Each mission-driven organization is on a journey, whether a day or decade old. This article is part of our “Lessons from Leaders” program, which is designed to offer help from those who’ve faced the same challenges you do now – whether it’s creating an online presence, engaging with communities, fundraising, best practices or other issues. We hope these short essays will help you on your journey – and that someday you’ll offer your own perspectives to help the next generation of mission-driven organizations.
The critical role that mission-driven organizations play in helping those in need is what makes them special, whether pure non-profits or companies with philanthropic aims. But how can they best engage their communities?
Emily Wasek, the Associate Director of Development at Jacksonville Speech & Hearing Center (JSHC), says the key to engagement is authenticity – whether it’s in planning events for donors and others in their community, or in creating content for the organization’s social media efforts.
For example, when the coronavirus pandemic forced JSHC to transition from their traditional beach-themed gala to a virtual fundraising event in 2020, they leaned into social distancing limitations by creating a new “private island” theme, which encouraged supporters to participate in the event from their remote “private islands” (homes) and “bubble parties.” There, viewers could safely livestream a digital version of the event’s program with a private island party pack and engage with one another through interactive social media competitions.
“We adapted to the digital world, and we did it in a way that was creative and engaging,” said Wasek. This adaptive approach is part of a broader strategy to move away from strictly traditional formal gatherings to a variety of events that are more casual and accessible. “It appeals to a broader audience of age and backgrounds,” she said.
Also, be sure to leverage social media. JSHC, which includes both commercial and non-profit services, developed a transparent facemask design so that individuals with hearing loss who rely on lip reading wouldn’t be hindered in understanding others. After posting about it on social media, a flurry of media attention evolved into a community partnership where JSHC and another local nonprofit created and sold the transparent facemasks — proof that an organization can do well by doing good.
In sum, effective engagement with your communities really comes down to authenticity. As JSHC has demonstrated, less polish and more passion can really differentiate an organization.
The mission of the Jacksonville Speech & Hearing Center is simple: to provide the highest quality professional and compassionate care to ALL individuals with hearing, speech and/or language disorders in our community. To learn more, please visit https://shcjax.org