A Listening Agenda

logo-zeekfrom Zeek at Jewcy:

Living Out Our Values in Cyberspace

At a recent nonprofit technology conference where I was working the exhibit hall for my employer, two seasoned Jewish professionals from one of the Federations came over to chat. My standard line as a salesperson is, “what can I do to put you in a new database today?” but for the Federation Jews, I dropped the shtick.

I told them: “Our online database is a tool to help you develop more personal relationships with larger numbers of supporters, who may or may not be donors. By messaging to the particular interests of those on your lists, and listening to their feedback, you can develop a stronger sense of connection with many people, especially younger Jews who might be first time donors or new to the mainstream Jewish world.”

And so they asked: “What would we need to do to run this kind of system?”

I answered, “You’d have to transfer power and resources from a top-down agenda to a listening agenda. You’d have to grant a voice to people who aren’t major donors yet. You’d have to message differently, write differently, even think differently about what your relationship with your constituents is supposed to look like.”

They laughed a bit and said, “That’s not going to happen. We just want to send out emails from our database.”

And there you have it in a nutshell. The power and glory of amazing new internet technologies is spread out before us like a smorgasbord. The vast majority of our organizations however, “just want to send out emails from our database.”