Saturday morning my husband and I volunteered to work in a local garden. It was part of a Day of Service that our son’s school was coordinating. We worked alongside fellow parents and some students—most of whom we had never met before. As with most service opportunities, we gained so much more than we gave.
We teach our clients that finding meaningful ways to engage with donors and prospective donors is the key to building strong relationships. Saturday I was reminded that this really is good advice. Donors and volunteers want to connect with your organization in meaningful ways. They choose to serve or support your organization because they believe in the power of your mission. When you give them a chance to be a part of that mission in action, a relationship can begin.
Later that night, we attended a parent social hosted by the school. There were lots of folks there that we knew, but the highlight of the night was spending time in the silly photo booth with our new friends from the service project. It was a perfect example of the power of engagement.
It is true that we might have met these parents from the garden project at the social. We would have had a polite conversation I’m sure, but instead, we had a shared experience from earlier in the day. Because we hauled mulch, built planting beds, and weeded together, we now have a bond. As we worked, we had time to really converse beyond just the small talk we would have shared had we simply met at the social event. We have begun a relationship.
I know that I will talk with these parents the next time I see them at a game or a performance. I will reach out to them if I need help with a teacher appreciation event or a reception that I am charged to organize. I know I will say yes if they ask me to help with something they are coordinating.
Some donors and volunteers really want to get their hands dirty with your work, others simply want to offer advice, and some just want to write a check. It is up to you to know what constitutes meaningful engagement for your audience. Then, work hard to make it happen. The efforts you make in building relationships will bear fruit.
Before our time in the garden, I did not know these fellow parents at all. Now, we have begun a relationship through our shared experience. Who knows how it will grow!