Steve Streicher, one of my co-panelists at last week’s panel discussion on online fundraising, commented that “good communication starts within your organization.” I couldn’t agree more. Many of us are aware of the importance of communicating well with our constituents, yet we may not take the time to do the same with our nonprofit co-workers.
One way is to cut down a bit on email, and use the ‘old-fashioned’ technique of connecting with colleagues face-to-face. After a series of email exchanges over a week failed to reach a consensus, I spent this afternoon at one of my organization’s remote sites today reviewing what changes were needed to an internal software application. Not only did we resolve the issue, but I learned much more than I would have through email or phone contact. When I completed my visit, my colleagues thanked me for taking the time to visit, saying that others were reluctant to take the time to travel (20 minute train ride from my office).
Earlier this week, I stopped by a colleague’s desk to check on the status of an outstanding issue which had also been the topic of a series of ongoing email exchanges over several weeks. Our conservation probably saved us 3 or 4 email swaps, yet he seemed surprised that I took the time (about 30 seconds) to walk over to his desk, rather than simply send another email.
This doesn’t mean that you should simply show up at someone’s desk or office. Take the time to make an appointment, and come prepared with an agenda of what you will discuss.
So if you want to effectively communicate with constituents, start with your colleagues in your organization, especially those who work at locations other than where you are. As Steve said, if you can’t do it well internally, you probably won’t be effective reaching out to supporters either.