A few months ago, I made a switch moving from the nonprofit sector to The Community Roundtable, a leading provider of community research and support for business, association and nonprofit communities. TheCR works with the hundreds of members in our paid community and in the field as a whole to “advance the business of community.” And we have members from companies large and small, nonprofits and associations. (Maddie, I should note, is a great champion for our nonprofit and community members.)
They’re definitely not one size fits all. Our member communities often take fundamentally different structures –professional association members, for example, have a very different connection to their community than, say, employees at a Fortune 500 company or customers of a major brand. But what has struck me is that each group has skills and lessons that could really benefit the other groups.
Each year, The Community Roundtable publishes survey research, The State of Community Management, that examines the growth of and changes in online community and community management. As researchers, we want the responses to reflect the breadth of online community – but as someone who has spent time in nonprofits, I have a second motive – teaching and learning. There are some fundamental assumptions about how our communities differ that go untested. Nonprofit communities are great at creating advocates, but weak on ROI. They tap into passion, but often aren’t strategic enough.
Business communities have more focus on ROI and metrics. They invest in management, but their instincts are to squelch dissent.
Are these generalizations true? Sometimes. But what’s the reality? How do nonprofit and association communities differ from business ones. Who on either side of this fence has built ‘best-in-class’ communities that have effective policies, well thought out roadmaps, measurable ROI and other markers of community maturity? How do they do it?
There’s only one way to find out. Ask questions and get answers.
We’d love to see as many community professionals as possible take The State of Community Management 2015 survey – and I’d love to see a great turnout from nonprofits and associations so we can pull out our own data and see where we are. Just taking the survey has value – there may be questions you’ve never really pondered, and at the end of your 20 minutes, you get a score of where you rate in The Community Roundtable’s Community Maturity Model. You don’t have to be a member of TheCR to participate or get results. You just have to run an online community, have a willingness to share and a desire to move the field of community management forward.