Mentoring from a nonprofit perspective

Growing a nonprofit community

Establishing, growing + nurturing a community

About FourBlock

FourBlock is a nonprofit organization that supports service members, veterans and military spouses to make a successful transition from military service to meaningful new civilian careers. 

FourBlock’s vision is to build a national professional network where transitioning veterans and military spouses can connect, develop skills, access resources and create relationships to help them reach their career potential. 

Participants join one of FourBlock’s 10-week flagship Career Readiness Programs taught by corporate executives in major cities across the US and online. 

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Mentoring from a nonprofit perspective

In search of the right platform

Having run programs successfully for ten years, FourBlock knew there was a genuine need for their services and sought feedback from their users to see how they could further improve their offerings. Building relationships is at the core of everything that FourBlock does, including helping to build and foster relationships between current students, course alumni, employer sponsors, coaches and instructors. 

Overwhelmingly, the feedback received from the community was that a central destination where everyone could meet and connect, find information and access course materials would be of great benefit. The current modus operandi—where participants are bombarded with outreach and connect request emails, calendar invites and PDFs with curriculum information—was not as efficient as it could be. And so began the search for a suitable virtual community platform.

The FourBlock team knew that a simple blackboard solution would not be enough to sustain a growing and vibrant online community. After considering various options, the team selected Community from Gravyty as the only platform that offered all the necessary features out-of-the-box while also allowing for creativity and personalization.  

We listened to our community and then set about purposefully scouting out a platform that could answer all their needs. The beauty of Community is that it’s a platform we can continually tweak based on the feedback we get from speaking to our people and the data we collect as we run our programs.

Lisa Stern, Director of Program Impact and Assessment, FourBlock

Establishing FourBlock Connect

FourBlock Connect was set up as an online hub where all connections, learning, job seeking, networking and information gathering could occur. Taking advantage of Community’s personalization features, the team tweaked the platform to better support their needs in both the structure and the content: 

Structure

Separate but together—FourBlock’s flagship course is delivered to cohorts grouped by location or common interest. The platform was set up so every cohort has its section to meet and network with peers. In addition, each cohort can also access the larger community, which includes all the individual cohorts, plus employers, alumni, course leaders and coaches. 

Ease of navigation—The platform’s homepage incorporates many widgets that take users directly to specific locations. The intention was to make it easy for users to navigate the content or online meeting place they need.

Content

The platform contains the following content:

  • Running feed featuring alumni updates, relevant content, photos, and conversations.
  • Opt-in alumni and student directory from which anyone in the community can quickly contact another member. 
  • Mentorship platform offering alumni the opportunity to connect with others and request or offer guidance and mentorship. Strategic partners and alumni can also provide additional assistance via the mentorship platform such as offering to review resumes, meet for coffee, give advice about an industry, and more.
  • Career opportunities board where alumni and partners can post current employment and internship opportunities.
  • Group chat area allows students and alumni to engage at a more granular level with those from their cohort or location or people with whom they share similar interests.
  • Weekly session information where local instructors and regional directors can post course material, feedback request forms and other information relating to the 10-week course.
  • Employer board where employers can host industry information sessions.

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Mentoring from a nonprofit perspective

Best practices

Take a leaf out of FourBlock’s book and learn how they used their Community platform to build a thriving online community:

Support the application process 

FourBlock has a detailed application process through the organization’s website. Appropriate candidates have interviews with regional leaders, and then information must be collected from the candidates via online forms. After a newly enrolled student completes a program pre-assessment, they are sent details for registering a profile on FourBlock Connect. Using the Community Salesforce API, students are automatically approved, making the process much more efficient. 

Early access 

Once accepted to a course, FourBlock gives participants early access to the platform, giving them plenty of time to learn where everything is and review the content. Course materials are also posted ahead of time so that participants can prepare. Similarly, the day after the course has been delivered, materials for the following session are uploaded so students can always be best prepared.  

Explanatory infographic 

As FourBlock has been working with veterans for more than ten years and the platform is only two years old, many alumni have not yet joined the platform. FourBlock created a detailed infographic explaining what the platform does, why it’s beneficial and how to join in supporting their recruitment process. It is sent alongside the alumni survey each year. Periodic reminders to join the platform, accompanied by the infographic, are sent out.

Feedback 

The day after each class, course leaders ask for feedback via the platform. This enables tutors to modify future lessons according to the input and provide the best possible learning experience. 

Career development 

After each session, host companies that can offer information, networking, or employment opportunities are showcased so that members can network and begin to build their careers while still learning. 

Interactive sessions 

FourBlock holds various interactive sessions over Zoom covering topics related to career-building. Employer partners are invited to participate. A complete list of participants with contact details and Linkedin information is shared before the sessions. In Zoom meetings, participants can enter breakout rooms with the people they are interested in talking to. 

Transition to alumni status 

FourBlock uses Graduway’s functionality—which integrates with their Salesforce database via an API—to seamlessly transition course participants to alumni status after the ten weeks of training. The platform automatically grants them access to the relevant online groups. 

Information feed + weekly digest 

The platform’s feed is regularly used to post relevant information and resources, alert members to upcoming events and showcase employers. Members also receive a weekly digest offering a curated list of all the previous weeks’ content, so they don’t miss any important information if they cannot log in. Users are incentivized to return to the platform regularly by constantly providing new information. 

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Mentoring from a nonprofit perspective

Employer access 

Employers are granted access to the platform and can search and segment members based on skill set and experience. This way, they can find future employees among FourBlock’s graduates. 

Job boards

FourBlock Connect hosts a traditional job board where members can browse job opportunities. They also encourage alumni to give back to the community after successfully placing them in a job by posting any other job opportunities their new organization might have. 

Use Community’s support 

Community’s support services have been invaluable to FourBlock as they build and expand their online community. The team reaches out to support services whenever they need to add functionality to the platform or seek advice about any aspect of their services. 

People posting information, asking for feedback, generating discussion—this is exactly what we wanted the platform to be used for. The community gives back to the community and ultimately nurtures itself. It’s so inspiring!

Bernard Beaullieu, Career Readiness Instructor, FourBlock

Defining success

There are many ways in which FourBlock measures the success of its Connect platform: 

Likes and posts 

The data collected on the backend shows how many likes and posts are happening on the platform. As the numbers rise, it offers a tangible indicator that the community is growing.

No deletions 

Since launch, no one has deleted their profile. 

Repeat visits 

The data shows how people return to the platform repeatedly. 

Establish, grow + nurture your nonprofit community

Want to learn more about how Community from Gravyty will engage your members, volunteers and employees and in return keep them happy, involved, enriched and motivated? Get your free consultation.

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