Social connection is part of what makes the human experience so interesting and complex. Our relationships with one another are part of what fuels our thoughts, our ambitions, and in many cases, our happiness. As explored in this New York Times article here, social relationships are directly tied to health and well being.

In the age of technology and the internet, social connections are changing. No matter where you land on the negative or positive repercussions of that, it is simple. How we form and maintain relationships is different from all other generations before. Since we’re optimists here, we’re going to look at this positively! This means there are more opportunities to have relationships with people who don’t live near you, but who may be connected to you in some other way.

In the nonprofit space, you live in both the virtual and the physical world. Some nonprofits are global-reaching and have pockets all around the world. Some are local shops that grow and maintain connections with the people in their area. But the fact remains the same, the relationships that your nonprofit is able to cultivate with your volunteers and your donors, will determine your success and overall impact.

Personal Connection

Some of your donors and volunteers have deep ties to your organization. Maybe their grandfather gave to you, then their mother gave to, and now they give to you. *Subtle hint: you can find a lot of these connections in iWave! Click here to find out more. Or maybe your organization has touched their family in some practical way – maybe you work in healthcare and supported them during a difficult time. This personal connection is what drives their desire to be involved. You may not even be aware of these connections. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your donors on a personal level. Make sure you have a way to gather their stories and understand why they care about your cause. You can do that through donor surveys, through social media engagement, through events, and by using iWave to find out more about their giving history and connection to you.  

Your Virtual Presence

It’s widely accepted now, that your nonprofit needs to have a social media presence. If you were one of those people that never had Facebook and wanted to hold out to the bitter end, that’s fine. But your nonprofit needs a social profile – and they should even have more than one! As an example beyond Facebook, the number of nonprofits using Instagram has taken off in the last few years. If you’re not on board yet, here are some great ways to create an engaged Instagram account.

The reason your social media presence is important is because it is a point of connection. For some, it may be the first interaction a person has with your nonprofit. It is so important to make sure your website and your social media both show the world what you’re all about.

If you were to meet a person on the street and they asked about your nonprofit, I’m sure your face would light up. You would talk about what your nonprofit does, what people you help, and what that means to you. That’s exactly what your virtual presence should say about you too.

And great news, there are so many amazing technologies out there to help you create websites, manage your social media, and create your story-telling strategy. You just need to begin! Check out iWave’s social media primer for help on where to start.

How to Connect and Stay Connected

So we know virtual interactions are important for your donors and volunteers. But we also know that in a world full of internet dating, online communities, and virtual relationships; in-person connections are crucial to making us feel fulfilled.

A great way of connecting in person with your supporters is to plan events. These could be major fundraisers you run annually, small events to raise awareness, get-to-know-you events, or thank-you events as a way to thank supporters. Any event is a chance to connect with those who care about your cause.

But don’t stop there! I know you may be thinking – “I just don’t have the time to plan more events”. And that’s ok! Use your phone calls, your emails, your direct mail and thank you letters, your coffee chats and lunchtime meetings; all as different ways of connecting.

The key to inspiring connection between your supporters and your cause is to celebrate what unites you. Make sure you talk about your goals and hopes for your cause so that everyone can dream with you. Share your stories about who you’ve helped. Thank those who have supported you.

And keep in mind that cultivating those personal relationships is about connecting on a human level. The relationship that people have to your cause can help you inspire real change in the world. That’s powerful stuff. Keep on doing your amazing work, we’re here for it!

About the author: Liz Corney is iWave’s Content Marketing Manager. She has a degree in Journalism, is a fiercely positive team-player and a creative self-starter. She has experience working in software technology, video/mobile games, learning & development, social & traditional media, and communications. Liz is also the co-founder of a local nonprofit organization working to better the lives of homeless women in her community.