The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Natural history

This morning my daughters announced they wanted to go to the Natural History museum. They seized on the idea of spending an afternoon in the insect room, and I agreed that sounded like a good plan. So we began the hour-long process of getting dressed, combing snarls from my seven-year-old’s waist-length hair, eating a post-breakfast snack, cleaning up the post-breakfast snack, packing more snacks (because my three-year-old views any outing as requiring Edmund Hillary-level preparation), fighting over the toothpaste, brushing teeth, finding lost shoes, putting on shoes, choosing jackets… and then my three-year-old plunged prostrate to the floor and announced she needed a nap. So we decided to delay lift-off. Two hours later, once she woke up, we started the whole preparation process again, and one hour after that, we were buckled in the car, heading downtown.

We had to stop at Blockbuster and RiteAid on the way, and each time the car stubbornly resisted moving from Park to Drive, which I chose to ignore. Then it started acting like my three-year-old had in the morning – dramatically exhausted. And right between the Hirshorn and the National Archives on 7th Street, smack-dab in the middle of the National Mall in the center of a four-lane road, the car decided it needed a nap. It died completely.

Thanks to excellent Geico customer service, a tow truck was dispatched right away. “Closest landmark?” the customer representative asked. “The National Monument and the US Capitol,” I got to say.) In the meantime three separate people pulled over and volunteered to help. One tried to jump-start the slumbering Honda. One offered to push it off the road. And one, an off-duty city worker in a highway construction truck, parked behind me with a giant lit arrow in the back of his vehicle, directing traffic away from my lane. While waiting for the tow truck, the kids and I decided to ride a carousel on the mall and to visit the Hirshorn sculpture garden, which were both next to the scene. Culturally fulfilled, we returned to the car and the tow truck arrived right after. The driver told me he’d drop the car off at the Honda dealership and do the paperwork for me so they’d start work on it in the morning. Wow.

We never made it to the Natural History museum, and we never saw the insects. But it was a beautiful fall day, and we experienced a great deal of human kindness. I like to think that was a better education for the girls than the Madagascar hissing cockroach. Unfortunately, in a city, it is absolutely extraordinary to experience that much civility and kindness in an hour, and I’m glad my girls got to witness it.

It must be the week for kindness, because a Linksys representative on live chat was also extraordinary on Thursday night went my wireless went down. When our chat got disconnected, I re-entered the system and a second representative actually successfully hunted down the original representative for me. Turns out this helper is a real hottie, because my rep thanked me profusely for giving her a reason to interact with him. It was quite the customer service experience, because it was so human. Today was so human too.

Being human does amazing things for you, in life, in business, as a charity. Consider doing these three human things and see if it makes you extraordinary:

1) Human customer care: Have senior staff send a personal email or make a phone call when one of your supporters is upset or unhappy or especially generous. People are absolutely stunned when a Vice President or President or Director takes the time to personally say thanks, or that they are sorry for a problem and sincerely ask how they can fix it. In a world of robot phone systems, a non-templated, sincere response sets an organization apart in the best way. When my Linksys representative talked to me like a real person rather than a problem to be dispensed with, she won me over.

2) Human help: Network for Good Chairman Scott Case rightfully said we put a personal email address or phone number online, in clear view (not hidden behind hundreds of web pages), for when people need help. We’re going to implement this with a holiday campaign for people who can’t find the charity they are seeking to find in our system. Not only do people appreciate it, it’s a valuable source of feedback and audience data for the organization. Keep comments open on your blog. You’ll be far more respected if you let people speak out and engage them in conversation than if you try to control all communication. Look what happens when you don’t let people talk to you. Don’t afraid to admit your flaws; acknowledge them and say how you’re addressing them. People love when you take responsibility!

3) Human faces: Don’t just talk about the number of people you help or the dollars you need, talk about the amazing, honest, human stories behind your programs. That means the stories of both beneficiaries and staff of your organization. Supporters and constituents want to know the real people they are reaching. Think this is obvious? It may be, but it is neglected all the time. If you are a membership organization, or an organization that helps other organizations, you can still do this. Tell the stories of the people that were helped as a result of the programs or partnerships you have. Don’t talk as much about the journey to social change (workshops and partnerships aren’t that interesting except to ourselves), as much you talk about the destination. It’s about who is at the finish line.

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Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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