In October, Blackbaud and MCON came together to host a dinner for more than 80 individuals to answer the following questions, what do we think needs to happen to get others to stand up for social issues and what is standing in our way from making remarkable change happen?
The idea was to bring thought leaders together to talk openly, authentically, and with purpose about what’s happening today with individuals engaging with causes and what organizations can do to inspire people who are working for change. This gathering was so important because Blackbaud and MCON see the power of what’s possible when dialogue happens between those that desire to make change happen. Throughout the discussion four major themes emerged that I would like to share with you today.
4 Major Themes Inspiring Change for Good
1. Inspire grassroots efforts
The way in which organizations have historically used influencers in the past has changed. Influencers are no longer limited to key stakeholders like CEOs, they are now brand ambassadors who can speak to their peers in an organic way. We need to adapt our efforts to be a social good democracy that allows anyone to rise and be part of the movement, supporting it from underneath as opposed to supporting it from above. Allowing influencers to serve as brand ambassadors will help carry our message further through word of mouth and social media, allowing others to feel as though they are choosing to take part in your movement as opposed to being told to.
2. There is no ceiling on opportunity
We are all empathetic people and we are all generous. There is so much that is left on the table because organizations and leaders struggle to move interest to deeper action. This is often because leaders have not been equipped with the knowledge or skills to progressively move people through constituency programs. We need to take advantage of these opportunities to amplify our reach. Professor James Coan at the University of Virginia has studied the power of empathy. Through his research, Coan found that an individual has empathy within him- or herself because individuals want to act on another’s behalf when he or she feels what the sufferer feels and they want to be a social support mechanism. If we can improve our leader’s ability to invoke empathy in others that opens up a lot of opportunities for nonprofits.
3. Support the ground level
The hierarchical structure that we created in our field needs to be reduced. We need to ensure that leadership isn’t talking about the ground level, instead they should be supporting the ground level. We as leadership need to understand that there is going to be self-organizing around issues we represent and not compete with those self-organizers on the issue, but support them. If we remind ourselves that the end goal is to help others we can set our egos aside and focus on supporting all our team members instead of competing. At the end of the day we all want to help, and we need each other to make a bigger footprint.
4. Utilize technology wisely
We recognize today that there are many avenues and opportunities to deliver a message. But we must be better about prioritizing how we use technology, and how we use the acquired data points on individuals to help move them along to act on an issue. Building a constituency base and progressively communicating helps to move the individual forward. Constantly blasting things out or talking about issues without the use of data is not effective. The data points allow us to be much more strategic and we should take advantage of them. Creating individualized messages for each unique audience your organization speaks to will greatly improve your outcome. Through research we know that donors are willing to continue contributing to your organization when they are informed of exactly how their donation is being used. A great way to utilize technology is to create a customized message informing donors of where exactly their donation is being used.
Successful movements aren’t owned by an organization or single entity; they’re owned by the people who comprise the movement itself. These conversations need to continue if social movement builders and leaders hope to be successful in harnessing the power of individuals for a common purpose. Understanding what we can do as leaders to support how people engage with causes is critically important if we hope to capture their interest and enthusiasm and convert it into action. We know that we don’t have all the answers, and that’s why we invite you to share what you think about this question of what do we need to do to move more people to do more good. Share your thoughts below.