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Your journey to change and transformation

You are on a hero’s journey. I am writing for you and your passionate desire to learn how to harness disruption, innovate in completely new ways and most importantly, transform your nonprofit into a constituent focused machine. You are being introduced to new connected constituents. You are seeing how they progress through a dynamic journey. You are discovering how they respond and behave at each moment of truth about your mission. Generation C’ers are different than their traditional counterparts. You can’t reach them through direct mail. Their phone numbers (remember land lines) aren’t published. They may or may not subscribe to your eNewsletter. You can only reach them if they choose to be reached. They are in control of who they do (or don’t) connect with.

We are learning that our constituents are far more informed than we ever imagined. They are very, very sophisticated in their decision making. They are extremely savvy in their digital prowess. They have a capacity to multitask across multiple platforms and devices during the day and pick up right where they left off at night. We have to adapt to this new world.

We all want to improve the experience for our constituents. We know that experience right now it can be very disjointed. We yearn for our leadership to be innovative and visionary. We want it to be meaningful and not fanciful.

We have this sense that innovation starts with something perhaps simpler than transformation. We must go back to the basics of our mission and vision and align them with desirable outcomes and significant experiences. We may need to invest in programs and services that our constituents may not even know they need yet.

Here is a summary of some of the things we know:

  1. The new reality is the connected constituent that is opening up new touch points for our mission.
  2. How connected constituents are influenced and influence isn’t anything like our traditional constituents are.
  3. They expect something different. They are aligning with our missions for different reasons than we think. Think quality of experience. Think about how we treat our employees and constituents. Consider how sustainable the footprint you are leaving is visible. Obsess over engagement. This is what is important to our new constituents.
  4. The channels they use may never cross other channels. They can be fully contained from beginning to end on one device in one network. My children will sit in front of a very nice iMac searching for content on their smartphone.
  5. On the other hand, sometimes constituents will hop channels. They may look something up on the web and call you. What they expect is a seamless experience. It must be integrated. We have to bring these constituents with common goals together and intentionally design a seamless experience.
  6. Connected constituents value highly being valued. How can we find a new way express value and measure it?
  7. What does it take to connect with connected constituents?
    1. An understanding of how they behave and what they prefer.
    2. Some ability to read between the lines and innovate programs and services.
    3. Define the constituent experience and what it will look like across every channel and journey.
    4. A blueprint on how to change the philosophy, culture and technology to lead (champion) a new era of constituent experiences and engagement.

Simply saying we need to change probably isn’t the most helpful statement. We know that. Change takes, at a minimum, at least two things. First, you really have to want to. Desire and aspiration are essential. Second, it takes determination, stamina, fortitude and sheer will. It all however starts with a vision.

Most nonprofits are exploring new media, different technology, and alternative channels for better constituent engagement. To start with vision may sound trivial. Without vision, I would advocate, there probably won’t be any significant transformation. Transformation follows vision. Your next step may be to be the one to press pause. We can easily fall into the trap of chaotically rushing to the next big thing with understanding “Why are we doing this?” Be the leader to stop and ask why?

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