a wrench for every nut

How do you prevent certain stakeholders from seeing all this newfangled stuff…the videos, the blogging, etc. and not think that they’re spending too much money on all this stuff. In other words, how does an organization get buy-in from key people it needs? Prior to establishing these strategies?

(From a comment left recently on The Nonprofit Consultant Blog, via Beth Kanter.)

This is something I struggle with every day, and I know I’m not alone. I touched on the topic recently in this post, in which I just talked about blogging, but really it extends to all this “new media” stuff.

Here’s the thing: it’s tough to pitch new products to people without addressing a pre-existing need.

Yes, yes, I know and you know that blogs, podcasting, and other social media are cheap, easy, and highly scalable. But try telling that to the folks who make the decisions in your organization — they probably just go tediously banging on about your “mission” or your “bottom line.” What a drag.

Well, they’re right. Anything you do should advance your mission, and be cost-effective.

Also, you’re right. Social media can be highly effective in advancing the missions of nonprofits of many kinds, while keeping the finance committee very happy, lighthearted, and gay.

But how to bridge the gap? You both want the same thing, really.

Honestly, there’s a reason why they call it “buy-in.” This is sales.

How do you sell? As Geoff Livingston put it so succinctly in his latest Seesmic post (and, a few minutes later, he blogged it)

  1. Know who you’re talking to, and
  2. What they care about.

Or, to put it another way, you have to convince your audience that what you are proposing is a solution to a problem.

So, what’s the problem?

What matters most to your board of directors, your executive director, at this point in your organization’s evolution?

Is it:

  • Getting more donors (individual, discrete people)
  • Getting more donations overall (total dollar amount)
  • Increasing awareness of your mission/cause/services
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Increasing staff efficiency and internal systems

These are all common concerns of nonprofit boards. What sort of technology/system/social media/software would best address each of these needs?

You have to remember that technology is just a tool, a way, a means. Focus on the end, not the means, and the answer will reveal itself.

What’s your (or your board’s, or your organization’s) greatest need? What’s the most pressing goal?

Select your tool accordingly.

Now when you go in to suggest an organizational blog, twitter account, wiki space, podcast (or whatever), you aren’t suggesting a blog (etc) at all. You’re suggesting an innovative, inexpensive, and scalable solution to a problem both you and your audience agree you have.

Remember: you and your board/organization/executive director are all on the same side. You all want the same thing. For the organization to thrive, fulfill its mission, and remain sustainable.

You just happen to have a slightly different tool kit than they are used to. It won’t matter, if you can show them how well you can tighten that bolt.


One response to “a wrench for every nut

  1. I think that’s a great point about showing the problem and the solution. I’m also a firm believer in showing the benefits, by the results of others, and providing ‘expert’ opinions of others that make the case to show value.

    For example, I was just now taking a break from transcribing an interview with Rich Bradway at the Boston Symphony. He tells an amazing story. The BSO decided to experiment with podcasts last year and the result was a directly attributable increase of online ticket sales of 50%. That’s about 40% higher then their historic increase of online sales which I think is pretty incredible. These kind of examples can help make the case.



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