Optimize Your Contact List for Nonprofit Growth
By: Melissa Lagowski
Founder, CEO and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
You’ve got contacts. Maybe you have a collection of business cards, random notes and emails, or perhaps you’ve started to enter them in a spreadsheet or system. While taking the first step of obtaining contact information is great, it’s what you do next that can make a significant impact on your nonprofit’s growth and the success of its mission. Here’s how to make your contacts count:
Organize Contacts Into a System
All of that general networking has left you with a bunch of business cards, so now what? It’s time to gather your contacts into one place and create a more formalized system. Even if you don’t record every single contact, aim to enter the top-priority or most meaningful ones. Don’t forget to reach out to your organization’s board members and staff, who likely have their own contact lists. Collect all of these different details and build a shared database, whether it’s a simple spreadsheet or fancy CRM system, to tap into the full potential of these connections.
Yes, this is an administrative task and it can be time-consuming but that also means it can be delegated or outsourced. As an example, the team at Big Buzz Idea Group worked with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) to pull together contact information for guests who had attended any of its six regional group meetings. We created a system for each of the regional groups to regularly share and update contacts in one formalized system, in turn helping them more effectively communicate through different channels and ultimately convert contacts into members.
Build a Relationship With Specific Audiences
When you’re trying to establish a relationship with someone, you have to communicate—and do so in a way that provides value to that individual. That means you can’t simply blast a general message to all your contacts and expect a strong response across the board. Coding and segmenting your contact list allows you to speak to each audience in a compelling way and grow more effectively. Which contacts on your list are potential volunteers, funders or members? Reach the right people with the right message. How do you tell your organization’s story to each group? How can you use specific success stories to pull in different audiences? Match your messages and make it relevant.
Stay Connected and Engaged
Conferences, festivals, fundraising events and the like are opportunities to make an initial connection with the community. But so many organizations focus on the event execution itself—and perhaps the collection of contact info—but then miss out on opportunities for follow-up. Think about how all those people who supported your event could become donors and volunteers. This group of attendees is an audience who could be seeking information, promotions and invitations to future events—so it’s your job to make sure they receive them. Create a segmented list for each event to send out promotions for upcoming events and information on local businesses and vendors. Build up the community surrounding each event and keep your contacts engaged.
Our work with “Devon’s Got Talent” is a great example of staying connected post-event. While this client started by creating a contact list at its main event—make it part of your standard protocol to communicate with event guests where they can leave their information, regardless of the size of your event – we helped them take it a step further and use that list to spread the word about other community events and happenings.
If you have a collection of contacts on hand, you have a valuable asset just waiting to be tapped into. By organizing, coding and segmenting your list, you’ll connect with people who have shown interest in your organization and would be great candidates as future donors, volunteers, members and supporters. Make it a priority to engage with them in the new year!