Is Relationship-Building a False God?

1 10 2011

Challenging the Relationship Model of Fundraising

Received wisdom now says that relationship building is the way to raise more money from donors. It’s why we changed the name from Fundraising to Development; we expect to develop relationships with people, with the ultimate goal of getting them to make a big gift (or two, or three).

This may still be true, but a study from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson challenges the notion that relationship building causes higher sales in the for-profit environment. What this means for the nonprofit sector is up for debate.

Dixon is Managing Director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice. Adamson is Senior Director of the Sales Executive Council, a division of the Sales and Service Practice. Their new book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, is the result of studying 6,000 sales representatives across more than 100 companies around the world. Detailing their work habits, their motivation and their results, they classified the reps into 5 groups:

  • Relationship builder
  • Lone wolf
  • Hard worker
  • Reactive problem solver
  • Challenger

These groups are described in the HBR Blog, but suffice it to say that the Relationship builder was NOT the best performer.

Surprisingly, Challenger, who did not acquiesce to every client whim, who did not work to smooth over any tension, and in fact made a point of asking penetrating questions about client assumptions, outperformed the others in complex and challenging situations.

Now, if these economic times aren’t challenging for nonprofits, I don’t know what would be. Perhaps it’s time to (ahem) challenge our assumptions of how to deal with donors in these times.

More study is definitely needed.

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Maybe you SHOULD fear social media!

23 08 2009

Social media is all the rage among people who advise corporations and nonprofits on how to reach their audiences. You have to be on top of it! It’s a whole new world! It’s not like the old media; you have to be transparent! Well, maybe not.

As someone who has been involved with nonprofit organizations in many guises and worked for and consulted to for-profit companies, I can tell you that something which is ‘all the rage‘ isn’t necessarily what you want to be doing immediately. Back in the day, Sears made its impact not by being the first to sell something, but by being the one that capitalized on what others were selling. Obama’s campaign didn’t invent tight messaging and using media, it just did it much better. Even Google didn’t invent searching, they just advanced it to the point that it was really useful.

So being cautious does have its place. I said cautious, of course, not head-in-the-sand. Sears and Google knew what was happening, and they watched, learned, and improved. The same with learning the best ways to use social media.

An earlier post here offered 7 tips for employees who Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise use social networking media. It was called “Don’t Be Stupid.” Now I recommend an excellent set of posts by Tom Cuniff, on the ICPG blog, for organizations contemplating entering this world.

Tom Cuniff is focused on the for-profit world — it’s a blog about consumer packaged goods, after all — but his words of wisdom are very well written, and really nail the fears of companies and organizations in embarking on social media. This post is titled “What if your CEO is right to be afraid of social media?” It’s pro-social media, but acknowledges the risks.

Just my style – a pragmatic look at ways to make our work in the nonprofit world better.





DON’T BE STUPID – 7 Social Media Guidelines

6 07 2009

For a mid-50 year old, I’ve been a pretty early adopter of communications technology. I used computers in 1969; owned my own computer in 1985, had email shortly after and a website since 1995. I most definitely am not as advanced as many of the people I follow on Twitter, but they’re the cutting edge. I’m still just an early adopter.

Yet despite all the changes in media, there are a few rules of social and business conduct that hearken back to the days of print and telephone and still make sense. Or rather, in the words of Douglas MacMillan, columnist for BusinessWeek, “Don’t be Stupid”.

In his May 8, 2009 column, MacMillan told the story of an advertising agency executive whose client learned that they were wooing one of his competitors – via a Twitter post by one of the agency’s own employees.

There are the numerous Facebook pictures of young adults who don’t take down the beer pong pictures before applying for a job. In fact, I just noticed a student affairs professional who is listed as a “Fan of Beer Pong” on Facebook.

Now that summer is here, there are numerous status updates on Facebook and Twitter of employees who proudly indicate that they’re counting the minutes to quitting time or planning on being sick the next day so they can get to the beach.

Why am I writing this in a blog about nonprofits? Because the basic, overall guidelines remain the same for every individual and for every enterprise: Think Before You Communicate!

In a future post, I’ll invite a specialist to write about how to guide an employee who uses digital media on behalf of the organization. But for everyone else, here are some social media guidelines.

Rule #1 is for you – the employer, the manager, the boss. Acknowledge that your employees will be on digital media. There’s no getting around it. You wouldn’t have been able to keep them from having a radio, a television, a cell phone, or a computer; you can’t keep them from continuing to engage in the next technology.

The next 6 rules are for sharing with your staff:

1 –  Keep organization secrets secret. Just as you shouldn’t sit down at a bar and talk to a reporter about an internal mishap or the board member who is totally overbearing, you can’t broadcast anything like that in the media. Your donors and board members are everywhere, and so are potential new funders. They’ll think twice about doing business with you if they don’t think you can keep things confidential.

2 –  Don’t bash the competition. If you identify your employer ANYWHERE, or the organization is even just known by anyone, you are seen as representing that organization even on your own time. Bashing another agency invites bashing right back and is just plain rude. It also gets tiresome for the readers, and raises questions among donors about your professionalism.

3 –  Don’t grumble about your boss. Again, if you identify your employer ANYWHERE, you are seen as representing that organization even on your own time. If the employees are seen as unhappy, your potential clients, donors and goodwill ambassadors may have second thoughts about doing business with you.

4 –  Don’t be an obvious clockwatcher. I wonder about the wisdom of individuals who send tweets like ‘only 2 hours to go’. Either you don’t really doesn’t care that your employer might see this clockwatching, or you are demonstrating contempt for a boss who will never see it. Either way, it’s not a good image for your organization.

5 –  Keep it clean. Yes, I know this is a personal account. But I can’t stress this enough. If you identify your employer ANYWHERE, you are seen as representing that organization. You wouldn’t want to see your child’s elementary school teacher standing outside a bar using foul language every other word. You may be on your own time, but it sure doesn’t reflect well on you, and ultimately on the school system.

6 –  If you’re not sure, ask! Sometimes it’s good to post new insights in your field, demonstrating the expertise of your organization. But occasionally, those insights might be proprietary. If you’re not sure, find out whom to ask for guidance.

And overriding all of the above is a single thought to keep in mind: Assume your mom, your boss, your friends, your relations, your future friends and relations, and your future bosses are all reading it.

The old rules used to be, “don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to your mom,” and “don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.” In this time of instant access to the writings of almost anyone, what you write today can affect your future.

Don’t be Stupid! Thanks for the reminder, Douglas.





WHERE’S THE HUMAN TOUCH?

18 06 2009

I spent today in a motivational seminar, and couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing. It was a simulcast of a live seminar being run about 20 miles away. At our remote location, I was easily one of about 1000 people, with 3 huge video screens and plenty of happy staff ready to help you fill out forms.  

But we could see on the screen that the live location had live music, fireworks, sparklers, and a real connection between the emcee and the audience. When the emcee called for people to stand up and cheer the next speaker, you could see and hear that the audience was doing just that. Not so at our location. At first, about 10% got up and cheered, but that number slowly diminished. When a speaker asked for volunteers from the audience to receive free gifts, we were totally out of luck. When another speaker yelled, “Hello, Philadelphia!” we were in Wilmington, unacknowledged.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m generally a very positive person and enjoy motivational talks. Some of the speakers were quite good; I learned several useful techniques and stories; I’ll probably even buy one of the books. But it was obvious that I wasn’t the only person that was not connecting. And so the most emphatic lesson I’m taking away is that there has to be evidence of a human touch in order to make a connection.

What does this mean as we expand our reach using so many new tools that were never before available to us?

In our rush to embrace digital media, are we considering that we need a human connection beyond the tweets, facebook, linkedin, or blogs? I’m not denying that it’s a great thing for our donors to follow us using social sites. But that ability to speak rapidly and digitally to our followers should only enhance our connection, not be a substitute.

What about our connections with co-workers? If we only communicate via email or IM, we cannot see body language or hear tone of voice and know that our staff is tired or energetic, stressed or joyful. This empathic connection is lost in electronic words and abbreviations. The occasional telephone call, same-room meeting or one-to-one video conference should be required for employee morale.

And, since this was prompted by this particular instance, I think about what could have been done differently to make the seminar connect with us despite the remote location. Could the organizers have placed an emcee in the remote location as well, and just channel in the speakers? Could they have acknowledged us with a mention during the presentations? Could there have been someone at our site that also picked people from the audience at strategic times of the morning?  Could there have been cheerleaders in the audience encouraging us to participate in the cheering and energy?

Perhaps the universal lesson isn’t specific ways to alleviate the problem. Perhaps the lesson is that we should use this experience to make us stop and consider the need for a human connection. Now, when all around us digital media abounds, we should make sure to consider the human connection as we communicate with a donor, a co-worker, or a group of people. Use social media as a tool to deepen connections, not as a substitute for them.

A research study from Bank of America and the Center on Philanthropy of Indiana University tells that major donors stop giving when they lose connection. It would be a shame to jeopardize the relationship in the rush to new media.

To read about the implications of losing connections with donors, check out this report,  The 2008 Bank of America Study of High Net-Worth Philanthropy.