Now that you have breathing room...
Use it wisely, and reap the benefits when the pandemic is over
If you work for a nonprofit right now, it might feel as if the sky is caving in. Your events are cancelled, your fundraising plans have gone south, and you and your fellow staff are likely working from home (or the nearest Starbucks!). It all seems impossible.
What’s a nonprofit to do? Sitting and fretting, or trying to guess when this will be over, isn’t so productive. Catching up on movies and family is wonderful, but in terms of the work part — our missions and causes are just as important now as they were last month.
I have a prescription.
For years, I’ve been asking development people and nonprofit CEO’s to look more deeply into their customer databases and general mailing lists. Because nobody ever has enough time, only the top 20% (if we’re lucky) really get looked at deeply enough to understand what those donors (or prospective donors) are about.
I guarantee you that there is “gold in them thar hills” (thank you, Mark Twain).
So here’s what you do. It’s called the “Five Minute Google Search”. Divide up the names on your entire list(s) and give chunks of the list to anyone and everyone on your staff. From the finance person to the events person to the program person and beyond, everyone can do this job while working from home.
The goal is to find as much as you can about every single person on the list — in five minutes — that you can. You’re basically creating a mini-profile of each person. Make sure to do this on every adult in your database — i.e. if your mailing shows “Mr. and Mrs. Brown”, make sure to do the FMGS on each of them.
Here are some additional tips:
Include photos if you find them.
Extra “points” if the photo has other people in it who you might be able to identify (the identification of the others is fairly easy to do later on via various free online programs.)
Don’t limit the info you’re looking for to anything in particular — the goal is to get the most robust profile of the person that you can find within the five minutes. Any information found may be useful in the future.
Think of the search as “finding factoids”. That makes it fun, as short, interesting facts are what you’re after.
Curb the inclination to focus on the usual criteria of home value, political donation, etc. and call it a day. That information is far less useful than other information that you will find.
Don’t worry that you’re doing something inappropriate. Not only is this not stalker behavior, it’s good business. Colleges and universities have been using searches way more extensive than this for years — check out this recent Washington Post article on the subject.
If you’re nervous about someone else on your team looking into one of your “big” donors, remove those names from the overall list at the outset. Take note, though — a fresh set of eyes looking at someone you think you know well may provide some info that can surprise you.
Do this for your entire list. This is a moment in time that is highly unusual, and you may never get this chance again.
A note: In the spirit of supporting any nonprofit staff or board members out there during this challenging time, I’ll be using this column/blog as a way of answering your questions — about the Five Minute Google Search or about anything else you might want to know from this donor’s perspective.
Please email me any questions, and I’ll answer as many as possible via newsletter.
Thanks, and be safe!