Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Different Types Of Groups: How To Make Sure You Pick The Right Approach For The Right Result

In current usage, a community can mean almost any group of people that interact in almost any place in any manner.

This needs to end. It’s too encompassing of a broad array of different groups and outcomes.

Offline we have many of collective nouns to define groups of people based upon how they interact. We have audiences, mobs, crowds, congregations, tribes, and yes, community.

We do need to better understand what sort of group we want to develop. Each type of group produces a different outcome. The result that you get depends very much upon the approach you take.

For example:

  • Audience/fans. A group of people that read/watch/follow a singular stimulant. This group will have minimal relationships with each other.
  • Crowd. A group of people brought together by something unusual. This could be extremely good, extremely bad, extremely exciting. Attention is high for a short amount of time,
  • Mob. A mostly disorganized group of people uprising against a major issue. This will usually be leaderless with minimal relationships.
  • Tribe. A group with a defined leader attempting to affect change within the world.  This group usually will have some level of relationships with each other.
  • Community. A group of people who have developed relationships around a strong common interest.

There are overlaps here. There are more types of groups too. But lets keep it simple for now.

 We can agree that building an audience is different from a community.  A crowd is different from a tribe.

This means we need to answer some important questions.

  • Does this group need a leader to guide them towards a fixed goal?  Why?
  • Does this group need to build strong relationships with each other? Why?
  • Does this group need to be around for the long-term or does it need a short amount of attention?  Why?

Your answers to these questions define what sort of group you create.

Let’s imagine you want to promote an upcoming product, a product your target market hasn’t purchased before. You don’t need a tribe, nor a community. Your target market doesn’t need to communicate. You just need their attention. You probably want a crowd. You want a lot of attention for a short amount of time.

Let’s imagine you want to increase repeat purchases of your product. A crowd or mob probably wont get the job done. You need a longer-term group than that. A tribe probably isn’t appropriate, unless it is the founder of the brand him/herself. So you want either an audience or a community.

Let’s imagine you’re trying to change how something is done in your industry. A mob might work. You can alert people to a major issue they should be upset about. Or you can be a leader and build a tribe. You can position yourself again an issue and invite people to follow and help you.

Let’s imagine you’ve just launched a start-up. You probably want an audience to manage. You want to respond to their questions and build good relationships with them. That doesn’t require relationships between your members. So you probably need an audience. However, you may consider a tribe if you want to cultivate advocates.

This is heavily simplified. The point is we can’t keep using community to encompass all manner of online social activities. Online social groups are all around us now, we need to know which are right for us.


Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Limited, an online community consultancy, and The Pillar Summit , an exclusive course in Professional Community Management. Richard’s clients have included the United Nations, The Global Fund, Novartis, AMD, BAE Systems and several youth & entertainment brands. Richard is also the the author of the Online Community Manifesto. 
Feverbee logo

Avectra, the leader in web based membership management software, is proud to partner with FeverBee Limited to help organizations around the world understand best practices for creating thriving online communities and build invaluable communities of their own.  For more information on MemberFuse, Avectra’s private online community platform, and Avectra Social CRM for Associations, click here.

Friday Community Traditions

Traditions help develop a sense of community amongst members and stimulate participation. Don’t dismiss them as dumb, try one.

Fridays are an excellent opportunity to encourage an off-topic tradition. People expecting something fun and different. They want something to smile about before the weekend.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Craziest weekend plan award. Who has the craziest or most bizarre weekend plan? Invite members, once every Friday in a short-term sticky-thread to share their plan for the weekend. After 24 hours close the thread with a message announcing the winner.
  • Caturday. Ruthlessly stolen from caturday, why not let members share funny pictures of their pets for a day?
  • Games. Word-association, trivia etc…
  • Beat my score. Pick a simply browser-based game and challenge members to get the highest score. It is Friday after all…
  • Discounts/Promotional days. One day a week, let members promote their products/items.
  • Mod-day. What’s the most interesting modification of an existing product/item a member has?

It’s easy to dismiss fun and off-topic traditions as silly and ill suited to your community. Yet, like many other activities mentioned on this blog, they’re a proven tactic. They stimulate activity and help develop a sense of community.

You might just be silly not to do it.


Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Limited, an online community consultancy, and The Pillar Summit , an exclusive course in Professional Community Management. Richard’s clients have included the United Nations, The Global Fund, Novartis, AMD, BAE Systems and several youth & entertainment brands. Richard is also the the author of the Online Community Manifesto. 
Feverbee logo

Avectra, the leader in web based membership management software, is proud to partner with FeverBee Limited to help organizations around the world understand best practices for creating thriving online communities and build invaluable communities of their own.  For more information on MemberFuse, Avectra’s private online community platform, and Avectra Social CRM for Associations, click here.

What Holds Me Back

This guest blog post is courtesy of Kent Stroman, Founder of Stroman & Associates.  Kent is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), AFP Master Trainer, BoardSource-trained governance consultant and serves as an adjunct consultant for the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. He will be presenting the findings and key learnings from his book, Asking About Asking: Mastering the Art of Conversational Fundraising™ in his Sage educational webcast, you can listen to it here.

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When it comes to seeking major gifts, there are any number of things that can interfere with getting out there and getting the job done.  In today’s post I share a confession about what holds me back from pursuing promising opportunities . . . and how to get over it.

Rather than delve into the theoretical likelihoods that might possibly impact someone else’s world, let me give a practical example from my own life and work.

The path that led me into the world of professional fundraiser was unexpected – certainly to me, if no one else.  For eighteen years, my career consisted of college professor and business administrator.  I was a CPA – a finance guy.

As Vice President for Business Affairs, I was challenged every day.  I loved the campus environment and making a tangible contribution at a place that was important to me.  But then something happened.  (I’ll leave the intricate details for another day.  Let’s say, it was a big, big change!)

Suddenly I found myself in a brand new world.  No more ledgers to balance, budget reports to produce, financial forecasts and independent auditors to satisfy…I’m in a happy-go-lucky world now . . . right?  Wrong!

Instead of keeping track of the funds, as Vice President for Development I instantly gained the responsibility for generating funds!  It was time to produce.

The fundraising landscape I inherited was complicated at best.  For a variety of reasons (which I will mercifully spare you for now) the office of Vice President for Development had been vacant for 6 ½ of the previous 7 years.  Fundraising activities had been happening, to be sure.  But the role of Chief Development Officer had been missing or severely neglected for these many years.

Now, keep in mind, I am a finance guy.  At this point, I’m all about process, systems, controls and reports.  So, it was entirely natural for me to focus immediately on process, systems, controls and reports.  My new job, however, was to generate donations.  Cash.  Gifts.  Revenue.  Charitable contributions.  And what may be painfully obvious to you – but took me a while to realize – is this:  process, systems, controls and reports do not create gift income.  Rather, gifts come about as the result of asking.

What successful fundraisers realize is that asking alone is not enough.  Instead, optimal results are achieved when:

The right person,

Asks the right person,

For the right amount,

For the right purpose,

At the right time,

In the right way.

If we’re really going to make a lasting impact on the charitable organizations for which we raise money, it comes down to face-to-face, one-on-one major gift solicitation.  Asking for the gift.

In order to become successful I ultimately had to get out there and ask.  It sounds so simple.  It sounds so straightforward.  It sounds so doable.  But it wasn’t happening.  And that wasn’t satisfactory.  To anyone.

This brings me back to the title of today’s blog post:  What Holds Me Back.  Is it a question or an answer?  Perhaps both.

First, let me make my own confession.  In the situation I described above, my obstacles were:

  • Incomplete or inaccurate donor records
  • Insufficient donor cultivation
  • A passive fundraising heritage
  • An ill-defined case for philanthropic support
  • Untrained development staff
  • Lack of fundraising policies
  • No up-to-date fundraising brochures
  • Endless administrative duties

In a nutshell, I could see an unending stream of minutiae that kept me from doing what I really wanted – and needed – to do . . . raise money.

The bad news is I let these things delay my true fundraising activities for far too long.  The good news is I eventually figured out the distractions would never end and that I would simply have to set them aside and start asking for donations.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today I consult with numerous not-for-profit organizations, I now realize that there are innumerable obstacles to fundraising success.  For a period of years now, I have been researching and helping my clients overcome their road blocks.  The number one question I ask, “What is your biggest obstacle to successful one-on-one gift solicitation?”

The answers I hear are diverse.  The insight astonishing.  And the applications are many.

I hope you will join me on my webcast to learn how to overcome your biggest fundraising challenges.  In the meantime, please share your biggest obstacle, I’d love to hear from you.  Post your comments below.

I can’t wait to connect with you next Tuesday!

Game Thinking: An Epic Win for Associations

I hear you. “Games, yes! It’s about time we looked at games.”

And I hear you too. “Games? You can’t be serious. Not at my association.”

Full disclosure, I’m not a gamer, so this is all a bit foreign to me too. I first started paying attention to games two years ago at a TEDx conference where I heard an IBM game designer talk about using games for training and education. Ever since I’ve been intrigued by the idea that game thinking can help associations deliver a better experience.

I’m not the only one. Game dynamics was the topic of last week’s #assnchat.

It’s tempting to dismiss any consideration of games by saying members are serious professionals and wouldn’t go for those shenanigans, but they do.

Games are the most downloaded apps. 72% of households play computer or video games. The average gamer is 37 years old. 42% of gamers are women. 55% of gamers play on their phone or hand-held device.

Here’s what I’m wondering: how can we leverage the principles of game design to make the membership experience or professional development journey more meaningful, or encourage online community participation?

Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, says, “All games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” Associations offer voluntary participation and rules, but do we identify membership goals and provide feedback?

In her presentation, Beyond Gamification: 7 Core Concepts for Creating Compelling Products, Amy Jo Kim, an online community and social game designer, identifies core concepts of game thinking that can be applied to any experience.

Players and motivations

First, Kim says, “Know your players – design for their personal and social needs.” We design programs for our members’ professional needs, but are we ignoring their personal and social needs and behaviors?

Game designers “embrace intrinsic motivators, like power, autonomy and belonging.” Daniel Pink would add mastery and purpose to that list. Intrinsic motivators lead to much deeper engagement than extrinsic motivators, like badges, points, titles and levels. Extrinsic motivators push participants to complete tasks, but they’re not enough to ensure lasting engagement. We need to build extrinsic and intrinsic motivators into the membership, online community and conference experiences.

Three stages of membership

Kim advises designing experiences for the “three key stages of the player life cycle — novice, regular and enthusiast. A good game takes a player on a journey.” How often do we think of membership or professional development as a journey?

She tells us what we already know, but maybe it’s time we look at a member’s experience through the games lens: “Novices needs onboarding – welcome, goals, progress and achievable rewards. Regulars need fresh content, activities and challenges. Enthusiasts need exclusivity, recognition and impact.”

The F words: flow, feedback and fun

Gamers have options: play alone or with others, with a group of four or four hundred, competitively or cooperatively. Do associations generally have one path (ladder) for involvement, or do we design experiences with multiple paths to participation – paths that leverage different personality styles?

Popular games have a low barrier to participation. You can get started quickly because they’re easy to learn. But, Kim says, “as players progress, increase the challenge and complexity.” We’re most engaged when we’re in flow — not bored, challenged just enough, but not so much we get frustrated and give up.

Games give players the opportunity to acquire, test and master skills. Kim suggests applying game mechanics by providing progressive goals, clear feedback and community awareness of a participant’s status or progress.

Most importantly, “build fun, pleasure and satisfaction into your core activity loop.” I once heard a new association president complain to his fellow leaders, “We’re not that fun anymore.” The year ahead was full of serious challenges, but he was determined to bring the fun back, and he did. 

What have you learned from playing games that you can apply to the membership, online community or conference experience?

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer with very limited video game experience, but exceptional kakuro skills.