Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'll Take It Up With My Stakehol...uh, Tribe..no, Base? Umm...*Those* People

Image via IsraBox MP3 Downloads (band: Incognito)
A couple of years ago, Seth Godin started talking about 'tribes' and the online folks got all excited. It was an interesting concept and generated a lot of discussion. I never took to the word*, which was contextually (loosely) defined as people who gather around an idea or a leader. So it's not a term I use in my writing when talking about small not for profits and the communities they serve.

Whaddya Call 'Ems

But lately, I've been thinking about what to call this group of people:
  • Constituents
  • Stakeholders
  • Donors
  • Customers/Clients
  • Community
To me, constituents has a political sound and I've never liked stakeholders (maybe it's just me, but when I hear or write this word, I always get an image of Van Helsing looking for Dracula). Donors works well, but only in particular circumstances. Some people receive your nonprofit's services, so they aren't donors in the sense that they donate money, although they may donate time or contribute in other ways, and let's face it - it's a rather clinical sounding term. Customers sounds retail and Clients could be anything from people who see therapists to people who see hairdressers. I like community because it has a friendly sound, but does it encompass everything you want to say about the people who use your services, those who contribute to those services with their time and/or talents, and those who support those services through donations?

If You Are Looking For An Answer Here, Keep Looking

No, I don't have an answer. It may be that the social networking environment is affecting this as it has affecting marketing, sales, publishing, politics, and many other niches. Everything seems to be spilling over into everything else and the virtual pigeonhole desk where we kept the labels is (has?) become obsolete.

We have, umm, talks (yeah; that's what I'll call them) about genres in writing groups all the time. I'm of the opinion that eventually people will be able to find a book to read by typing in the tags they want: nonfiction, fish, fossil, etc. I'm not sure how this will translate to brick and mortar, but with genres crossing all over the place, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of sense in trying to label a work of writing as just this or that, when it's actually this and that.

Which brings me to an underlying observation that I've made before and probably will again - whatever you come up with to deal with the changing landscape, will eventually have to be changed again to...deal with the changing landscape. There's nothing static here, people. The future has always depended to a certain extent on how flexible you and your nonprofit can be in facing different situations. That will be more true than ever as we move forward.

In the meantime, what do you call your - donors.clients.customers.stakeholders.constituents.community? Tell me by leaving a contribution in the Comments box.

*But then I was never fond of his other word inventions like Squidoo (and Lenses) and Purple Cow (for a great idea).


Pamela Grow is showing a very nice video thank you on her blog. You might want to give this a try!

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