I had a fascinating discussion last night over dinner with Dave Martinez. Dave is the executive director of the Placer Food Bank out of Roseville, CA. And during our conversation (filled with really funny stories about the struggles of keeping a food bank up and running) we turned to how his success is evaluated by his board of directors.
"Relationships," was the summation by Dave. I think the number of evaluation points he mentioned were 16. But every single one of them came down to his relationship abilities. And as he said it, everything else he had been talking about came into laser focus. All the various situations and stories he had described to me were solved with the brute force of building relationships with people and seeing where those relationships took him.
There was the neighbor associated with the local TV affiliate who agreed to be a driver, and then turned out to be a recurring spokesperson for the charity through his media connections. There were the local reservation members upset over Dave's bingo operation drawing away their casino revenues, only to be mollified by Dave's solution that would be make them both more profitable. There was the Facebook effort that continues to blossom not by a campaign drive for members, but through their engagement in conversation with the members they have and those members continuing to pass along and encourage the involvement of their friends.
I'm here in Pasadena to talk about social media and how it might help non-profit organizations. But it strikes me that the average NPO is better equipped to integrate a social media strategy than just about any business I've ever run across. It's a natural fit, because it doesn't involve any kind of paradigm shift in thinking. Instead, social is simply the digital version of what already works for them.
It should be interesting to see how the 70+ participants in the room this afternoon respond to what I'm saying. I'm sure the same fears and doubts all businesses feel about online transparency and engagement will be present. As well they should be. (You should know by now that I'm a social pragmatist more than a social cheerleader.) But I am glad I had this conversation with Dave. It helps me to see that a lot of my premises about how social could possibly help an NPO may be right on target.
Look for a post tomorrow sharing some of the essential points from my talk. And thanks to agency Russ Reid for bringing me out for this event. It's been great so far.