Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ponder Relationship Building

The genesis of good fundraising is really building strong relationships. Donors need to have a linkage to your organization, but without someone continually building a relationship, the donor may turn his or her sights elsewhere. The concept is not much different than what businesses must do to build relationships with customers.

Today a thought-provoking question was posed by MediaSauce Creative Director, Mitch Maxson. Every Wednesday at 5:15 p.m., staff members gather on the "dance floor" (Woot! Woot!) to discuss new ideas, concepts, and issues. I wanted to share the question of the day for the discussion. I can't be there for the dance floor discussion, but instead thought I'd put it out to you to share your thoughts.

The following quote comes from Jim Stengel, the CEO of Proctor and Gamble. Consider how this relates to how we approach fundraising:

"Building relationships through our brands is the future of marketing. It's not about new media models and new tools. It's about engaging with people in two-way relationships."

"It's about seeking to understand the other person rather than trying to control their actions...Building honest relationships between us and our consumers is not only a smart business decision; it is the right thing for us as marketers to do."

If it is the right thing for marketers to do, it is definitely the right thing for development officers to do. Personal meetings, special events, regional activities, focus groups, are all ways to build relationships. Utilizing multi-media tools such as personal video messages can also create a more realistic relationship. And the opportunities to build relationships through social networking sites such as MySpace and LinkedIn seem to be endless.

What are the best ways for you to build personal relationships? What works? What is innovative? How are you engaging in two-way relationships? How can you better understand who your donors are and what they value? How will you measure that level of engagement (here's a hint: study giving history and patterns)?

How will you achieve greater results if donors better understood who you are and who you represent? How are you providing opportunities for donors -- or potential donors -- to develop a relationship with you?

Perhaps that last concept is what we overlook the most. People successful at building relationships and networks are putting themselves out there for other like-minded individuals to find them. How accessible are you? How and when can people reach you? Are you approachable? One of the simplest tools I use at MediaSauce is a "MailWire." It's simply a frame around my initial email message and it contains the MediaSauce logo, my photo and contact information, and key links to the MediaSauce website. It is one very easy way to let people know who I am, who I work for, and how to reach me. It is an easy way to put a name with a face and make a personal connection, often the very easiest first step to building a new relationship.

Take some time and assess how you are building relationships with others and how you are allowing others to connect with you. And then share your success stories and bring Electric Philanthropy to life!

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