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Rob Wu 11 min read

How to Create a Tribe for Your Nonprofit


What is a Tribe?

A tribe is a group of people that includes many families and relatives who have the same language, customs, and beliefs.

A tribe is more than just a group of people, it is a community.

Perhaps there is no other structure in society that has the potential to have such focused and meaningful tribes as in the nonprofit world. When people with the same beliefs align themselves together, the basis for a movement is created and your journey to fulfill your vision as an organization begins.

Yet, the challenge lies in organizing this group of people with similar beliefs to become a tribe with one united vision.

Here are four things you can do to overcome this challenge to create your tribe. 

Create a Family

Have you ever been to someone else’s family dinner and felt like you were looking into another world? A family graciously added an extra seat for you at the table and you got to be present at their dinner.

But when you’re at your own family dinner, there already is a seat just for you. You belong, because it’s your dinner.

In the same way, to make a family of supporters doesn’t just require inviting people to like your page or come to your event. While this can be a great opportunity for people to come and see what you do, to create a family means engaging people to participate in your cause and cultivating a feeling of belonging.

You can harvest this kind of community by doing the following: 

1)    Engage with your followers on social media. This will affirm your nonprofit cares about them as much as they care about you.

2)    Ask your supporters what they want to do. By getting together a group of your supporters for a mixer and asking them what they would like to do, it offers them the opportunity to get to know each other and gives them ownership in advancing the cause.

3)    Ask your audience to do something hands-on. Whether this looks like asking them to have lunch with a homeless person, write a letter to a soldier, or live on $2 a day for few days and donating the money they didn’t spend, something experiential engages your audience on a deeper level than just hearing about a cause.

By engaging your community in these ways, your supporters will have a story they can share and they will feel empowered that they, in a small way, participated in solving an issue alongside you 

Speak the Same Language

Have you ever referenced a movie that no one in the group saw? Or been at a party where people are talking about an artist you don’t know?

There’s a momentary disconnect in the conversation and both parties lose out a bit, leaving one not feeling understood and the others feeling bad for not understanding.

This minutiae of human interaction has implications about how your nonprofit can approach speaking to it’s audience both in person and on social media. Just throwing out statistics or talking about a topic without considering your audience will cause a bit of a disconnect between you and your supporters.

Therefore, before posting on social media or speaking, ask yourself five questions about your audience:

  • What do they already know about the issue?
  • Why do they care about this cause?
  • What kind of message would most relate to them?
  • What kind of active role are they most likely to play in this issue?
  • Where is the best place for this information be posted? 


These questions can help clarify what kinds of posts will meet your audience where they are.

Tip: Look into what pages and activities your followers on Facebook like to plan targeted posts!

Establish a Set of Customs

In any kind of tribe, there is an established way of life, with it’s own structures. Introducing structure to your nonprofits’ fundraising efforts is one of the best ways to take the load off your back while also creating a community.

You can start this process by doing the following steps:

1)    Create a leader. Is there a very dedicated volunteer or donor that you think has the skills and passion to get more involved? Set up a meeting and affirm the characteristics you see in them and point them to how they can make more of an impact by heading up a team fundraising campaign.

2)    Ask the leader to reach out to their own network to get more people engaged, as well as put them in contact with other team leaders or potential team members.

3)    Guide the leader by offering support as they may need assistance on the road to establishing a team. Invest in them, and share how they can invest in team members.

When people involved in your organization are affirmed, they are personally impacte and empowered to assemble others together to work towards a common goal.

In this kind of structure, not only is a bond created as a team works toward a common goal, but it also helps keep things flowing and organized. 

Inspire Others With Your Beliefs

Pitching your vision well to your community is the best way to move your supporters into your tribe. Your vision shouldn’t just be what you want to accomplish, but rather it should be a dare for your audience to imagine a world where the problem you seek to aid is solved.

At the end of the day, all the events, tweets, and structures you create will only work to create a tribe if you communicate your vision in a clear way that your audience can latch onto.

Let’s take a hint from how Apple sells their computers. They structure their advertisements by saying:

1)    Why they do what they do

2)    How they are accomplishing this

3)    What the audience can do to join in

We all can certainly learn a lot from Steve Jobs about how to share and stick to vision. While this approach sounds so basic, it’s a powerful way to switch the normal pitch around in a way that broadens your audience and allows more people to not only connect with your cause, but carry it with them.