This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):
Remember in ‘The Graduate’ the one word piece of advice given to Dustin Hoffman? PLASTICS. That was seen to be the wave of the future (oh how long ago that seems, and how quickly something can turn from friend to foe…. but I digress).
Recently I gave another “P” word as my best piece of advice for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers. PERSONAL. I received a lot of feedback, so I’d like to revisit this word and flesh out its multiple meanings – and how getting personal can help you achieve your fundraising and marketing goals.
1. PERSONAL is how you relate to and treat particular people in a manner that is different from everyone else. “You are the best person to give me this advice.”
- It’s important to look behind the curtain. The Wizard of Oz was just a person; one with needs, hopes and fears like everyone else. We have a tendency to avoid getting too close to folks, especially if we perceive them as rich, powerful, famous or somehow superior to us. We assume they don’t want to be bothered. We think we’re being polite by calling them by their formal titles, when 95% of the time I’ve found we’re simply trying to avoid a relationship. (Note: my experience is that folks want to be known as people; not as titles. As one marketing specialist notes in The Pros and Cons of Personalized Marketing: “Names are the most integral and fundamental part of our identity, so when someone addresses me by my first name, I feel more like an individual and less like just a face in the crowd.”) The goal is not to simply conduct polite transactions but to build strong, loyal friendships.
- Underneath the trappings, we’re all people. Wizards and titans of industry included. Even businesses and foundations are people. Wealthy. Poor. Old. Young. Treat everyone like people. Don’t put them at arms length just because they may be different from you. Don’t be afraid of their status or size. Find a way to connect. And don’t forget that they aren’t stereotypes; no one is the same. That’s the beauty of being human. Just be human. Philanthropy means “love of humankind.”
2. PERSONAL is how you understand and express your unique self. “My personal strength lies in this area.”
- Know your strengths; play to them. Because if you aren’t putting your best, most authentic self into the relationship then it’s not really going to become a relationship. It will simply be a transaction. Transactions end. Relationships bloom.
- Making a good first impression is critical; it’s difficult to pull off without following Shakespeare’s advice: “To thine own self be true.” You’ve got to know your own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve known major gifts officers who were super charming and charismatic in person, but who could not write their way out of a paper bag. If that’s you, stick to the phone and in-person meetings as much as possible to build initial rapport. If you’re sending an important letter or email, have someone proofread it on your behalf. The reverse is also true. I oversaw another major gifts officer who wrote the most compelling emails you’d ever want to see. Inspiring, almost to the point of tears. In person, however, he could be a bit awkward. So it was better for him to get the visit and begin to build the relationship using his formidable writing skills. Once positive first impressions are made, folks will tend to be a lot more forgiving.
3. PERSONAL is what you do yourself without the use of an intermediary.“I will see to this personally.”
- You can’t delegate the process of building a relationship. This is the part of ‘personal’ that is too often given short shrift. Boards and executives put the development staff in a corner, admonishing them to “go raise money.” This can be accomplished to an extent. But there are limits. Your prospective donor may only want to talk to the head honcho. If you can’t take the personal time to initiate and build the relationship, don’t be surprised when your prospect finds they can’t take that time either. Personal is a two-way street.
- If you’re not the head honcho, you can still use this aspect of ‘personal’ to make a difference. Have you ever spoken on the phone with a customer service representative who, instead of passing you along to another person, let you know they would get back to you personally? Wasn’t it a refreshing relief? Didn’t it make you feel positive about that company? Just using the word “personally” in your conversations with folks packs a punch.
4. PERSONAL is when, where, why and who you engage with because what you have to offer is something that matters to them. In a recent Forbes article called The 7 Pillars of Connecting with Absolutely Anyone, Scott Dinsmore explains that “Personal relationships run the world,” and lists seven simple ways to build strong connections with others. I encourage you to read the full article; in a nutshell, these are the pillars:
- Be genuine. Don’t automate robotically. Put some thought into your messages and recognize that your recipients are real people, just like you.
- Be helpful. Remember that your mission is to build a relationship. That means understanding what’s in it for your particular consumer (or segmented constituency, or persona).
- Be attentive. Proof read.
- Connect with people close to your constituents. The gatekeepers hold a lot of sway. Peers can have a lot of influence. Do your research. This is what network building is all about. Mentioning a mutual connection will help you establish more credibility and trust.
- Be persistent. This is another way of saying, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If reaching out via one channel failed, try another. If your prospect likes to connect on Twitter, and you’re using email, then you’re not being personal.
- Make real friends. Forget the old adage: “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” Make your business personal. Get to know folks. Have conversation. Show that you’re a thoughtful and caring person. Or as social marketing strategiest Ted Rubin remarks: “people first, business second. Without the people there is no business.
- Remain unforgettable. Help folks in ways that will change their lives. Inspire them. Cheer them up. Make them laugh. Make them love you and your organization so they’ll want to become a loyalist.
Find a way to get up close and PERSONAL with at least one important prospect this week. You’ll find it rewarding. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. Go make your own luck!
Photo: Flickr, Keir Hardie
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