Communication Is Listening

June 27, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Your communications with donors should showcase the core of your organization. But communication is often not what you say, but what you hear. These were among the points made during Fundraising Day in New York 2014 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square in Manhattan.

The 75-minute session in the small shop organizations category called “Can You Hear Me Now? Getting the Most Out of Your Communications,” was offered by Edward Griffin, alumni relations director of Trinity School, Sharon Camlic, executive director of the Sharon Robinson Camlic Grants Counsel, Betsy King Militello, executive director, National Alliance for Musical Theater.

Griffin said there are a lot of good ideas at conferences but in the small shop, fundraisers are faced with three immediate challenges – time, staff and money. Many organizations spend a lot of time of social media and forget about “the power of the handwritten note,” he said.

They key in the small shop is keeping a permanent record of everything and you can do it with a spreadsheet via Excel or a donor management software system. It is particularly vital because it is a record of what you know about donors.

In seeking grants, the foundation’s Form 990 is critical because it will show what is funded. Often you can’t find a point of contact for communication on the foundation’s website. The Form 990 must include contact information and telephone number.

Spreadsheets also allow you to go back to donor information. The “no” response to an ask might just be the start of a conversation when you go back. Systems also have calendars so you can time updated contacts.

Communication is a balancing act and you have to know when to use the mail, versus email versus picking up the phone. Donors to small shops really expect that connection, according to the panelists. “The pen is mightier than the keyboard,” said Griffin.

There is no right answer on when to communicate and how. If person is not responding, mix it up, email, voice mail, send a note. Find different excuses to make the contact. And, don’t let irritation slip in.

Leverage every tool available. Communications show you are on top of things. Use the tools that make sense with your mission.