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3 Principles that Building Community and Risk Management Share

3 Principles that Building Community and Risk Management Share

Thanks to the wonder of Feedly (you really should check it out) I recently found a short little article  that gave 6 Tips to Building an Online Community for nonprofits.

I was struck by two things:

  1. Building online communities for nonprofits is not a whole lot different than building online communities for other businesses.
  2. The best practices for building community can lead to best practices for risk management.

I’ll let you investigate bullet point number 1 on your own.

I’m more interested in bullet point 2: How do best practices for building a nonprofit community dovetail with best practices for nonprofit risk management?

Photo via

Photo via

Here are some principles I see that both encourage community and more quality risk management for nonprofits. I’ll trust the writer of the article that these items build community for nonprofits. I’ll steal the principle and apply it to risk management.

Principle 1: It’s All About People

Most people are interested in themselves. We all tend toward the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ approach to things. In the post I reference above, the first two tips are about how to engage and genuinely express interest in your stakeholders and also spotlight key volunteers to show appreciation.

In risk management, one of the key questions you can ask is this: Who are the people involved in what we do? What are the best ways we can protect them? These questions can help identify your key stakeholders: employees, volunteers, donors, clients or consumers or students.

You can then identify both insurance and noninsurance ways to best protect those people: background checks for volunteers, cultivating a healthy, respectful work culture, insurance policies that will both defend your key people if needed or help pay if those folks get hurt while working with you.

Things can always be replaced, but key human beings are hard to find and vital to keep.

Principle 2: Focus, Focus, Focus

Three of the tips in the article encourage nonprofits to be focused in their approach to building community. Go deeper into the selected social media outlets. Don’t spray newsletters out to everybody, focus them on people who have shown up to events or volunteered or expressed deeper interest. Respond directly to people who engage on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook. Only use the outlets that you are prepared to maintain well. Quality over quantity.

I have clients that are super-focused on a particular mission. I have other clients that tend to bounce from need to need to need. I am much less nervous about my clients who know exactly who they are and what their organization’s mission is.

There might be times when they expand their product offering, but it’s always filtered through their focused mission. This allows them to do the right things well and to have systems in place that both manage risk and increase effectiveness.

Organizations that flit about from one opportunity to the next can sometimes leave themselves a bit more exposed.

Principle 3: Community is Important

The over-arching theme is this: community is important. Building community and brand identification is huge for a nonprofit.

Similarly, building a sense of ownership among all of the different stakeholders – from employees to volunteers to clients to board members to donors goes a long way in managing risk.

People become protective over things that are important to them. We all know the person who vacuums and washes his car every weekend. It’s that 68 Mustang that is prettier than your 2005 Honda Accord ever thought about being. Those four wheels are obviously super important to that guy, so he tends to them like a doting mom with a newborn babe.

Community building encourages care. Care leads to cleaner systems and more conscientious participants. This leads to fewer claims and generally better organizational health (not a scientifically verified statement, but an observation after years in the insurance biz).

To Sum It Up: Building Community Requires Similar Disciplines as Managing Risk

What has your experience been? Do you notice organizations that seem to be more deeply focused, more people focused, and more intent on increasing corporate ‘ownership’ as being more well-run?

Thanks to all of you who appreciate those who help support your organization by being generous in the way you approach building community and in the way you create safe, well-run environments.

A special thanks to Joanne Fritz who writes and curates wonderful content on’s Nonprofit page.  She included the article that spawned this post in one of her ‘best clicks’ posts

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