Sometimes in life, one partner feels strong; the other less so. In such times, the stronger partner has resources to support the weaker partner. Other times, neither partner feels they have coping resources. During these times, we must depend more on ourselves, be patient, and accept that our partner is not currently in a strong position – even though we really need their support.
- Use your networks to get to know your constituents better. Start with those closest to you – your board, volunteers and clients. Perhaps create a brief 5-question survey they can respond to online. Or call up 20 donors (or alumni or parents or grateful patients) randomly to find out what is connecting them to you right now – and what may be pulling them away. Or use a survey widget on Facebook or your website to unearth your donor’s satisfaction with their last three interactions with you. It’s not for nothing that it’s called ‘networking.’
- Capture what you learn about your constituents in your database. There’s nothing worse than someone telling you (or your boss or your board chair) about a specific interest they have, and then you talking to them later and clearly being clueless. If you don’t have (1) a database that enables you to easily record and retrieve information about interests, concerns, donor demographics, event attendance, volunteer and philanthropic participation; (2) staff assigned to record/retrieve this information (including debriefing other staff and volunteers), and (3) the ability to query and segment so you can hone your outreach, then allocate some resources to this function and consider getting a new database. Your database is the foundation of your ability to sustain lasting relationships with supporters.
- Pay attention to what’s being said about your organization online. If people are posting about you on Facebook, see what they’re saying. If they’re tweeting about their volunteer or client experience, do you know about it? Are they leaving reviews on Yelp? Posting to YouTube? You must allocate some staff time to research what people are saying about you.
- Pay attention to your most visited web pages and most clicked on links. This lets you know what parts of your mission resonate with people. If all your newsletters are replete with stories about programs very few folks care about, you have a real disconnect. Don’t rely on what you knew was true five years ago, or even one year ago. People’s interests evolve and change in our fast-paced world.
- Use the information you’ve gathered in communication with donorsfor targeted sub-group and individual messaging. Whenever you write something intended for broad distribution, go with averages. If you know 75% of your constituents are interested in Program A, 22% in Program B, and 3% in Program C you’re probably going to want to write about them in roughly those same percentages. But for folks who care about Program C, you’ll be missing the mark most of the time. So consider a targeted appeal to those folks that shows them you know them. And thank former donors specifically, letting them know that you know which program they supported with their previous gift.