From Mars Lang: The Audacity of Listening
In my previous post I urged non profit leaders to encourage risk taking. I also said to start by listening to your donors and list members so that you can start having something more than a one-way relationship with them.
The very reasonable response to this by many nonprofit managers is that they don’t have the money or the staff to read let alone respond to all of the e-mail that they already get. Plus so much of what they get is either crazy mail or about things that just can’t be changed. Luckily this is just a side issue and can now be more easily dealt with in the age of Web 2.0 tools. This is a side issue because you don’t necessarily want to listen to the squeaky wheel, and the e-mail that you are currently receiving is just that, squeaky.
You need to find a way to hear from the rest of your constituency, luckily setting up a survey or an online discussion group is not only simple, but cheap. It is in the responses from these tools that you will find guidance in your quest to take some risks.
Also by being audacious enough to actually listen AND respond to the suggestions and criticisms of your members you will show them that you are paying attention, so they will pay attention to you. That means you are deepening your level of trust, getting out of that precarious one way relationship.
Truly listening and being willing to change based on what you hear, is in itself risky. It could mean that you need to rethink the whole way you do marketing. It may mean that you have to look at the very way your staff is structured, and the technology that you use. However, the potential payoff is worth it, a trusting and engaged community, not just list members and sometime donors