Weepy Mom Moment
This fall, my oldest child started high school. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal for me, but when I dropped him off for his first day of school, I broke down in tears. The poor kid was shocked and horrified (rightly so). By nature, I’m not an emotional person, but at that moment I realized what a big moment the first day of high school is for him and for me. Specifically, I fully realized that in four short years, my boy would be an adult and would (should) be leaving our home.
Creating Meaningful Moments
Soooo, like any normal person, I vowed that I would make the most of the next four years with him. I was going to make sure we had experiences that he would (eventually) cherish. The first thing on my list was to book a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. I’m not a fan of theme parks, but our entire family enjoys Harry Potter (the books as well as the movies), and I thought experiencing Harry Potter in real life would be an ideal family experience. My son has read the entire series at least five times, and this is something that should be right up his alley.
Wizarding World…Not My Child’s Dream Vacation
Did you notice that I said the Wizarding World “(should)” be right up his alley? Well, something about my boy that I love, is that he is an absolute homebody. His favorite thing to do is to stay at home, and if you ever ask him the best part of his day, it’s always going to be coming home. I don’t know why I thought that he would feel differently about this, but I did. To be clear, he didn’t hate the experience, but I had hoped he would be mesmerized by it, and he most definitely was not. I shouldn’t have been surprised by his “meh” attitude towards it, and yet, I was.
I so badly wanted to believe that his love of Harry Potter would override his preference of being at home. Yes, he loves Harry Potter, but he loves reading the books and using his imagination to experience the Wizarding World. I tried to put my expectations onto him, and I should have known better.
Are You Disregarding Your Supporters Preferences?
All too often, not-for-profit (NFP) professionals unintentionally disregard the preferences of our supporters. We think we are acting in the best interest of the supporter, but in reality we are doing what best serves us, as the individual representative of the organization. When we do this, we risk alienating our strongest supporters and losing their commitment to our organization and mission.
For example, say that you’re hosting your annual gala which will provide scholarships for your art classes. You have a supporter who loves your organization and mission, and believes that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic position, should have access to your art classes. However, this person DETESTS dressing up and going to fancy events. In your mind, since this person believes in scholarships for classes, you ask them to support the gala by purchasing a table. You figure that the end justifies the means. Unfortunately, your supporter is thinking, “this organization doesn’t get it; I don’t like any aspect of events, and I can’t believe they would ask me to attend.” If you do this one too many times (and of course, this varies for each individual), you have lost an avid supporter of your organization and its mission.
In the above example, this donor would have been happy to make a straight-out donation to scholarships, as they had in the past. But, the organization messed up, and thought it was the same thing to ask this person to support their gala. It was easier for the staff to do that ask, and even though they knew how the donor felt about events, they figured the donor would connect the dots that the end justifies the means.
It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
I know that most NFPs are short on time and resources. If we can, we will find ways to lessen our burden. Unfortunately, when it comes to our supporters, we have to understand their priorities and preferences. We must truly comprehend which preferences we should weigh more than others. This means building authentic relationships and truly taking the time to know each supporter as an individual.
Don’t make the mistake I made with my son, whose preference to stay at home overrode his love of Harry Potter. Yes, we had a great time, but he would have preferred staying at home, watching the movies and playing Harry Potter themed games, rather than going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even though providing this experience made me feel like the “awesome mom,” in my son’s eyes, I would have been “the best” mom if we interacted on his level.
Now is the time for NFPs to get it together on how we interact with our supporters. Stop making it about you, and be sure to always make it about them.