it's a relationship



April 29, 2014

As featured in the latest issue of Effect magazine by the European Foundation Centre. For the full article click here.

We manage several networks, but they aren’t functioning well. How do you motivate a network to act?

The good news is that you’re not alone. Motivating networks to act is hard work. The bad news is that there is no silver bullet. Just as every family has its own unique dynamics, so does every network. You will have to discover what resonates for the people in your community.

My advice is to ask yourself two questions. First of all, do the people in your network know that they are members? High-functioning networks have a shared purpose and everyone knows what that is. These networks also have an identity, a name, a brand. Without this, it is hard to motivate people to act. If you think your network’s identity and shared purpose is teetering, consider a simple storytelling campaign, where you ask the members for their favorite network success story. Make it completely transparent, so all members can see what others say. Or run a small prize challenge to name the group. Allow members to vote on their favorite name. In other words, get the network members connecting with the shared purpose of the group.

The second question is: What do members get for participating in the network? At the end of the day, we find time for activities that give us something back. Incentives and rewards make the world go round. Networks are no different. High-functioning networks have incentives built in to their structure. People receive rewards for be- having in ways that strengthen the network. These rewards should combine what we, at Context Partners, call the Rewards Triangle: experiential, reputational, financial.

For example, if the action you desire is for your network to Tweet about your newest articles, hold an exclusive Google Hangout for the top Tweeps (people who Tweet!), where they virtually meet your foundation’s CEO. This is an experiential reward: you are providing a unique experience for people who participate in the network. If it is important that people share information across the network, create a prize, badge or trophy that is awarded quarterly to the “sharing maven.” This is a reputational reward. We find in our practice that financial rewards are the least effective for long-term activation. Everyone likes money, but money does not motivate the right people to participate in a sustained way.

Last but not least, none of the above advice should be determined by your foundation team sitting in a conference room. You must involve your network members in the design of the reward structure.

Click for the full feature on Effect to read additional questions and answers from experts.


Kimberly Manno Reott


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