“I watch television programs when I want, why can’t I be able to engage with a charity when I want to?” This was a question posed to me recently by a benefactor of numerous charities and since then I have been thinking about this challenge because 1) I don’t disagree with this goal, 2) how do we define meaningful donor contact for an organization, 3) what resources need to be deployed to make this engagement possible and, 4) what is the desired outcome of opening up multiple channels of contacts? We have a keen desire to stay connected with the things we care about and even organizations with limited resources have to adapt their approaches in communicating their unique mission and vision.
Most charities can’t dream of competing with the likes of TimeWarner in providing programs on demand. That may not be the point. We will always have limited resources in our overall goals of reaching out to supporters and some dream projects may never be achieved. Our focus should be on devising a communications plan using the tools at our disposal. For each organization this process is different but the outcome should be to have a comprehensive plan of how to communicate effectively with our stakeholders and let them know that they are on our mind.
For most of us, the process starts with an audit of our stakeholders. This should list all who interact with the organization and group them in major categories and sub-categories. For example: new subscribers of a theatre company, long-term subscribers and so on. The point of this exercise is to be as thorough as you can without getting lost in the details. The outcome is to have a flow chart listing all the stakeholders to answer the question, “How do each of these groups or identified subgroups want to stay connected with my organization?”
A parallel process is to list all the communication tools at your disposal. I group them into various categories: mail, phone calls, newsletters, face-to-face meetings, e-mails, website, face book, twitter, YouTube, and now you have to add having an App for your organization.
With these two lists, you have taken the first step in managing your communication stream. What this audit will show is that not every customer or client wants you to interact with him or her in the same way, as well highlighting the need to have various platforms in place to contact various groups. Along the way you may realize that a handwritten short note every couple of months is more effective for some stakeholders than twitting your message every few days. Maybe your facebook book page is more effective than any appeal letter to reach a segment of your donors. Understanding the right combination takes time and for the most part your stakeholders know of your limited resources, but they’ll appreciate that you are listening to their unique needs.
The important task is to start working on a plan and define your priorities for the next six months. It will change and will need to be adjusted. The mapping out process reminds us that with limited resources, it is the quality of the contact that matters rather than the quantity.