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4 Nonprofits That Benefit From Their Online Communities

6 minute read

August 19, 2020

Nonprofits do amazing work—there's no question. From providing healthcare to those in developing nations, to ensuring that people have access to mental health support services wherever and whenever they need it; the work these nonprofits do is endless.

But when people think about online communities, they think of B2B or B2C organizations; aren't communities a space for customers or fans of the brand? This assumption is mistaken, since community can serve so many different purposes.

Community is a space where people can connect with others in similar situations, feel safe when they might otherwise feel vulnerable, and easily find resources and information that can help them when needed. That's why community is an excellent resource for nonprofits; it often compliments and forwards the very purpose that they serve. 

This blog will unpack four very powerful nonprofit organizations who have successfully used their community to their advantage. In all four cases, these nonprofits have used their community to forward and execute their mission, vision and goals

1. Scope

So a little bit about Scope: Scope is a disability equality charity in England and Wales that aims to ensure that all disabled people are able to enjoy equality and fairness. Founded in 1952, it began with just three parents and one social worker, with the initial goal to ensure that disabled children had equal access to education. Today, Scope has over 5,000 volunteers, 38,500 donors and fundraising income of £19.3 million (in 2017/18). 

Scope has been able to do amazing things with its community. As an open community, where anyone can navigate freely throughout the forum, Scope creates a supportive and accessible environments where members can build trust and achieve more together. Ultimately, the Scope community aims to ensure that no one is left out and provides 24/7 wherever and whenever members need it.

The impacts that the community has had cannot be overstated. As one member describes:

“Many people find the community when they’re at a really low point in their life. Sometimes they are looking for someone to turn to for emotional support. They may be feeling lonely, or might have received a diagnosis that surprised or worried them, and may want to talk it through with others. They might be going through a stressful period at work or be looking for advice on whether they are eligible for any financial support to deal with the extra costs disabled people face day to day. Whatever their needs, our community is always there for them.”

If you're interested in learning more about what Scope has done with their community, be sure to check out this blog, which unpacks all the details.

2.  Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships serves as yet another great example of how the power of community is being used beyond B2B or B2C. Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephen, and provides hospital ships run by skilled volunteers to deliver free surgery and health care services to those in developing nations. Essentially, the mission is to provide “surgery related programs that bring hope and healing to those who have limited access to healthcare.”

Mercy Ships' community is available to its volunteers/ those looking to volunteer, and serves as a one-stop-shop for everything that they need to know. This includes Q&A about volunteering, information about life onboard, extensive resources and a space to connect with other volunteers and alumni.

The work that Mercy Ships does is incredible; 2.7 million lives have been impacted by Mercy Ships, amounting to an estimated value of $1.2 billion dollars of work completed. This amazing feat could not have been achieved without proper organization and diligence by Mercy Ships' volunteers. The community serves as a pillar of this organization, as a central location to onboard new volunteers, direct and answer all types of inquires, and provide meaningful guides about everything that volunteers need to know.

If you're interested in learning more about what Mercy Ships has done with their community, be sure to check out this blog, which unpacks all the details.

3. Breast Cancer Network Australia

The Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is an organization that provides support, information and treatment to Australians affected by breast cancer with the aim of ensuring that their voices are heard. The BCNA was founded in 1998 by Lyn Swinburne, a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed in 1993 and underwent surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Lyn created the BCNA with the broad goal of making the breast cancer journey better for everyone diagnosed in Australia.

Launched in 2010,  the BCNA's community provides 24/7 support to those affected by breast cancer in Australia, including peer-to peer support and information regarding the illness.

The BCNA's community has made good use of the categories function, featuring over 9000 categories, so that everyone in the community has an appropriate space to ask hard questions and get the answers they need. The BCNA community is extremely active and provides members with more than just support. As one member describes:

The 24/7 support of the people [in this community] has been a great help once I found the courage to participate. The acceptance, understanding and sharing from many have gotten me through some darker moments. [Not even close family or friends] gets it better than someone whose is/ has been there. [Family and friends] may think you will just resume your life as before but don’t realize that the experience changed you — the people on here do.

The BCNA community is often viewed as a sort of sisterhood; women (and their family and friends) come here to discuss anything and everything in a safe environment with others who understand. It's a great nonprofit, and I'd recommend checking it out!

If you're interested in learning more about what the BCNA has done with their community, be sure to check out this blog, which unpacks all the details.

4. Bipolar UK

Bipolar UK is a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that everyone affected by bipolar can find the support they need, whenever they may need it. Bipolar UK was founded in 1983, back when bipolar was known as manic depression, and began with a commitment to dispelling the stigma, secrecy and widespread ignorance of manic depression. From there, Bipolar UK (so named in 2011) has grown to become the UK's national charity dedicated to supporting individuals with the condition of bipolar and their families through a range of services.

The Bipolar Uk's online community is extremely active and has over 20,000 members. The community provides a safe space where members can let their guard down, be vulnerable and engage in conversation with others who understand. The anonymity offered by this community works to empower members to share their experiences, and provide support to others. One member describes the impact that the community has had on her life as:

“As far as I know, there is nowhere else to go for the level of support available via your eCommunity service. When my husband was manic and undiagnosed, as a family we knew nothing about bipolar and I desperately wanted to talk to someone who had been through the same thing, but I did not know how to find such people. Fortunately, I found Bipolar UK and the forum.”

Bipolar UK's community provides ongoing peer-to-peer support and other services, including daily moderators from 8am-8pm for anyone who wants to speak with someone employed by the organization for additional information or support. The community isn't just limited to those in the UK; people from all over the world have joined. It is now one of the largest mental health discussion forms in the UK. 

If you're interested in learning more about what the Bipolar UK has done with their community, be sure to check out this blog, which unpacks all the details.

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Community Nonprofit

Sarah Robinson-Yu

Written by Sarah Robinson-Yu

Sarah is the Content Marketing Specialist at Vanilla Forums. Prior to Vanilla, Sarah worked in the public sector where she led and coordinated the strategic framework and operational policy development of business processes.

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