04 Oct Are You Communicating Wins?
I read with interest this article from the Harvard Business Review, Three Ways to Turn Setbacks into Progress. The article builds on research from Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer on the “power of small wins” in motivating employees.
I read it thinking about motivating land trust donors.
Here’s what Amabile and Kramer say:
“The progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run…..Everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.”
I’m seeing lots of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth at the seemingly daily reports of donor withdrawal. At the very moment in history when government leaders are turning to non-profit organizations to pick up the slack from defunded programs, foundation giving is declining, corporate support is flat, and ten percent of individual philanthropists say they will quit giving altogether until the economy improves.
Yikes! How do we motivate our donors to continue giving at all, much less increase giving?
Donor support can be seen as an exchange relationship: the donor invests in the organization. The organization gets something done. The donor is gratified – but only if progress is communicated.
Organizations that continue to survive through this “recession”, much less thrive, will be organizations that communicate regularly to their constituencies that the donor investment continues to pay off.
Amabile and Kramer suggest that managers focus on small achievable wins to motivate employees. I suggest that there is a lesson there in motivating donors as well. Consider the following re-write of Amabile and Kramer’s paragraph:
“The progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions for donors, the single most important is communicating progress in mission work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be loyal donors in the long run……..Everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and contribute.”
Look at your communication pieces through this lens. Are you communicating progress? – Projects completed, acres brought under protection, habitat restored, ecological value improved, species diversity expanded, and so on? Or are you communicating about your fundraising goal progress, strategic plan completed, and meetings held?
“The power of progress is fundamental to human nature.” –Amabile/Kramer
As always, your comments, stories, thoughts, and questions about this post are appreciated.
Interesting sites and posts I’ve seen in the last week:
- Here’s an article from The Agitator, and a link to Mashable, on turning fans into advocates. See, everyone’s talking about it!
- Just about every land trust I work with uses a “letter from the director” in newsletters and annual reports. Here are some great tips on making them short and effective.
- Does your web page have a DONATE NOW button? Does it direct the reader to a secure donation page? Read this for what NOT to do.
- It’s not what happens that defines failure; it’s what you learn from it (or don’t).
- “In tough economic times “relationships” sustain an organization, not a magic number of donors.”