They say the best conversationalists are gifted at making even the mundane somehow interesting. Like a killer game of hot potato, they never let the conversation drop. But as most of us know, this takes LOTS of skill. And most importantly, it means you have to focus on - and involve - the other person.
This is where many nonprofits get stuck. They kick-off a brilliant conversation with a new activist and get them all revved-up on an issue (“Here! Check out this potato. It’s sooo hot!”) The activist responds excitedly and tosses it back (“Wow! You’re right. Who knew potatoes could get so hot?!”) The nonprofit is so thrilled and so overwhelmed that the supporter is actually participating, that they don’t know what else to do besides throw back more potatoes. (“Oh! So, you like potatoes?? I’ve got lots more where that came from!”) Queue the deluge of starchy, carb-filled goodness.
There’s the rub - just because a supporter becomes engaged in one way does not (and should not) mean that they are forever locked in there. If nonprofit communicators want deeper engagement, then they need to keep conversations fresh (“Yeah, potatoes get really hot, but so do muffins! Whaddaya think?”).
Here are three ways nonprofits are working - and winning - at hot potato, er, supporter engagement:
1. They ask good questions like Ceasefire Oregon.
2. They keep it open-ended like Save the Chimps.
3. They are generous like Polar Bears International.