It’s no secret that the American diet isn’t quite healthy and its portions are absurdly and disproportionately large. We’ve all heard the recommendations to eat more like the Europeans: eat several small meals but eat more frequently, eat slowly to give your stomach time to digest, focus more on quality than quantity not only in preparation but during consumption as well. And I have to say, I think the Europeans totally have this piece of their lifestyle right.
There are three aspects of dining that showcase the major distinctions between American and European fare. And it’s important to think about how these aspects influence the diner’s experience. But we can also draw some pretty good lessons from the norms of European consumption when it comes to nonprofits connecting with their supporters.
- Number of courses…or the number of times a nonprofit engages with its constituents.
- Size of portions…or how much information you present to them.
- Flavor …or how meaningful your information is to them.
There are a good number of nonprofits out there that follow the “American way” when it comes to “engaging” their supporters. Here’s the breakdown:
- Number of courses: One. (During campaign season.)
- Size of portions: Super-sized. (Here is EVERYTHING about us and EVERY opportunity for involvement. And when you’re done sorting through that, can you make a donation too?)
- Flavor: Lacking. (There is simply too much going on for anything specific or meaningful to shine through, so supporters don’t have a real grasp of the organization.)
Basically these organizations follow a model of pushing information, events, volunteer opportunities, etc. at their supporters.
Now here’s the breakdown for an organization following the “European way.”
- Number of courses: Many. (Three. Five. Seven. Nine. Whatever the number, there are a series of touch points that compliment and build on the one before it.)
- Size of portions: Small. Sometimes even bite size. (Quality over quantity. Though there may be less information given, it is easier to understand.)
- Flavor: Rich and layered. (Because each touch point has been made manageable and specific, supporters have a clear understanding of the organization, a body of work that may interest them and how to get involved.)
This is what true engagement looks like.
Pushing a whole lot of stuff in front of supporters with the hope that something will be meaningful to them (instead of being more thoughtful and intentional about it) is not a recipe for success if you want to build lasting relationships.
Many nonprofits are guilty of super-sizing their engagement strategies without paying enough attention to the entire experience they’re giving because it puts a strain on time and resources, or just isn’t worth it. But does pushing information at them really pull them into your mission?
In today’s world, nonprofits can’t retain supporters or recruit potential supporters without cultivating relationships. The idea that you can engage with supporters using a few one-offs isn’t going to establish a long-term connection, because at the end of the day they’re just part of a transaction, not a relationship.
So what are you serving to your supporters?