I came across this article some time ago from nptrends.com and saved it because it brought up some interesting points: Why Social Media is like a 3D Movie. I agree with the thinking behind the article. The fact that social media outlets have become rather mainstream in the nonprofit world is not surprising at all. The surprising thought is that it has taken this long. I think we see this a lot around our sector: the for-profit world embraces change. Frankly, they take it and run with it. They have the resources available (and resources available to take the risks) to try new things. If a small-budget NP takes a flyer on a new idea or new piece of technology and invests countless time and man hours on it, and it fails, adios, small-budget NP. But I think there has to be some middle ground here. The million-dollar question is how and when should we jump on the new technology bandwagon. With the way technology is rapidly changing, the successful social media strategy would be able to get on the upturn of outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Pinterest. So the question remains: how? The answer is partially spelled out in the linked article. And as you will read below, the answer is actually irrelevant, and doesn’t pertain to social media at all.
Like a terrible 3D movie (or a badly planned social media strategy), a flashy title (Twitter handle), awesome graphics (great Twitpics), and great advertising (RTs) is simply not enough. If the movie has a bad plot, terrible character development and cameos by Mike Tyson, it simply will not be successful. This is where the movie analogies will end. Because here is what you can do to turn your NP into a Summer Blockbuster (sorry, one moreJ). You must stay with what has made successful NPs successful since their inception—customer service!!!!
Whether you went into the NP world because you had a higher calling to help others, or you went into it because you like to work countless hours for inadequate compensation, or you really like organizing walks, golf outings, and phone-a-thons, or a combination of the aforementioned things, we are still in business of serving our customers. We must have the groundwork laid to welcome new donors, develop a personable relationship, be able to ask for time, talent & treasure, be good stewards of these T’s, and turn these people into sustainable customers. Allow me to share a quick side story. I ate at a Penn Station once down the street from my house. I don’t even really like Penn Station. I mean, their sandwiches are just OK, their fries are outstanding, but it’s all over-priced and after eating there, you feel like it should come with an angioplasty on the way out. But that one time I ate there, the two employees were extremely nice to me. They weren’t the kind of nice where you can tell they are just putting on a show or acting cordial even though working at Penn Station is the last place they really want to be—they were genuinely nice to me. I felt that they cared how my day was. That they cared whether or not I wanted mushrooms on my Philly cheese steak (mushrooms are gross). That they really wanted me to know that their fries were fresh-cut (I apologize for everyone now craving a Philly cheese steak and medium fry from Penn Station (see unpaid inadvertent advertisement)). So you know what? The Penn Station down the street from my house is one of the first places that pop into my mind when I am thinking about what to eat when I am out. Kind of strange isn’t it? Remember, I don’t really like Penn Station.
This, my friends, is the answer to that million-dollar question!!! All other social media marketing plans, annual fund and event calendars, choosing whether or not to use a business reply envelope or let our customers foot the bill for giving you money (this might be my next blog post. Shheeesh, come on, this doesn’t make any kind of remote sense), or whether or not to serve rubber chicken or roast beef at your next donor reception (may I suggest catering from the Penn Station on Colerain Ave.????) is all ancillary. The key behind developing sustaining relationships and keeping your customers selling out your Blockbuster, even though it is in the cheap theaters and is only shown as a matinee Monday through Fridays (sorry, this is the last one, I promise), is how you treat your customers. You must genuinely care how their days are. You must genuinely care if they like mushrooms (gross). You must tell them that your fries are fresh-cut, and be proud of that fact.
Have you ever met someone who you can tell right off the bat that they are only interested in getting the sale (ever been to a used car lot???)? This cannot be a trait of your fund raising officers. CANNOT. ABSOLUTELY. UNEQUIVICABLLY. CANNOT. Everyone receives the phone calls from this organization or that nonprofit asking for money, donations, or both. I don’t know about you, but I will take a second thought when someone calls that I know truly cares about the mission of the organization they represent. It’s something in the tone of their voice, or their attitude, but you can tell when they care. And you can tell when they are watching the clock and are just there for a paycheck. These traits don’t change when dealing with our organizations. As young professionals, we have many years to develop and hone these people skills, but the sooner, the better. We have the advantage that we can see what works and what doesn’t now, so we can tailor our skill set to be successful later as we climb the nonprofit ladder. We will develop our customer service skills so that when a potential donor walks into a meeting they will already have their hand out, waiting for their 3D glasses.
Kevin Wood is co-chair of chapter logistics for YNPN Cincinnati. He is also System Administrator at the Bethesda Foundation, Inc.—the fundraising arm for Bethesda North Hospital, Hospice of Cincinnati and Fernside. He is a 2007 graduate of Northern Kentucky University. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or email.