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Making community connections

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You’ve likely heard of six degrees of separation (further propagated by the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game), which says that anyone can be connected to another through a chain of no more than five acquaintances. If this world phenomenon holds true (and we can connect anyone to Kevin Bacon through just five people), imagine how many people you could link to within your community.Uncovering these connections involves what is called an affinity map, essentially a diagram used to organize thoughts and ideas. It is an effective way to uncover associations to other local organizations or influencers as a means of further promoting your cause and generating support. This e-newsletter will discuss how to create an affinity map and use it to engage those who may be interested in your brand, programs, fundraisers or events.

Create an affinity map

Anyone can contribute to your affinity map—board members, organizational leaders, volunteers, staff and anyone else who is passionate about your cause. Hold an event to brainstorm with these key stakeholders and watch the connections unfold.

  • Step one—Generate a list: Ask participants to brainstorm a list of every influential connection they have within the community. Names can be written on Bic® Sticky Notes imprinted with your logo and a message that describes or advances your cause. Connections may be grouped by commonality (e.g. business, education, political), and you may consider pairing groups with a sticky note message for easy tracking.
  • Step two—Share your data: Be sure to share your newly generated list with the entire group so you don’t overlap efforts. If there is an overlap, discover which stakeholder has the strongest tie to determine who should make the connection.
  • Step three—Facilitate the ask: Once connections are made, provide participants with kits containing literature about your organization, its mission and any specifics that help explain the benefits of supporting your cause. Toss it all in a logo’d tote for a professional look that further promotes your brand. If members of the media are on your influencer list, include an all-access media pass to your next event and a branded lanyard with press invites.
  • Step four—Thank participants: By now, your stakeholders have put forth a lot of time and effort to map their connections to the community. Thank them for their hard work with a special gift, such as a set of logo’d glass coffee mugs or a wine gift set.

Developing connections through affinity maps can be a great way to uncover more support for your nonprofit organization. Try this technique at your next board or all-staff meeting. Who knows, maybe someone even has an in with Kevin Bacon.

“Six Degrees of Separation.” WhatIs.com. N.p., Sept. 2014. Web. Retrieved 06 Apr. 2015.

“7 Steps to Make Your Nonprofit Brand Known Locally.” FundraisingIP.com. N.p., 06 Feb. 2015. Web. Retrieved 06 Apr. 2015.

Kanter, Beth. “Using Design Thinking to ReThink Our Nonprofit or Community Foundation Work.” GrantCraft. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. Retrieved 06 Apr. 2015.

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