The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Using Message Boards to Build Community

The Question:

Is a message board the best way to build a virtual community? How does a message board compare to the use of email lists or online chats? Which option is best for a small nonprofit? Like many NPOs, our organization is relatively low on budget and on manpower.

The Answer:

A quality message board offers several advantages over email lists or online chats for hosting a virtual community. As a space on the web, a message board has the potential to be tightly integrated into an existing web presence. Online content can be linked directly to relevant online discussions, creating a very easy transition from content to community. A message board allows for conversations to continue regardless of participant’s online status – a participant can log on to post a message, then log off and return at a later point to resume the conversation. An online chat requires that participants are logged on at the same time for conversation to occur

A message board also serves as a resource archive, where past conversations are archived for searching and review by participants as needed – this is typically missing from chat software. A typical chat service does not archive conversations for searching by date, subject/keyword.

A quality message board will provide integrated email list services, where participants who register can choose to have new messages posted to their email accounts on a regular basis. This listserv/message board integration helps to ease the transition of listserv only members to a web space by offering a familiar email list feature, as well as reinforces the visibility of message board conversations.

A message board is not trivial to “nourish” and manage. Unlike typical email lists, past and present messages on a message board are readily viewable. This means that evidence of quality participation and a large group of participants is necessary to encourage more visitors to contribute. Success here requires a coordinated effort of staff to start and continue online discussions, manage participant questions and suggestions for improvements, and develop promotional strategies for driving traffic to the conversations.

Typically, email lists are the easiest to get started, as they have fewer options than message boards or chat services.
Some message boards resources to check out include this article at NPTalk and free message board services by ezboard and BoardHost.

Source: http://www.techsoup.org/community/qod_answer.cfm?qotdid=230

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Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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