A cause-centered community is a group of people who share a common passion for a cause. They could be a group of people who support a particular nonprofit’s social change agenda or a group of people from different organizations united around a common challenge, idea, or cause.
I’ve been a member of the Leap Ambassadors Community, comprised of people who believe strongly that nonprofit performance matters. While a lot of work is online –sharing knowledge and insights, co-creating tools to support high performance, micro-communities on different topics, and much more, the community has also met face-to-face.
At the most recent gathering last November, there was a desire to meet on a regional basis, I was lucky enough to co-design an informal meeting with Jill Vialet who suggested we use the Jeffersonian Dinner model. It is great for helping to build relationships between people in a community and if used in a fundraising context, it can activate additional resources for a cause.
The model, named after Thomas Jefferson, who was well-known for hosting dinners with leading thinkers of the time, and Jefferson facilitated a passionate conversation about a host of important questions and issues. The model has been popularized by Generosity Network co-authors Jennifer McCrea and Jeff Walker who have many online resources about how to plan and host one.
Jill shared this infographic that shows the rules.
What I liked about the format is that everyone participated in the conversation and you could learn a lot about the people around the table. Otherwise, the socializing would be in smaller pairs or threes and not get into a lot of depth. You have give a bit of thought to the question and it is a good idea to let participants know about the format and question ahead of time.
You could use this model in a number of ways. Of course, for fundraising cultivation and engagement, building an ambassador community, building relationships between people in a social movement, or as part of a multi-day training in a retreat setting. I could see it being used at board retreat.
Have you ever hosted a Jeffersonian dinner or been a participant? What was your experience? Has your organization used this model to support donor engagement or an ambassador community?