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It’s only a few weeks into 2024 and we’ve been seeing a lot of organizations and foundations looking to community engagement as a way to renew their impact efforts. So, what is community engagement and how do we do it really well for meaningful impact?

While there isn’t a singular definition for community engagement, in general it’s the concept that everyone who is affected by an issue that impacts their community should have a say in that issue – how it’s implemented, solved, or envisioned. It’s mutual decision making that involves the people/community (or, at a nonprofit, your constituents) being targeted or talked about, rather than having a group that is removed from that community making decisions on their behalf.

At Prospera Partners we help organizations and businesses rethink what it means to do community engagement and instead:

Consider community-centered strategic planning. Old models of strategic planning just aren’t working. They keep staff feeling stuck and board members frustrated. It’s critical to stop making decisions for your community behind closed doors around the boardroom table and instead support your community – the reason you exist – through thoughtful, provocative, fun, engaging facilitated planning sessions where all voices are heard and respected in the process.

Learn more from community-centered evaluations. Ask your community how programs have helped and supported them. Facilitate community conversations that provide opportunities for real input. Make sure the evaluation process is accessible, using well-designed short surveys, in-person conversations, and follow up sessions with key stakeholders. Ask hard questions of your organization and listen and learn from your community how to integrate their feedback into programs or future plans. Community-centered evaluations can provide valuable and useful feedback for grant reporting.

Participate in more community engagement. It’s 100% possible to turn to your community for more than just strategic planning and evaluation. It’s not just about marketing and outreach. It’s about relationship building and trust. Community engagement can be thoughtful, well-planned, and actionable with the right plan, tools, and facilitators.

Next month we’ll share several tips for doing community engagement better. Stay tuned!


Want to see a real-world example of how an organization infused community engagement into their strategic planning? Check this out!