Going Tribal: Creating Communities of Supporters that Sustain

| Peer-to-Peer & Online Giving | Mon, Sept 12, 2022

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Are your supporters just members of a community, or are they a tribe?

Often, nonprofits define “our community” as “the people on our email list,” but that’s not what community is all about. Yes, the people on the house email list do have one thing in common-an interest in the mission. However, what is often overlooked is the second part of a community.

When nonprofits talk to the house list, it’s usually only one-way communication, the organization to supporters. A real community involves a group of individuals with a shared belief /interest and a way to communicate.

When people in the community communicate with each other, the community is transformed into a tribe. Tribes are powerful; tribes make things happen. They have a passion for change.

There’s a formula for building someone’s sense of being a member of a tribe. Strength of membership = number of engagements with the tribe. The more engagements, the stronger the person’s connection.

This presentation will use THON as an example of tribe-building. THON is the world’s largest student-run philanthropy. Located at Penn State University, THON is committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer.

THON has raised more than $175M for its mission in the last ten years by building a tribe of supporters. To supporters, THON isn’t an event; it’s a lifestyle that they express in many ways in their lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Acknowledge why and how to build a tribe of supporters rather than focusing on a series of events.
  • Describe the formula for building someone’s sense of being members of your tribe.
  • Learn the formula for building donors as members of your tribe.

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Otis Fulton

Otis Fulton

VP, Psychological Strategy, Turnkey

Otis spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education, and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.

Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a B.A. from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.