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Commentary: Don’t Let Perceived Advancements Set You Back

When the pandemic admonished in-person activities, technology was touted as your lifesaver. The efficiency of video conference platforms marvelously morphed chaotic commutes into easy-to-click contentment. That ridiculously underperforming fundraising event you vowed to abandon is now reimagined to what will soon become an equally underachieving virtual format.

Communication technology, one of the most common innovations, ushered in many efficiencies in 2022. As you turn to 2023, do not misunderstand or misinterpret the effectiveness of technology. Your cell phone and internet are just as inadequate as the morse code and telegraph if you seek to create the most optimum conditions to establish trust and transparency.

The nonprofit sector builds trust fast and drives positive action far and wide. In every local community, in-person voluntarism, organized social engagement, and annual opportunities start and sustain meaningful connections to people and principles. Your future success requires face-to-face relationship building with measured reliance on technology-based tactics. Tomorrow’s call-to-action must prompt people to congregate and connect with other people for the purpose of building trust and solving problems.

Continue to resource technological advances but recognize you should not outsource relationship building to inanimate objects that are engineered for efficient engagement without ability to embrace, emote, or enthuse.

According to State of Social Connections, a recent international survey by Gallup and Meta, “most people around the world feel a sense of social connection as COVID-19 precautions ease, but many still need support or help from others.” Further, at least one-third of the 2,000 respondents said they interacted with others on social media on a daily basis, but those individuals were also likely to use other methods — suggesting that technology-based connection supplements but does not replace other types of interaction, observed the researchers.

People of tomorrow are like people of today and yesterday. As you plan for 2023, your best play is to acknowledge the limitations of digital transactions and take deliberate action to facilitate proximate relationship building that supports and fulfills the needs of people while also advancing your charitable mission.

Every human being has unmet needs — even people with privilege, donors with dollars, and partners with power. Technology can help you better understand unmet needs, catalogue the classification of unmet needs, and test ways to fulfill unmet needs.

In 1969, Abraham Maslow reshaped the Hierarchy of Needs to include self-transcendence or a sense of meaning as the apex. “You can compare it to a spiritual need to transcend our thoughts. We must see ourselves as part of the broader universe to develop common priorities and goals,” shares life coach Jessi Christian. “Once this need is fulfilled, we can see beyond our individual well-being to the needs of us all.”

High-speed internet is not the road to happiness. People long to feel a genuine sense of belonging to meet psychological needs. Ring in the New Year with a necessary commitment to move from transactional encounters to interactional exchanges. Start with the resurgence of face-to-face communication. Technology will continue to change when and how we connect with others. Inventions and innovations will never have the power to override the desire for human connection.

“What is really important to our social health and well-being is that we have meaningful relationships, and that’s about the structure, the function and the quality of our relationships with others,” remarked Risa Wilkerson, executive director of Healthy Places by Design in an October CNN Health article.

If you adopt one resolution for 2023, commit to forming and forging meaningful relationships by foregoing the temptation of technology.

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Tycely Williams, CFRE, is chief development officer at Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.