Based on the theories learned during my studies at University (Strategic Management, Marketing etc.) and the new insights I gained about online communities, I was able to design a new model for non-profits like UNICEF: a decision matrix (see the figure in this post) that non-profits can use in their decision whether or not to invest in a brand community and if so, which issues they need to consider. I believe that the strategic decision of creating a brand community can be divided into 11 stages. My decision matrix highlights this process.
The first step (1) non-profits should undertake is an analysis of the internal environment. Corporate objectives should be well-defined. It is important to look at the organization’s current marketing objectives, strategies, policies and programs. Are they clearly stated or merely implied from performance and/or budgets? Are they consistent with the corporation’s mission, objectives, strategies, and policies? It might be good to also look at how well your organization is performing “in terms of analysis of market position and marketing mix” (Wheelen 28). Besides, it is also important to look at the available resources that your organization has to use for possible investments.
Non-profits should then extensively examine the external environment (2). They could look at what general environmental forces currently are affecting both the organization and the charity industry in which they compete. Are there any threats or opportunities ahead? They could also face what forces are driving the competition in the industry they represent. How big is the threat of new entrants? How large is the rivalry among charity organizations? And what is the relative power of the government or other special interest groups? Besides an analysis of the external environment, I believe it is also good to analyse the target group. I think it is important to look at what your target group thinks of your non-profit in specific and if and how they would possibly see themselves (further) engage with your organization. Based on the internal and external analysis of the environment, you could create a SWOT analysis (an identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that may be strategic factors for your organization).
After that, non-profits can decide whether an online community strategy is necessary and relevant (3). If they think it is not necessary or that an online community is not relevant, they can decide to choose another marketing tool. If your organization comes to the conclusion that an online community can serve their intention and add value, the creation of a brand community can be considered as a relevant choice for the organization. (4) Of course, the idea of a brand community should be in line with the organization’s marketing objectives and personal feelings and commitment.
Once your organization has made the decision to actually create an online community, you should define community objectives. (5) In the case of non-profits these could be: developing closer relationships with the young generation, increase brand awareness, foster engagement etc. I advise non-profits to make these objectives very specific and preferably quantifiable. This will make it easier for them to measure the return-on-investment of their community efforts later on. Once the objectives are defined, the head of marketing & communication must probably first approve the community project. Once the project is approved, responsibilities should be assigned. (6) It is important to assign people who are going to be responsible for the development, launch and maybe even management of the community.
After that, the community frame can be shaped (7). In this stage, non-profits will need to start by deciding on the focus of their community (focused on the non-profit and their work or centred around a general topic), the platform (managed or direct community) and the content. I will elaborate more on these three elements in the upcoming posts.
Once the community frame has been decided, your organization need to choose whether you have the right and needed competencies to successfully design and implement the community or whether you need external parties and consultants to help you (8). Once this consideration is made, the project can be implemented and the community launched (9). Then, the community needs to be managed and controlled (10). It is important to regularly evaluate the development of the community. Here, it is also important to find ways to measure the ROI (11). In this stage, it could be possible that the community objectives need to be adapted or changed. New objectives can influence the original shape of the community frame. In that case, it could be that your organization will need to start again at stage 5.
Model: Decision Matrix
(I hope you can properly read this model, if you would like to see a larger version of this model, please click on the model)
The focus of my advice to non-profits on my blog
As can be seen in the figure above, some parts in the decision matrix are highlighted in blue. (stage 3, 7, 10 and 11). In my following posts I will particularly advise non-profits on these specific parts. The other parts were not in my power to study. Besides, these parts depend heavily on what an organization’s management, strategies, objectives and budget allows.
My advices on these parts are the result of an extensive field research I performed.
Until next time,
Photography: Anne-Lise Heinrichs