Think about how you may have appeared to strangers recently:
· Did you post a job opening at your nonprofit, or place a notice about seeking volunteers?
· Are there people out asking for donations or silent auction items for your upcoming fundraiser?
· Did you invite some new and unfamiliar people to an event?
While these things may appear as part of the expected daily activities of your nonprofit, they all come with a silent partner. That partner is the manner and tone with which these invitations were handled.
How did you do?
Did you acknowledge and thank the job applicants, even the ones who were not even close, for their interest in your firm?
Did you have a list of volunteer opportunities and activities ready for when the potential volunteer contacted you, with tasks, times and parking information?
Did you quickly thank the person who was asked for a donation, even when they didn’t give anything?
Did you make a point to go introduce yourself to the person standing alone at the event, and greet the newcomers and thank them for attending?
Each of these opportunities to discuss what you do and why it is important are truly marketing moments. So often, it is the tiny pleasantries, the unexpected grace of a thank you even while being turned down on a request that will separate you from others.
It is so much easier to pass along a story of abuse than one of good treatment, and more fun. But for organizations who must always be on the lookout for donors and support, this is a critical issue. It is crucial to be conscious of how your organization and staff are perceived by those who may have no knowledge of your work.
At a recent fundraising event, I brought 2 new people who were interested in the work of the organization ( an at-risk kids and dog training program). There were kids and people and dogs and food and games and busy-ness all around us. One of the founders took the time to give us a quick history of their work and invite us to a dinner later in the season for more details and attention than she could give them at that time.
Whether the dinner takes place or not, both guests felt acknowledged and valued and left leaving a donation and a commitment to follow up. Those 10 minutes, while no doubt necessary out on the field, made a world of difference to those guests and everyone they will tell. Like Facebook before Facebook.
I was being interviewed for a development position with the new Executive Director. It was clear I was not going to be right for this job, and he ended our conversation with thanks for my interest for applying and he was sorry that we couldn’t work together, he appreciated my commitment to their mission.
I support that organization to this day.
Several years ago, I had applied for a job with a well-known nonprofit whose mission I really supported. I had been told to expect a call about details to come in to their office. When I followed up after that call never came, the representative told me that they passed on me, having found ‘a more relevant candidate’ and since they were not moving ahead she didn’t feel I needed any further notice.
I shared this story with everyone, especially those in the associated industries that had supported them in the past. That one small act of courtesy by her could have made a huge difference in what I said. Her rudeness is etched my memory.
A woman answered a posted request for volunteers to work at both an onsite event and to remotely do some fundraising. She had experience in both events and fundraising, and was home for several months with the time to help out. The first return email was generic, “ thank for you contacting us, we will be in touch with you soon.”
The second email came three weeks later with the message, “ If I didn’t get back to you, please reach out to me again, we really need your help. Please tell us what you can do and when you are available.”
She did call back, left a message and never heard another word. Guess what we all heard about this group?
There are many worthy causes out there, and most of them need all the help and good press they can get. Be sure you give thought to how you will appear to strangers as well as your current members, and how taking a moment before replying and being thoughtful about how your response will be perceived; be sure the good and strong momentum for your cause can be extended.
Don’t let thoughtlessness or disorganization offset all the good you are doing.
It is all marketing and customer service: let us help you be the best you can for new and potential donors, volunteers or employees. Give a call for some language, strategies and preparation can make all the difference in how you are seen out there.
image credit: http://www.seriouseats.com/assets_c/2014/02/20140131-place-setting-manner-matters-thumb-610×457-381675.gif