Get into Conversation: That’s Matterness

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.

This is a huge problem for nonprofits like yours because social change happens largely through conversations. It happens when your mother/sister/girlfriend/brother/co-worker, tells you about an injustice or a disease and encourages you to help. And this is exactly what social media does best, scales conversations quickly and at no extra cost.

When organizations are speaking with people they create a special sauce I call Matterness: a space where people and organizations come together and help one another, creating a more powerful system. Matterness is important because the alternative of continuing to stay at a distance from people, isn’t working so great. Unhappy customers (or donors or volunteers) used to tell twice as many people about a bad experience as their happy counterparts. But when they’re online, they tell four times as many people! Nearly 70% of complaints on Twitter go unanswered by companies and organizations. Yikes!

Moving to being “in conversation with” begins by asking Matterness questions, rather than broadcasting messages. Here are a few you could start with:

  • Do you feel like you matter to us? Do we make you feel like a person or an ATM machine? Do we feel interested in us or in you?
  • Do we remember who you are, or do you feel new every time you engage with us?
  • Do we reach out to you only when we need something?
  • Do you have a sense of who our people are, what they do, and why they’re here?
  • Have we gone over the cliff of automation, where it no longer feels like human beings are running our effort?

Being in conversation with people means letting go of what organizations can’t control anyway: what people think and do. It takes a lot of effort to reverse the easy slide into anti-Matterness, to quiet the internal noise, intentionally take down the high walls that separate organizations from their own supporters and withstand the pressure to spend every minute of the day checking things off the every growing to-do list. But just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or important.

In the end, smart, generous, uncontrollable people matter the most to your cause, they always have and they always will. To making your people feel they matter more—To Matterness!

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