My original intention was to follow up yesterday’s post about (re)engaging your community, key stakeholders, prospective donors, and constituents with a list of suggestions to help as you brainstorm what (re)engagement means for your organization. I realize now the folly of trying to create such a list, honestly, in direct violation of advice I myself gave — every organization is different and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. So why would I then come up with a list of suggestions that may have absolutely no value to your particular org, culture, or situation? So let me take a step back and discuss some of the overall concepts of engagement, and then it would be great to hear your ideas and what has worked for you. For the most part, these are common axioms in the development community, but they are worth repeating (and to cut down on the wordiness and need for inclusiveness, I will use “constituents” to mean your target audience, donors or otherwise):
- Have a plan. I cannot stress this enough. Make. A. Plan. It can fit on a single sheet. It can be scribbled on a cocktail napkin and held together with tape. But write down your strategy and refer to it often. What happens if things change and you must deviate from your plan? Don’t throw it away! Remember that this is how life works: reassess the situation and revise the plan accordingly. In some ways, the plan will not only help you see where you are going, but it will help you track where you have been. What happens if you don’t have any written plan? (Re)engagement strategies as an ad hoc venture sounds about as efficient as running a development program with no strategic development plan. Here are some basic parts to your (re)engagement plan (and these could be categorized by activity/effort):
Who are your major players and what are their duties?
Who is your target audience?
How are you keeping track of contact reports?
What are your goals and objectives?
- Make sure you have a solid stewardship plan and are enacting every part of it with the donors you already have. It is easier to keep the donors you have than to go find new ones, so keep them happily engaged with your organization (with a strong person-person relationship, be nice, be honest, and be respectful). Call them, have board members call them, send holiday cards, keep up on your organization communications highlighting what was possible through their support, invite them to receptions, invite them to special events, invite them to coffee or a tour of your facility, invite them to give input on a new project. And absolutely always remember to send them your annual report.
- People give to people, so relationships are vital. This is almost rule #1 in development. (I would hope that rule #1 is a tie between “Be nice to people” and “Be honest and transparent.”) We all know just how important it is for constituents to have a relationship with the people/faces in an organization before they will give their support. Additionally, people support people and people want to work with people. Remember this as you think about other organizations with which you should be engaging, and even how you foster relationships with your volunteers. Especially volunteers.
- Be respectful of the relationships you build, for friendships are never a one-way street (do I sound like an after-school special now? But it’s true!). Do you show respect for others’ time, effort, concerns, boundaries, and praise?
- Involve as many people inside your organization as you can, including program staff, administrators, volunteers, and board members. In fact, you should be collaborating with the board members first since they are the inner circle of leadership and should be making your higher-level connections.
What (re)engagement looks like will be so vastly different according to your situation. Are you looking to increase your annual giving, gearing up for a campaign, or need to build up some PR/awareness in the community? Think creatively, consider every option, and do a complete inventory of every asset your organization has that is worthy of celebrating in the community.
How have you successfully built doors? Share below in the comments section below.