I have spent a good part of my professional life trying to cajole and convince nonprofit CEO’s to understand how critically important their voice is to their organization’s brand, reputation, and not incidentally, fundraising success. While CEO’s spend a great deal of their time meeting with and soliciting major donors, many of them are less interested in serving as chief messenger and advocate. Yes, I know many more CEO’s are now writing email letters to their constituents and some are even blogging. But in an age where immediate, personal communication is now the norm, I wish CEO’s would make time to hold live, online or telephone chats with their constituents.
As a donor or potential supporter, I would really enjoy and appreciate having a chance to ask the CEO a question, hear her/his ideas, and engage in a brief conversation about an issue the organization is addressing. Too many donors don’t ever get a chance to know the people running an organization, how and what they think and why they love their work. By relying primarily on newsletters and emails, CEO’s create a mostly top-down communications channel that delivers what they want to say in the format that they are most comfortable using. It’s okay as far as it goes, but newsletters and emails don’t give the CEO the easy opportunity to hear from their supporters, have a refreshing, live, open-ended conversation and strengthen their relationships with them.
Yes, the CEO does speak directly with the board, some committees and certainly the top donors. But the same engagement can be done with many more people who don’t sit at the leadership tables. The technology makes it so possible to expand the conversation, hear from people who may offer a fresh idea, give a new perspective and maybe increase their gift. I know if I got an invitation to participate in a live conversation with a CEO, I would jump at the chance. I bet lots of others would too.
Have I convinced any of you to give it whirl?
Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.