Category Archives: Communications

Keeping in Touch

Thank you to my colleague, Debbie Marchione, for her post last week on communications.  A simple concept – yet often over looked.  She illustrated that we have many ways to communicate these days and we need to do our best to take advantage of those communication lines.

Communications is an active process, a thoughtful process and even a deliberate process.  It does not come easy and requires work on the part of the communicator and the receiver.  For the most part we are the communicators seeking to give information to the receiver.  The receiver is mostly passive and we may not be sure (unless we take Debbie’s advice) that our message is getting across to them.

Last summer I was at a meeting with other consultants listening to a panel presentation comprised of significant foundation executives.  One of the representatives told a story that the only time he heard from any charity is when it wanted more money.  No one ever talked with him to ask for advice or counsel, to give him updates on the last grant or to provide data or information in a general way on the issues an organization may be addressing by fulfilling its mission.  In other words, communication was very “thin” and did not allow for relationships to be formed in a meaningful way.

About 25 years ago (before the computer age) I was attending a workshop at an AFP Conference and the late John Miltner, who at the time was the Vice Chancellor for University Relations at UC Irvine, was speaking about donor communications and relationship building.  During the course of his talk he opened his briefcase and took out 50 four by six index cards and indicated that these cards represented the 50 most important donors to UC Irvine.  At the time I thought to myself, “Do I know who my 50 most important donors are?”

On each card he had birth dates, anniversary dates, children’s names, addresses, phone numbers, the last contact date with the donor, the next contact date planned and who would be the contact leader from the University.  UC Irvine probably had over 10,000 donors, yet these were the Top 50 and John kept them with him all the time, working the list and utilizing the Chancellor or a Dean to keep the lines of communication open on a one to one basis.  John knew how to “keep in touch” with those who had made or could make significant contributions to his University.

Who are your Top 50 current or potential donors?  How are you “keeping in touch” with them?  Share your ideas and strategies so that others might learn from you.  I look forward to your thoughts.

All the best,

Tom

Finding Your Organization’s Voice By Listening

With non-profits working even harder to do more with less, it becomes even more important to find out if your stakeholders – volunteers, donors, prospects – are actually hearing your messages.   Do you know when, where and how your stakeholders want to hear from you?

The number and variety of communication channels have increased exponentially in the past five years, as have the expectations of our audience.  Prospects, donors, and volunteers expect to be able to engage in a vibrant, multi-pronged conversation about the things they care about.  It’s your responsibility to be part of that conversation.  Not as a megaphone, but as a genuine contributor – listening, asking questions, learning and sharing what you know.

The first step to doing this well is to find out where your stakeholders are, and what they are saying about you.  In a word: listen.

There are many different tools available to help you listen.  The first, and often most overlooked – is to simply ASK people.  Put an article in the newsletter, a feedback form on your website, or create a simple online survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.

Determine what keywords people use to search for you, and for the issues you address.  Search those keywords and see where the active conversations are taking place.  Set up Google Alerts to have links to conversations, articles and blog posts based on the top 10-15 keywords sent to your email, or use an RSS Reader such as Google Reader or NetVibes to further organize your listening, and reduce your email clutter.  Identify the most influential people in those conversations, and begin to follow them as well.  Other tools you can use include Technorati, Boardreader, Backtype and Delicious tags.

Start with the keyword searching, and build from there.  You won’t be able to adapt all of these tools overnight, but listening is the most important first step into deepening your capacity to interact with stakeholders in a meaningful way, and help ensure that your communications are shared in a place and way where people can and will listen to you.

For additional ideas and resources, check out Beth Kanter’s Social Media Listening wiki, Mashable.com, or NTEN’s We Are Media wiki as starting points.

– Debbie Marchione,  Senior Consultant, The Alford Group