Last year, you made a promise to yourself that your organization would finally (finally!) do something (anything) with all those business cards and contacts it accumulated over time. All those names just sitting in database no one uses, a CRM no one updates, or a literal box that continues to float from one desk to another. And, as expected, nothing changed. No one followed up with the past volunteers, that random one-time donor, a friend of a friend someone suggested as a potential board member.
This year, right from the start, you made a vow that this year would be different. You issued a challenge that everyone should be more aware of taking no person or connection for granted. You made it clear that each contact has a value beyond a name and a title or position. You encouraged everyone to dedicate space in their busy calendars for routine review and maintenance of the relationships that flow into, out of, and around all programs and services.
You realize your relationships are among your organization’s most valuable assests. You know your organization struggles to engage relationships in constructive, sustainable ways. Everyone on your team is busy, and no one has time to think of anything beyond what’s necessary and what’s important to them at any given time.
But, as you point out every year (and every month), it’s not about us its about the people who care about us and our work. Some people want to know more, want to do more. Yet we have no ability, no capacity to engage them. Our mission matters more than the maintenance required to ensure our mission can be fulfilled.
And then, like always, at this time, the beginning of the next new year, the same old thoughts return.
- “My team already talks with each other constantly every day through email, social media, and in-person meetings. We don’t have time to talk about who contacted us. Each of us has a long list of unaswered emails and voicemails that did not seem relevant a few weeks or months ago. Following up with people now would just be a waste of time and effort.”
- “We can’t ask our funders and donors for suggestions! They already give us money. We can’t ask them for advice on connections to other sources of support. It all just feels… so… weird and awkward and wrong.”
- “Why should I share news about wmy ork with family and friends? They do not know what my colleagues and I actually do, or why it matters to me.”
- “Why do I need to contact the people who interviewed us for their newsletter, magazine, blog, or podcast? We never heard from them after the story, and never heard anything from anyone who read or listened to their show.”
- “Why would I ask our clients about our reputation with the communities we serve? People come to us and need us, so it’s not like we will hear anything new or different from what we already know. And besides, we already have enough people who already like us. It’s not like we need more.”
- “How does asking our volunteers for suggestions help our work? They’re volunteers, they don’t know anyone we don’t already know. And besides, they already give us their time. We can’t ask them to give anything more.”
- “Who has time to read about people and influencers doing things in fields adjacent to what we do. We will never meet these people. If they’re truly interested in our work, they will find us and reach out to us eventually.”
But this time… this year, you stop yourself. You pause and take a deep breath. This first staff meeting of this new year, you will ask your team for one small change: Once a month, your team will make sure to collect who they have met, what they have seen or heard, and to share it as a team.
Together, you will do this to help your organization ensure that all connections recognized and relationships are valued. You will commit to sustaining and growing support beyond everyone’s current activities and comfort zones. You will engage your organization’s supporters, advocates, and allies for advice in meaningful and purposeful ways.
“Yes,” you say to yourself, “this year will be different.”