Get Your Head Out of … the Sand
Yesterday, the mother of a sick child Googled the name of a devastating disease. She got thousands of results, but the ones that interested her the most were links to your organization’s Web site; two stories from the national media; a handful of online support groups for patients and their families; a general health Web site with online communities dedicated to the disease; and one site focused exclusively on a heartsick father’s negative experience with an operator on your organization’s support line.
The people who are affected by your mission are talking about you. Your donors and supporters are talking about you. And the people who don’t like you all that much are talking about you, too. If you aren’t involved in those conversations, wherever they’re taking place, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities for constituent care, donor engagement, friendraising and, in some cases, damage control.
It’s a complex dance with a lot of partners, and in this day and age of instant gratification and immediate feedback, no nonprofit can afford to be a wallflower.
Fortunately, much of this chatter is going on online. Consider it the cyber watercooler or virtual cocktail party. And even though — despite the common misconception — online communications aren’t free, they are a lot less expensive and a lot more immediate than other forms of outreach, like direct mail. Online offers a ton of opportunities for organizations to connect with donors and other supporters, including blogs; message boards; and social-
networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, etc. If you’re not already engaging them, you’re kind of late to the game.
“Larger organizations and those with very social-media-oriented audiences have been investing in staff here for the past couple of years,” says Sarah Durham, principal and founder of fundraising consultancy Big Duck. “If you’re not proactively monitoring the buzz online about your organization, you’re sticking your head in the sand and pretending the world isn’t there. If people are talking about your work and your issues online, you should be there.”