Relationship Building

Guy Arceneaux

Guest blogger Guy Arceneaux is Director of Marketing and Communications for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland

Here’s my top takeaway from my first three months on the job at Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland: Smaller, more nimble nonprofits like ours typically know their audiences better—so are far more connected with them—than do most large, complex organizations.

That Was Then
In 2013, I was the Director of Marketing for an international humanitarian development nonprofit. The annual budget was nearly one billion dollars, with our $2.3 million marketing budget funding the work of three departments and 13 staff members. Sounds like a lot, right?


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Donor relationshipsPlease tell us what you’re doing to strengthen supporter relationships, and what’s in your way. Thanks!

Read Part 1 here

Thanks to these fabulous folks in the field for sharing their right-now paths to stronger relationships with supporters, and what’s getting in their way!

The greatest challenge Kathleen Kennedy faces in building relationships and keeping them strong

“ I have so many competing priorities! My job has both development and program responsibilities, and sometimes the program side overshadows the development side.

“As a result, I don’t get as much accomplished as I would like in donor engagement and consistency. This may speak to our need for additional staff, a conversation I may pursue this year.”  —Kathleen Kennedy, Program and Development Coordinator Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection


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Supporter LoveGot 2 minutes? Please tell us what YOU’RE DOING to strengthen supporter relationships, and what’s in your way. Thanks!

Read Part 2 here.

Thanks to these fabulous folks in the field for sharing their right-now paths to stronger relationships with supporters, and what’s getting in their way!

What Lorna Riddle is doing differently to build stronger relationships

“I’m creating a welcome pack for new donors, and a plan on how to steward them through the first 18 months.”   —Lorna Riddle, Community Champion
The Mary Potter Foundation


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Nonprofit Relationship BuildingThanks to guest blogger Allison Fine, who authored this new guide to nonprofit relationship building, Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media.

One of the most amazing things about social media is that they allow people to talk directly with one another. This is also one of the things that make social media so terrifying for organizations used to broadcasting at people rather than speaking with them.


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Privacy Policy is vitalAs I combed the infinite number of 2014 marketing recommendations shared in recent weeks, I was surprised to see this one—review, revise and recommit to your privacy policy.

Didn’t we all do that already, during the advent of our websites and email programs?

But on further reflection, I realized just how important your organization’s privacy policy is in our age of data-driven marketing. In fact, your commitment to a comprehensive privacy policy is a prerequisite to increasing your 2014 marketing and fundraising results.

Here’s why, and how, to review, refresh and recommit to your privacy policy a.s.a.p.:

1) Your supporters and participants are sharing more personal data than ever before.


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Aunt FrancesSome of you may remember my stories about my wondrous Great Aunt Frances. We grew into close friends over the years I lived a few blocks from her in NYC.

Aunt Frances was fantastic—a warm, loving, down-to-earth lady who’d had many life adventures and was a fantastic cook.

Her stories of life as a girl in the Bronx—where her mother stored the live fish bought to make gefilte fish each Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) in the bathtub overnight—were memorable. So were those she shared from her life as a young teen (I wish I could find that picture of her playing the violin on the rooftop of their Lower East Side tenement), briefly-working young woman, and long-term mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. On top of that, she forced her delectable homemade cookies on me on every visit, as only a Jewish grandmother can. Who could resist?

Aunt Frances passed away recently at the age of 107 1/2, and I’ll miss her greatly. But she’s left me—and so many others—with so much.

Today, I want to share three relationship-building skills I learned from Aunt Frances. Take her lead to strengthen your nonprofit marketing approach, and results:


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Strengthen RelationshipsOur daughter, Charlotte, is away at Camp Harlam for 3 1/2 long weeks this summer. It’s her first time, and our pleasure in relaxed evenings and quiet weekend mornings is punctuated by severe pangs of missing her.

Most evenings we can quiet our pangs by going to the private website where photos from the day are posted. Charlotte frequently shows up in a photo or two, and we can get a sense of what she’s up to and how much she’s enjoying it (or not). I can’t tell you the pleasure we got when we spotted the biggest smile ever after she had completed the ropes course last week. We’re really getting to feel like part of the Camp Harlam family.

Harlam has done a great job of building our relationship in a natural way from the moment we shared our interest in registering Charlotte for the summer. I urge your organization to do the same, from the moment you first connect with folks who show interest as participants, supporters, clients, partners and/or volunteers and actively throughout the course of your relationship—BETWEEN your asks. Here’s how:


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Aunt FrancesMy Great Aunt Frances turned 107 last week and she’s as warm, loving and sharp as ever. She’s unknowingly taught me so much, including this recipe for strong and lasting relationships that I want to share with you today.

Years ago, when I rushed to Manhattan after college graduation, I found myself living just a few blocks from Aunt Frances. Having grown up in Philly, I had visited with her just a handful of times before then, so didn’t really know her.


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The late Senator Robert Byrd entered politics on a song. And your organization can do the same via savvy nonprofit marketing.

He took up the fiddle when he was growing up in West Virginia coal country. and put it to work years later to build support in his first run for office – a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Byrd fiddled his way into hostile meetings and bars in communities where he wasn’t known. And only after he had charmed his audience with his tunes, did he introduce himself, first as a fiddler and then as a candidate.

He knew that one-to-one engagement, especially when built on wonder and pleasure, was the strongest tie there was. So he made that personal, gut-level connection before anything else.

When you meet or greet your base as an individual, especially in a way that shows your humanity, special interest or quirk, connection. Your team should do the same from time to time, just like Patricia Wilson, executive director of the Greater Bay Area Make-a-Wish Foundation who launched a diet-based fund-raising campaign to help close the gap on her org’s $200,000 deficit.  It’s nonprofit marketing at its finest – read more case studies here.

Here is Byrd’s strategy. Put it to work for your organization!

“That fiddle has opened many doors for me. I’ve gone into hostile groups that back in those coal-mining towns might have been a group made up of United Mining Workers, or it might have been the opposition in those days. …A Republican lawyer had told me, ‘Bob, you take that fiddle and make that your briefcase.’

“You play a tune or two, put the fiddle down and quote a piece of poetry and tell them what you stand for and sit down. And that’s what I did. And I led the ticket. That fiddle got me places where I couldn’t have gotten in at all.”

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing (and video) success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

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