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If you’re following the complete chaos in Washington, you will undoubtedly agree with Senator Lindsey Graham that the whole thing has become a shit show.
President Trump has sown disarray by contradicting his own party leaders and his own stated positions. Hourly. With tweets! We’re on the verge of a government shutdown and we’re doing real damage to American institutions and people’s lives.
Be grateful, my nonprofit executive friend, that your own organization is not subject to the waffling whims of a wicked womanizer.
But surely you are dealing with your own organization’s challenges and dysfunctions. What I’d like you to do is to make it your New Year’s Resolution to step up, take charge and bring some order to your own chaos.
Kids, Screen Time and Human Relationships
An increasingly large body of research is showing that screen time and the lack of focused attention that goes with it, is damaging the brains of our children.
I am not a Luddite. I love the internet and the promise of information and connections. In fact, I’ve built my entire career on the idea that the internet and technology can be used to strengthen our organizations. But the damage done by new technologies to human relationships is becoming more and more clear. And this damage is not just personal; it’s impacting our organizations in ways that are just as insidious.
I’m over-generalizing here, but kids are increasingly lacking the ability to have in-person, direct and deep human relationships. Similarly, our organizations are increasingly lacking the human touch and attention that builds lasting relationships with our constituents. We are only comfortable with the mass email, the website, the social post and other things that keep us from seeing our supporters as individuals.
We’ve been taught that the scale we can achieve online creates efficiency. The problem came when we got sucked into vanity metrics that count friends and likes and views. We get the same dopamine rush from our numbers that the kids get when someone likes their selfies.
The answer here isn’t to throw out all of the technology or stop sending emails or stop posting to social media. The answer is to be more deliberate, more human and more focused on the quality of our engagement than the quantity of the reach.
We’re scared to step back. We think we’ll be left behind if we regroup and refocus. Instead, be brave my friend!
Holding True to the Core
In an age of shiny objects, leaders need to hold true to the core, unchanging principles that make us human and drive us to do good in the world. Perhaps counter-intuitively, these are also the principles that position our organizations for success in the digital age.
Running after vanity metrics of likes, followers and views isn’t what makes organizations successful in the real world. Think about the people that donate to a cause or develop brand loyalty over time. These people have a relationship with you, or at least they feel they do. What you do, build and create resonates with them in some deep emotional way, even if they can’t articulate it.
Building these kind of relationships is not only possible online, it’s what we were promised at the start of the internet age. This network of computers and cell phones that makes up the internet is really a network of people. It’s time to put the people front and center.
Call Your Supporters
Your first assignment is to communicate directly with your supporters. And not just you, as many people as you can get in your organization.
Honestly, I don’t care how you do it. Call them. Direct message them on Facebook. Thank them. Ask them what they really care about. Pick a day, or even an hour, where everyone will use whatever method of communication you have available to reach out to an individual, not to ask them for more money, but simply to appreciate them and try to get to know them.
Do this and you will see that it’s not your organization's story that resonates with your supporters. What resonates is how your story intersects with their own life story. And you might just raise more money when not asking than you could imagine.
Take the first step, and next week we’ll keep moving along on the engagement journey. Hopefully, the government will still be open, and your own sense of purpose and connection with your work will be strengthened.