It’s the number one goal for nonprofit communications professionals: Community Engagement. Our Nonprofit Communications Trends Reports show that year after year.

But what does Community Engagement mean?

Googling will produce many definitions that speak to large organizations like government agencies collaborating in various ways with other organizations within their communities. That’s not exactly what we are after in our nonprofit communications world when we speak of community engagement.

Instead, here at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, we define it like this: Community engagement is keeping people inspired by and active in our work.

That’s still broad, so I define it further by saying that community engagement includes Awareness, Interaction, and Participation. Let’s look at these elements a bit closer.


Awareness is about introducing your organization and/or your issues to people for the first time. Communications activities like search engine optimization, media relations, and list building are common awareness/engagement activities.


Interaction is about getting people to demonstrate that they are willing to move beyond just being aware of you and your cause. Activities such as liking, commenting and sharing on social media are forms of interaction/engagement. Opening emails and clicking on links, downloading documents, and other simple form completions on your website would also fall under interaction/engagement.


Participation is a form of engagement that requires following through on a call to action of some sort. It could result in learning more, or advocating for your cause, or donating or volunteering.

As you think about what community engagement really means for your organization, give these three categories some thought . . . what is the right mix of awareness, interaction, and participation in your community engagement plan?

Published On: August 4, 2020|Categories: Communications Plans and Marketing Strategies|