Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 5-minute Engagement

Take 5
One of the most fundamental issues that your non-profit faces in engagement is also the most difficult. Many non-profits are not exactly clear what their stakeholders want of them, and many stakeholders aren’t sure they know what the non-profit wants of them. This issue is often masked by others. Yes, if you are a charity, you want donations. If you are a social service organization, you want volunteers to help deliver programs. But there needs to be more. The charity wants more from its donors than just a financial transaction, but what? The social service agency wants volunteers to do more than just volunteer a few hours a week, it want them to tell the world about what the organization does. These “needs” aren’t always very clear, and the lack of clarity often sabotages engagement efforts.

Here’s a five minute exercise you can do with any number of stakeholders to get a better handle on your level of engagement. Ask your donors two questions. First, get them to tell you exactly what they want from you. Get them to list it in order of priority. And follow-up with a question about what they don’t want. Don’t dwell on the technical, such as how many emails they want to receive a year. Stick to the strategic issues, such as what kinds of communications they want to receive instead.

Second, ask them whether they know what your non-profit wants from them. Is being a stakeholder clear in their mind. Do they know what to do and how to do it?

Now, put the two sets of answers together and look at whether they fit. Are you telling the stakeholders what you want? Are you listening to what they need? Chances are there are gaps. You likely haven’t spelled out everything you need. And like most organizations you could stand to listen more. Map out this relationship and see what you can do to address some of the gaps.

You can use this informally on individual stakeholders, in large meetings or massive online surveys. Any way you use it will yield information you can use to improve engagement.

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