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Phelps A-Z: Model 4

Community Buy-in


Phelps Helps outlines a four-step strategy for building and understanding community buy-in.

Identifying stakeholders and organizing activities that will hopefully move them along a continuum of influence and action to increase their involvement with your non-profit's mission. Garnering this support demands time, money, strategic thinking and creativity.

How to


community buy-in for your non-profit

Phelps Helps is blessed to have the support of the stakeholders and community it serves. Without it, the organization’s programming would scarcely be able to operate as effectively as it does. Equally as important, without community buy-in Phelps would undoubtedly struggle financially.

Generating community support for your non-profit doesn’t happen overnight. Courting stakeholders that can help your organization strategically and financially requires more than an admirable cause. Your supporters need to understand that your organization can deliver on its promises. Fortunately, there’s a multitude of ways you can build community buy-in, attract stakeholders to get involved with your mission and turn awareness into collaboration.

Defining stages of community buy-in

Before you devise a strategy to increase community buy-in for your organization, it’s helpful to take stock of your current situation and consider the kind of support you’re looking for. Partners both potential and existing can be illustrated on a three-phase continuum. This exercise helps organize your efforts, as well as demonstrate how stakeholders can progress from barely informed to taking action on your behalf.


Phase 1: Awareness

These stakeholders are equally uninformed and unengaged with your organization. Maybe they’ve heard of you, but they aren’t familiar with your mission, the problems you’re trying to solve or that they can help.


Phase 2: Influence Will

Stakeholders in the Influence Will phase are still in the process of building trust with your organization. Although aware of your organization’s goals, these potential collaborators are not yet fully on board with your mission.


Phase 3: Collaborative Action

At the end of the continuum, stakeholders are now partners and collaborators taking concrete action on behalf of your organization. It is in this phase where true collaborative action is achieved.


Increasing community buy-in

Beyond having an established mission, vision and plan to execute it, your non-profit needs community buy-in to turn its aspirations into reality. Garnering this support demands time, money, strategic thinking and creativity.

Phelps Helps utilizes a four-step strategy for building and understanding community buy-in, including placing identified stakeholders onto the buy-in continuum and organizing activities that will hopefully move them along it.


Define your stakeholders

Think about whose support your organization absolutely needs in order to operate as well as those who could help expand its reach. Also, consider supporters already in your camp—collaborators already aware of the good work you do.

Desired partners belong in the Awareness phase of the buy-in continuum. Remember to think critically about why you want their help! Do they have connections and contacts that can further your cause? Are they well-respected within your community? Asking tough questions at the front end of the process will help you avoid wasting time on stakeholders that don’t connect with your cause.


Identify stakeholders’ location on the community buy-in continuum

Organizing existing and desired partners into their respective phases of the community buy-in continuum can help you focus your recruitment and trust-building activities. Obviously, stakeholders that are aware of your organization and have worked with you before will fall into the Influence Will or Collaborative Action phases. However, just because a stakeholder has been involved with your organization in one capacity doesn’t mean that they’re quite at the level of acting on your behalf. Use your discretion accordingly!


Target activities to increase community buy-in

Tailoring activities to each phase of the community buy-in continuum also helps turn prospective stakeholders into active collaborators. Take note of how your non-profit’s current menu of activities help achieve organizational goals, and which stakeholders they apply to within each phase. As an example, Phelps Helps’ annual charity softball tournament is great for introducing the organization to a broad range of community stakeholders. Our Annual General Meeting, however, is a much more specific activity that might be overwhelming for someone unfamiliar with our mission, vision and programming.


Maintain and strengthen your network

Achieving collaborative action with one individual or group of stakeholders by no means signifies your work increasing community buy-in is done. Repeat these steps—as well as the process of considering what the three phases of community buy-in look like for your specific organization—regularly to ensure you stay in step with your community’s wants, needs and attitudes towards your non-profit.

Download our Monograph for more best practices

In addition to how to increase community buy-in, Phelps Helps is committed to sharing knowledge and best practices with similar groups. We’ve collected tips and guidelines in our Phelps A to Z Handbook—check it out!

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