To the Point: What Can *YOU* Learn From Obama?
At the end of this month, we will witness one of the biggest transformations in our country’s history when Barack Obama steps in as the first black president of the United States. Obama’s election represents a sea change for our country in race relations. It also represents a sea change in marketing, communications and fundraising for success.
Regardless of your organization’s size or mission — and regardless of your politics — there are important lessons to learn from this historic campaign. I’ve listed some of them here; ignore them at your own risk.
1. Your donors aren’t listening to you.
They’re listening to what their friends, family members and trusted advisers say about you. We’ve all heard the reports: People don’t trust institutions like the federal government, corporations and even nonprofits. This begs the question: Who do we look to when we need to make decisions about how to vote, donate and behave? Who do we trust? The answer: our friends.
There’s no doubt that we are not the only, or in many cases, the leading, spokespersons for our causes. We are all just small nodes in a global conversation. Follow the model of the Obama campaign by 1) listening to what your stakeholders are saying about you; and 2) joining their conversations.
2. Millennials are the future.
If you weren’t already convinced, you should be now: Millennials rule! The fact is, they might well have decided the election. But if you’re like most nonprofit organizations, 15- to 25-year-olds don’t account for a significant portion of your donor base. You can’t afford to ignore these 75 million Americans. Find ways now to tutor and be tutored by these future leaders. This means, in part, learning their language, like how to communicate via social networks and text messaging. It also means being more open, immediate and transparent in all your communications.
3. The Internet = more than a PC.
Part of the reason that the Internet is so powerful is because it’s everywhere. And while most Americans still use computers as their primary method for accessing the Net, don’t overlook the growing importance of mobile communications. According to Wikipedia, almost 800 million people accessed the Internet via phone in 2007. And we all know that short code 62262 played a prominent role in the Obama campaign. Get ready to capitalize on the power of the new “small screen” by beginning to build your opt-in text-messaging list today and registering your preferred short code.
4. Your donors are your best fundraisers.
Obama’s individual supporters greatly extended the reach of the campaign by self-organizing political dinners, canvassing and raising money. People were awed by how quickly the Obama campaign and movement grew.
Use the Internet to help your supporters help you. Write sample e-mail text for donors to send to their family members, and include “tell-a-friend” in all your e-mail communications. Finally, promote the use of charity widgets like www.sixdegrees.org to enable your donors to raise money online for you.
5. Google is the key influencer.
Google has fundamentally changed the way we shop and learn. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, search now vies with e-mail for the top spot regarding what people do online. Make sure you have a plan in place for getting discovered via search engines. This way, you will be top-of-mind when people search for information about your cause.
6. The Internet is leveling the playing field.
Now, even the smallest nonprofits have the opportunity to talk and be heard. While the Obama campaign spent an unprecedented sum of money on traditional advertising, it also made excellent use of the Internet. Follow suit. If you aren’t online today, get online! Build your Web site and keep it updated, enable online donations, comment on people’s blogs, and/or start your own. And be sure to stay in touch with your supporters by any means necessary. It’s a new world, and you don’t want to get left out.