Building social capital for non-profits

By Stephen Rhodes

Non-profit organizations need to build social capital to ensure a long life.

Social capital is about creating value for your community. Moreover, the community has to agree you bring value.

sally-annMany non-profit groups work in a cocoon, where internal comfort and support provide validation. Often managed by a volunteer board, there is great personal social capital from contributing in a meaningful way to a good cause.  Too often non-profits stop there; satisfied that they have a cadre of good people doing good things for their organization, when they really need to engage the whole community in the same way.

The Salvation Army has great social capital. Typically they have strong community support because most of us  believe the Army does great things for our community, probably without really knowing what it is they do.

Some years ago the local Sally Ann contingent dared to dream about the possibility of everyone in our city  contributing a loonie to the Christmas kettle campaign, which in effect would raise $400,000. Reasoning that not everyone could contribute, they thought if half the population would “Toss a Toonie” they would meet their target.  In the first year they raised $230,000.

The community  was mobilized- service clubs, churches, the city and a brigade of volunteers. Why? Because the community at large believes the Army provides a benefit to the citizens of our city. They have social capital. They are about community.

Other not-for-profit organizations need to learn this simple lesson. Build social capital – create that feeling of reciprocity between the community and your organization and you will be successful. The community needs to know who you are and why you make a difference.

Social capital to a non-profit organization is like market share to a business. Without it, you don’t succeed.

What organizations do you believe have great social capital?

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Filed under No-for-Profit, not-for-profit, social media, Stephen Rhodes

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