Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Using an Honest and Open Hand

End of the year and beginning of the next year are the times you'll see a lot of prognostication about trends. I've never been much for resolutions or predicting the future - I figure you don't resolve to do things, you do them or you don't. And the future is just too blurry; things happen that you can't foresee that throw your careful analysis of trends into the garbage disposal. Whirr. Whirr. This is why the rest of the year you see lots of articles that can be summed up as 'Who Knew?' So no Resolutions or predictions from this blog. Lists, yes.

Resolve to List Stuff

Lists are nice because they give direction, goals, and a yes/no method of determining success. As I've mentioned before, I pay attention to what's happening in business, especially small business, because I think small nonprofits can learn from the businessman's never-ending search for improvement of the bottom-line. Over at Small Business Trends, they have a group of lists called Five Website Resolutions To Put On Your List for 2012 (yeah, the title is too long). One of the list groups is called Community and this is what author recommends to businesses:
  • Every business should nurture their customer communities by providing them with tools to spread word of mouth.
    • Customer appreciation days
    • Special offers for regular customers
    • Formal or informal meetings with customer advisory boards
    • Asking customers for ideas to improve products or suggest new product features
    • Provide easy ways to give you feedback or review your business
  • Face to face networking is important
    • Attend local events
    • Business networking and educational events
    • Set aside time and budget to attend and learn ways to increase your business
  • Sponsoring local community events – get involved in local community events, PTA organizations, schools , scout groups.

This list provides some good ideas for your small not-for-profit. You could re-interpret these in terms of your NP community and implement them. Now go further and imagine what you might do that might tie-in to some of your local businesses.

If you know a small business that does a community service that relates to your mission, why not tell your community about it? For example, if you're an environmental NP and you know of a LEED certified printer in town, why not mention it in your e-newsletter or somewhere on your site? By doing this, you'd be accomplishing a couple of things -
  • Increasing the quality of the content on your site or in your newsletter by informing your subscribers
  • Forging a new connection with a business that may become a future partnership

Link-backs are another way to do this. If a small business posts a blog that makes sense and complements your mission, why not include it in your communications? You may hear from the company with a thank you and (maybe, at some point) an invitation to partner on something or discuss an in-kind or sponsorship or something else.

You could also mention the business on your FB page or tweet about them or include their pics or videos on a Pinterest board.

It's a Bigger World Than We Know

And there are more opportunities to extend our networks and communities than we can find by talking exclusively about ourselves and our immediate constituents. The businesses in the same neighborhoods as our NPs are part of the same ecosystem. Lend them an honest and open hand and you may find your gesture reciprocated.

Social media influence is difficult to measure, but anyone can figure out the benefit of making a friend. And if we're less focused on tit for tat we may make more of them.

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