There is so much that we don’t know about the people we interact with each day. We don’t know why that person cut us off in traffic this morning, and we don’t know why our neighbor has decided to let their lawn go and let it turn into a weed jungle. We don’t know what we don’t know – but is that an excuse or is it an opportunity to simply ask “why?”
As a nonprofit professional – or as any kind of professional – it’s within your laundry list of responsibilities to dig deeper and cultivate your people – your donors, your volunteers, your staff, your partners, your people. Why? Because without time dedicated to building a genuine relationship with your people you’re missing out on the opportunity to establish sustainability – and who doesn’t want that!? In nonprofit development sustainability is your holy grail, your touchdown, your goal – and it’s not unobtainable but it does take dedicated time and patience.
So, here are three simple actions you can implement today to start cultivating your Top 3 People and building your foundation for sustainability:
• This sounds simple, and it is. Block out an hour in your week – make it this week – for you to call the Top 3 People that embody your organization’s mission and are passionate about your work. Think outside of the box when deciding what three people you’ll call. They people can be volunteers, Board Members, clients, or even community partners.
• Ask if they are available to meet with you in an informal space, so you can learn more about their connection to your organization. Be prepared with three different days and times when scheduling.
• The goal of this meeting is to learn more about them and what part of your organization resonates with them. When it comes time to meet with them be ready to LISTEN to them – don’t get this twisted with just hearing them. Ask you questions and keep your I statements to a minimum.
Ask For Advice, It’s Ok
• Keep your relationship alive with your Top 3 by setting up a secondary date for coffee/wine so you can ask them for their advice.
• Be prepared to share at least two current roadblocks you’re experiencing – nothing is off limits here. You could be having trouble filling your event committee, or you could need help finding new Board Members. Whatever you decide to discuss, be prepared to answer hard questions and easy questions.
Don’t Skip The Holidays
• In between your meetings with your Top 3 don’t let your more than a month pass without connecting with them.
• A simple way to do this is by mailing holiday cards; Christmas cards, Thanksgiving cards, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day. All of these holidays are opportunities for you to interact with your people without asking them for something.
• Try to make it a personal as possible, your cards could be home made or could simply include a personal note.
• Consider sending cards to more than your Top 3, maybe your Top 10 or Top 20. You never know whom a simple card will touch.
Make time to see these three actions through and don’t skimp on them. Make them a recurring task in your calendar and take notes on your conversations. After about 6 months take time to evaluate – are these people still your Top 3? What new ways can you interact with your Top 3 that doesn’t involve asking them for money?
The key to cultivation is balancing engagement opportunities that ask for monetary support with opportunities that ask for someone’s time and expertise – aka, their most valuable means of support. These three cultivation actions will help you build that framework you’ll need to ensure your organization’s mission continues to make an impact.
So go forth, start with these three actions and be open to the opportunities that will unfold.