Getting on The List | npENGAGE

Getting on The List

By on Aug 15, 2011


The List

The ListSeth Godin came out with a list where he essentially asked the question “How do you prioritize life?” It’s well worth the read as it makes you think personally about how you go about filtering (aka prioritizing).

But it’s also very though provoking in terms of our work in the nonprofit space.

As I read his list I started thinking about how priorities affect fundraising.

Priorities play a KEY role when it comes to achieving what you set out to accomplish. Your nonprofits priorities, your priorities and the priorities of the world of people you’re trying to engage (supporters, donors, volunteers, etc) all play a role.

If we apply this to fundraising it comes down to one simple thing. Getting on the list. Getting  people to prioritize you. Your Organization. Your work. Your cause. Your passion.

Take a look over the list and you’ll see what I mean …

– Email from your boss
– Personal note from a good friend
– Three or four recommendations from trusted colleagues, each with the same link
– A trending topic on Twitter
– The latest on Reddit
– Phone call from your mom
– File on the intranet you’re supposed to read before the end of the week
– Spam email from a stranger
– Tenth note from Eddie Bauer, this one to an email address you haven’t used in a year
– Post on Google + from a friend of a friend
– Facebook update from someone you haven’t seen in ten years
– Angry tweet from someone you’ve never met
– Commercial on the radio that’s playing softly in the background
– Email from someone who had your back one day when it really and truly mattered
– !!!urgent marked email from the HR department about the TPS reports
– Text message on your phone from your husband
– Phone message from the kid’s principal
– Tweet from the handler of a celebrity who is pretending to be the celebrity
– Story that’s repeated endlessly on cable news because a producer thought it would get good ratings
– Handwritten love note from a current crush
– New review in the Times of a restaurant you happen to be going to tonight
– Obviously bulk snail mail from a charity you donated to three years ago
– Latest volley in a flame war
– Blank sheet of paper quietly waiting for your next big innovation
– Comment on a blog post you wrote three days ago
– New post by your favorite blogger, delivered via RSS
– Book in the bookstore, next to the cash register
– Newest negative review of your business on Yelp
– Movie playing across town
– TV commercial on a show you’ve got on your DVR
– Book on back shelf of a bookstore, newly put there by the manager, who doesn’t know what you like
– Tweet from someone who really, really wants you (and everyone else) to follow her
– Rebecca Black’s new video
– Sales pitch on your voicemail


The interesting thing about figuring out how to get on the list is that you can approach it in two ways:

1) By focusing on “making it” – getting on the list.

2) By focusing on getting into the top 5 – becoming a “top priority”.

Both have a chance at succeeding. One requires you to get on thousands upon thousands of lists (the masses). The other requires you to get to the top of a much shorter list of lists (the evangelists).

Two Questions for You

How are you getting people to make your organizations work a priority in their lives?  Are you focused on the masses or the evangelists? Why?



Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

Comments (8)

  • Chris Tuttle says:

    Great post, Frank… very thought provoking. But Eddie Bauer, really? 🙂

    I work to make the important things a priority by scheduling time for them, and also instituting systems and routines that make it easier to ensure they remain a priority.  For example, if creating an engaging website is the priority, I know I need to monitor Web Analytics in order to ensure I know what’s working and what’s not–and make changes or take advantage of opportunities–accordingly.  But just like every one, I get bogged down by the day-in/day-out routines that you mention above (sans Eddie Bauer or Rebecca Black’s new video.  Really, Frank?  Really?).  
    So to ensure this remains a priority, I schedule Analytics to email me the 1st of each month.  I read those reports while running at the gym, and think of 4 things I can change that month to improve the website, scheduling those one a week each.

  • Ifdy Perez says:

    Tough but important question to ask. I know many nonprofits think that everything on their plate is a priority, but narrowing them down to a manageable list (my preference is three at a time) doesn’t mean you won’t get to the other important things later. I’d order them based on deadline, impact/reach, and plausibility of completing it in a timely manner. If I knock out those three, I can move onto the next feeling accomplished. 

    By turning the “I” into a “we,” nonprofits can follow the same model during strategic planning. I think it also applies when working to get on others’ priority lists (e.g. potential donors); if nonprofits are able to find where their audience is and join the conversation, people will begin to see the nonprofit fits in their interests, making it easier for them to engage in the conversation, develop a relationship w/the nonprofit, and eventually move them up in their priority list. Obviously, the nonprofit has some work to do when engaging their users the right way… there are plenty of resources out there on that so I won’t get into it. 🙂

    • frank barry says:

      Great point in terms of “connecting with supporters to help get your cause moved up on their personal priority list”. I think that’s a critical piece to the puzzle.

  • Really excellent post! I always love insights into shifting our paradigm to really see what donors care about.One thing I’ve seen work to great success is less “selling” and more “empowering”. In other words, if we give supporters really amazing tools to support the cause along side an amazing story of what the cause is all about, then it empowers those supporters to become evangelists and bringe more supporters in from the fringe.  Countless causes have had terrific success with this:
    – with their rallies and marches around the world, produced by supporters.
    – Toms shoes giving colleges materials to start their own Toms movement on their campus’
    – Food, Inc. documentary with their home viewing parties
    – and the list goes on.

    Now the really interesting thing about any of these empowerment campaigns is that the communication does not come from the cause, it comes from the person you know. So since I know Chris Tuttle (albeit virtually), he might just open an email from me inviting him to my NYC studio for a  documentary viewing party with good food and libations, but if it came from the cause it might not have the same possible influence on him.

    For us at Mark & Phil, this is kind of the epicenter of what we believe to be the core strategic thinking  in establishing the “new supporter”.

    • frank barry says:

      You actually said exactly what I was thinking as I wrote this …

      These campaigns work well because … “the communication does not come from the cause, it comes from the person you know”.

      Great bit of information to call out Daniel. Really appreciate you stopping by.

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