I've been a non-profit director for 12 years and I've experienced a great change in the way we connect with our supporters. And I don't want to limit supporters to simply mean those who financially give; I'm referring to those who give, who spread the word, who volunteer their time, and to those who serve on our board and help us make important decisions.
In the beginning.
Things were simpler. The means of communication were face to face, over the phone, at an event, or in a newsletter. When I started the job the number one goal in communication was the following: Return a phone call in 24 hours. If you followed up in that amount of time you were a great communicator.
Then a change happened.
About six years ago it felt like everyone was becoming more distracted. We suddenly had to work much harder to get as many people to know about what we were doing. I would sit in my office and think, "What happened to the buzz?" The mission hadn't changed. Many of the same people were involved. We were still making phone calls, meeting face to face, doing a big fundraising event, and sending newsletters but the response wasn't the same. The internet changed and so did the way we had to communicate. Now we had to look at communicating in a blog, by email, through a tweet, on a Facebook page, plus all the former ways of communicating!
Can you relate?
You might be asking questions like:
Does anyone care anymore?
Why is it so hard to get people involved?
Where did all our fans go?
These are real questions that I've heard other non-profit directors ask. The good news is that your organizations fans are still out there! The bad news is there is a change in how non-profits identify their biggest fans, which requires leaders and organizations to change. These fans, or I like to use the phrase "tribe members," used to write the big checks, or they volunteer to work at everything, or they never missed your big event. Today, they are participating in other ways that are more efficient use of their attention and time.
But if we don't change as leaders and non-profits then we admit were okay with letting go of our biggest fans fall through the cracks.
Here's three ways to identify fans to your organization:
1. They open your emails - I know that one seems silly but it's true. Most of us in non-profit leadership are using some form of system for email communication - it might be MailChimp, or Emma, or Constant Contact. The most important feature you want to look for is does it offer a clear report on your email campaigns. If you are consistent sending email campaigns you want to pay attention to who OPENS your email.
Collect the data from each campaign and compare three or four campaign results. Take notes of the people who open every email you send because you now have identified a tribe member. These people are in! They may not live in your town and they may not be personally impacted by what you do but they do care about what you are doing! Here is the list of people you go to when you need the tribe to take action.
2. They talk back - Social media is loud. There's a lot of messages and there are so many things to be distracted by. So as an organization, when you share on a social media account or on a blog and people talk back you want to take note! These people are interested in what the organization does, these people are tribe members or raving fans! As an organization you have to talk back! ALWAYS do something that in return says, "We see you and appreciate you!" And from here, it's all about following up with these people!
3. The like, retweet, or share - Not to beat a dead horse, but there's a lot of options for people out there when it comes to their attention. But when it's your organizations thing they stop and take notice of; not to mention they take some sort of action, this is an indicator they are in the tribe. Pay attention, to who does any of these repeatedly. Give them a call to action, ask them to participate at a higher level. They will be the ones who have been waiting for you to give them a way to be involved!
None of these are brain surgery, right? Each of these resources are simple methods to identify who's out there as fans of your organization. You still have to treat these as relationships, you will want to follow up and get to know these people. Don't treat them like a pack mules, giving them more and more to do without ever relationally investing in them. If you do, you will burn good people out.
It's all about connection! Everyone of us wants to be connected to something bigger than ourselves.
What have you done to discover your organizations fans? How have you connected with them? We would appreciate your input so please leave a comment below!