Building and Sustaining a Tribe Around Your Cause

Khaled Allen
Khaled Allen


The internet is a big place and it’s easy to get lost in the noise without a loyal tribe to support your cause. In nonprofit crowdfunding especially, success is often determined by whether or not you have built a tribe of people.

Here are some useful strategies you can use to build a tribe of people who will support your nonprofit crowdfunding campaign.

What is a Tribe?

Seth Godin, the man who championed the idea of tribes as the key to modern internet marketing, describes tribes as a group of people with a shared vision, goal, and identity. Some classic examples include:

  • Sports fans of a particular team or region
  • Members of a long-distance running club
  • Local food enthusiasts and advocates
  • Political parties are a kind of tribe
  • Book clubs are small, hyper-local tribes

Here’s the talk that started it all, a must-watch for anyone seeking to inspire a community to action:

For a really in-depth look at tribes and what makes them tick, check out Godin’s free Tribes Q&A download.

The key is that a tribe shares a common purpose. While a tribe also has a leader, it is important to remember that the leader did not create the tribe: he or she simply connected them, gave them a platform, and cultivates them.

That is where you come in.

You Already Have a Tribe

Whatever the cause you are championing, whether it’s a community cleanup, raising money to fight poverty, or feeding the homeless, you are not alone. There are already others who believe in what you do.

You just need to find them and bring them together.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Tell a Story

The first step is to tell a story (check out our series on storytelling for techniques on telling compelling stories).

A story is important because it provides the shared vision.

Maybe your story shows how one person can change the life of a village. Maybe it shows how a community can pull together to save a natural resource. Maybe it is about how determined kids face obstacles, and how you can help.

Your story allows the tribe members to say, “This is what I stand for. I (and my tribe) make this happen in my life, others’ lives, or in our communities.”

Remember, the vision you tell isn’t about you. You might have a particular version of it, but it is the story of your tribe. It is, ultimately, about them and how they can make a difference.

Connect a Tribe with a Platform

The next step is to connect the people in your tribe. Get them in touch with one another. CauseVox is a great way to do this by allowing them to work together in support of a shared end.

Think like the host of a dinner party: the best parties don’t focus on the host, they focus on the guests. Your job is to create a place where your tribe can come to share with one another and support something they believe in.

If the thing they are supporting happens to be your nonprofit cause, that’s great, but keep the emphasis on the tribe’s priorities.

Have a Common Enemy

One of the best ways to unite a community is to present a common threat. If you are fundraising to effect a positive change, you already have a common enemy. For example, if you’re goal is to provide libraries to rural villages, your common enemy is illiteracy or poor education.

Make sure the effects of this threat are clear. Members of your tribe should know exactly what they are working to overcome and how sinister the enemy is.

Be Authentic and Vulnerable

People pledge loyalty to other people. Make sure you come across as one.

This means you need to be authentic. People can smell inauthenticity a mile away, and it is a bigger turnoff than a few honest imperfections. As you tell your story, make sure you aren’t trying to wear a mask. If this is your first fundraising effort, don’t try to pretend you’re one step short of a foundation.

You don’t have to bare it all, but be yourself.

Sometimes, this means being vulnerable. As Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and TED speaker on vulnerability points out, it is when we are willing to be vulnerable that people connect to us.

Vulnerability means going after something with enough commitment and conviction that failure would hurt. That is how you inspire people.

Keep Your Tribe Informed and Engaged

Invite engagement and set the precedent. If you have examples of others participating, show it.

  • Testimonials or recommendations from people who have benefited from your cause
  • Videos of past events with participants
  • Success stories of the community coming together to effect change

Remember, people join a tribe to be part of something bigger. Recognize people who contribute. Thank people who go that extra mile to spread your message. Keep your tribe informed of things behind the scenes so they feel like they are a part of the decision-making process.

Make It About Them

Speak directly to the people in your tribe. Don’t try to include everyone else because that will dilute your message and make your tribe feel less valuable.

By focusing specifically on the tribe, you show investment and your own loyalty to the group. This in turn earns you their permission to engage with them. Deliver what you promise, which means making your cause a success, and include them in the celebration, and they will feel like it is there personal success.

Focus your call to action on furthering the share purpose because that’s what they care about, not your particular pet project.

Start connecting your tribe right now and soon, you will have an army of supporters bringing your nonprofit fundraising projects to life.

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