10 Ways to Manage Your Nonprofit's Perception vs. Reality
I watched the Grammy's on television recently. I was told that 28.5 million people watch this celebration of music, and there are 15 million tweets associated with the show.
To my amazement, while watching the Grammy's, I saw a person who reports to me at work standing in her beautiful gown and clapping from her third-row seat. I had no clue she was in Los Angeles attending this amazing event. I kept thinking I was seeing things. How did she get third-row seats in a facility that seats more than 30,000? When this individual arrived back in the Indianapolis office, she gave me the details.
She was one of 300 people who won a lottery to attend the Grammy's through Seatfillers and More on Facebook. If you win this lottery, you must travel to the venue at your expense but attend the event free. This concept is used for major television events. The premise is when the cameras focus on the audience at a major televised event, there are no empty seats. I was informed that for the Grammy's, 300 people served as seat fillers while 10 supervisors directed the movements of these individuals during the show.
At each commercial during the three-hour production, orchestrated chaos ensued as my employee and others changed seat locations at least 10 times. The good news is my employee changed seats near the stage. Can you imagine shooting the breeze sitting next to Beyonce, Paul McCartney and others? I have never heard of this concept before, but it certainly covers the perception of having a full house and no empty seats for major televised events!
When relating this idea to philanthropy, think about perception versus reality. I have some questions for you:
- What does your board think of your organization?
- What do your volunteers think of your organization?
- What do your donors think of your organization?
- What does your administration and staff think of your organization?
- What would a random member of the community say about your organization?
What do you do on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis to reinforce your mission, vision, goals and direction of the organization? Do you have a marketing and communications plan? What would you like various publics to say about your organization if asked? Do you even think about this issue? These questions need answers on an ongoing basis.
I strongly suggest you constantly attempt to control the perception and reality of your organization through reinforcement of education, information and communication. People invest time, talent and treasure in organizations they trust. They need to feel secure that you exist to make a positive difference in the lives of others. They want you to be honest and transparent. The majority of people only obtain a perception of your organization. Your job is to make sure if they peel back layers of the onion, they can see an organizational reality that backs up and reinforces a positive perception.
Here are 10 ways to do that:
- Promote the mission of the organization.
- Tell consistent stories of engagement — how you solve the problems of society in a positive way.
- Communicate your brand. For example, The Salvation Army's is "Do the Most Good!" Tell donors how we do the most good.
- Reinforce third-party testimonials about your organization.
- Make the perception real, transparent, ethical and valid.
- Back it up with numbers and statistics — people served in various ways.
- Speak from the heart and soul of ways others believe you are special and unique.
- Seek feedback from others, and understand how to learn from feedback.
- Make sure your actions match your words as an organization.
- Be proactive and not reactive with print media, radio media, television media, social media, etc.
I suggest you make every effort to control the perception of your organization if possible. If you are successful in achieving this goal, your organization will thrive and not merely survive.
I wonder where my staff members are this week.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.