need to create their own community, since they actually work with ready-made communities. Word of mouth appears as when an organisation approaches a person, it imperceptibly affects his environment and begins to influence him.
Word of mouth is one of the most successful working means for NGOs. However, it is important to understand that it’s only effective through personal recommendation. A social media post in which a person praises an organisation is more likely to look like an ad. News about an unpopular topic an NGO is dealing with will also attract people but only those who are already interested. It is not worth wasting time and inviting people in this case.
If an organisation does decide to create its own community, you must remember some rules. For example, a community topic should have the potential to introduce group members to each other. In a community, an organisation no longer works with an individual. Here it is important to use the formed connections to get the desired result.
The interests of an NGO might not coincide with the interests of the community around the organisation. If the group does not plan to do something itself then the organisation should not force it. Resources should be spent on the active part of the community: others can follow its example.
Fyodor Skuratov thinks that “If there is a need then it can be met with the help of the community. No need? Then the community is not needed. Why bring them in?»
For example, some organisations want to introduce volunteers. However, it is only worth creating a volunteer community if an NGO needs to achieve something with them. If each volunteer is independently coping with their tasks then there is no point in insisting on team communication.
A community Manager is an organisation’s employee who communicates with the communities and represent the organisation on many issues.
They should know what topics should not be discussed with the separate communities. For example, some organisations do not tolerate a political agenda and as such, a Community Manager should avoid it when working with their community.
They should participate through various chats and communities, establish communication with other organisations, and know the sector’s requests. Meanwhile, they can work with both the organisation’s community and other communities.
ASI’s charity sphere media centre is a joint project by the Blagosfera Center and the Agency for Social Information (ASI). Its goal is to promote the ideas of charity, as well as social responsibility in society and citizens’ social activism through various media formats. One of these formats is a media club which carries out training and also hosts discussions and educational events.