Use Behavioral Science to Positively Frame Year-End Philanthropy
A recent Forbes article described ‘5 Ways to Make a Killer First Impression ’ It’s not only prospective employers or online matches who form an instant opinion of you. It’s also true for prospective supporters. We should be dating our donors!
Here are the suggested 5 ways to make a positive first impression, with implications for nonprofits.
- Set an intention. The most important thing to do for giving a good impression is to set your intention. This is especially important before any kind of big event where you would be meeting a lot of people — i.e. conferences, networking events or friend’s parties. As you get ready or when you are driving over think about what kind of people you want to meet and what kind of interactions you want to have. This can be an incredibly grounding experience and works very well to focus on what kind of energy you want to have for your event.
Are your calls to action clear? What is the desired action response of your communication? Don’t just send out a newsletter without a purpose in mind. The same holds true for tweets and blog posts. When you put something up on your Facebook page, what kind of interaction are you hoping to have with your Friends? When you send out a fundraising appeal, how much do you want the donor to give and why? Thinking about intent can help you to select the best mediums and not be communicating willy nilly – which is exhausting (and frustrating) both for you and your constituents.
- Think about your ornaments. Clothes, make-up, jewelry, watches and shoes are all types of ornamentation and people definitely take these into account when making initial judgments. I highly recommend getting some of your favorite outfits or ornaments together and asking friends you trust what they think of when they see them. For many men, they do not realize that their watch can say a lot about them. For women, purses and large earrings or jewelry can also indicate a lot to a new person they are meeting. Make sure that what you are wearing and how you do your hair or make-up says what you want it to say to the people you are meeting for the first time.
Are your communications dressed to impress? Do they reflect your organization’s brand personality? Do they look too staid? Too gaudy? Mature one day; then childlike the next? Maybe that’s your intent, but… changing it up usually only works once you’ve established a relationship. At first blush, you need to make the right impression. Is your website cluttered with junk? Does it look messy? Have you thought seriously about the impression you’re making? It might be a good idea to get together some small focus groups of folks who are not already in your database; then ask them what they think about your organization based on the communication materials they see.
- Be Conscious of Your Body Language. Body language is a crucial part of first impressions. Everything from your posture to how you carry yourself to the way you’re angling your body. Often, simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. Another way to examine your body language is to look at yourself on a video walking around a room. Subconscious cues to keep in mind include noticing where you point your feet, the position of your shoulders, and the way you shake hands.
What is your organization’s non-verbal communication saying about you? What does the voicemail message that consumers reach sound like? How does the receptionist answer the phone? What kind of tone is in your letters from your E.D.? What does your E.D.’s headshot look like? People will make judgments based on faces within a tenth of a second. Are you projecting a warm, welcoming attitude? A casual vibe? A sophisticated… artsy, buttoned-up… hands-off… sloppy… only insiders welcome attitude? Yes, organizations have body language. Is yours what you want it to be?
- Avoid bad days. People who go to cocktail events or mixers after having had a bad day typically continue to have a bad day. If you are in a depressed or anxious mood, others will pick up on this from your facial expressions, comments and body language. If you’re having a bad day, stay home! Otherwise, find a way to snap yourself out of your bad mood. I find working out or watching funny YouTube videos before events often gets me in a more social, feel good mood.
Do your writing and/or voice have smiles in them? If you’re having a bad day, that’s not the day to write your annual fundraising appeal, your e-newsletter or any other form of important communication. It’s also not the day to respond to a complaining tweeter or emailer. If you’re depressed, cranky or angry, wait until you mood changes. Or at least be self-aware enough to fake it. Sometimes reading your favorite inspirational writings (here’s a suggested poetry book from my friend Tara Sophia Mohr ), or simply taking a walk to clear your head, can be helpful. Or call a friend to cheer you up!
- Be interested and interesting. If you are truly interested in meeting people and are open to learning about who they are, they will get
this in a first impression. We have all had the experience of meeting someone and knowing instantly that they were dragged here by a friend and are just waiting to get out the door and head home. When you are meeting people for the first time approach others with a genuine interest in who they are. This is often contagious and you will have better conversations and lasting connections when you are interested because they become interested.
Do you show concern about the interests and perspectives of your consumers? Do you ask for, and respond to, feedback? It’s important to listen. Don’t respond to supporters with rote replies like “Thanks so much for your concern; we will pass it along to… Worse yet, don’t do all the talking/writing. To make a good impression you must show openness to engaging in a dialogue. If you’re interested in them, they’ll be more likely to become interested in you.
At the end of the date, you have to come across at least as potentially awesome. If not, you’re going home alone.
It’s equally bad to make a poor second impression, and that will be the subject of my next post. If you have examples of poor first impressions made by nonprofits, please share them in the comments, below so we can all avoid those mistakes. Thanks!