How does one create infinite good with finite time and resources? This is the challenge that many nonprofits face. The traditional approach to this question of scale has been to build a larger organisation. However, there is an alternative—one that enables the organisation to scale through external resources by building communities, engaging networks, and creating platforms.

To help illustrate this point, I often use the metaphor of a 300-pound gorilla versus a herd of 300 deer. The gorilla represents a central entity that is slow to move and expensive to feed, whereas the deer are agile, responsive, and independent, both as individuals and as a group. While it may be easier to manage the gorilla, there are ways to manage the herd of deer–by creating a watering hole where they can gather. This watering hole represents a safe place of trust and resources where the community can share knowledge, ideas, and solutions. By building such a watering hole (a platform), nonprofits can create value throughout the ecosystem.

Platforms are the best way to engage what Seth Godin calls ‘tribes’—a group of people or a community that has a shared interest. The platform then becomes a way for people to communicate and organise.

However, when platforms focus only on their scale, or the number of users they have, they can inadvertently fracture communities. This is because the sheer size can make it difficult for users to connect in meaningful ways, leading to a fragmentation of the community. It is, therefore, crucial for platforms to prioritise building depth and trust within communities.

Depth refers to the quality of connections and interactions among community members, while trust is the sense of safety and reliability people feel within the community. Fostering deeper connections and trust could mean offering features, services, or content that cater to the specific needs and interests of the community members. Doing this can help a platform create value for their users, and foster loyalty and retention—both of which are key to long-term success.

To achieve any of this, however, it is important to first nurture a community around shared values—essentially beliefs, goals, and principles that unite a group of people and guide their interactions. This is the foundation on which platforms can then build a thriving community that can grow and evolve over time.

Read the full article about nonprofits and community values by Gautam John at India Development Review.