Circus, Cole Porter, and Pioneers, oh my! This is not a random string of nouns. Instead it is a list of subjects I spoke about to people in the community.
I am not a marketer by education or by training. However, in various positions I learned from doing. I learned how to outreach through trial and error and my people person personality.
Outreach was a really good tool for me to use. It helped connect people to becoming members, attending programs, donating money, volunteering, and often dispelling notions of ‘doing nothing.’
How I reached out
I went to the grocery store, county council meetings, Rotary, bowling alley, schools, local restaurants, and almost every other place that I could think of to see people in the community. I stopped to say hello to the people I ran into and made it a point to ask about them, listen to a story, and then share a piece about me or the nonprofit.
What worked was that I went everywhere! I tried to leave no stone unturned. I accepted almost every presentation to clubs and organizations. The reputation that I would present spread and I traveled around the state. One specific presentation led to use of the nonprofit facilities and a donation. It was a win for us!
Attempting to develop a personal relationship at the acquaintance level worked well. People give to people. I found that by getting to know people and sharing a bit about myself, the community members began believing in who I was (an outsider) and what I was doing for the nonprofit. That built support more than anything I had experienced. Word spread about the nonprofit and I as Director, which in turn grew connections.
Another thing that worked was the small community. With only two big grocery stores, there was always a chance you would run into someone. If I went to lunch at one of the handful of local establishments for a meeting, I was bound to run into other people I knew. At one such encounter, I was invited to sit down and have a piece of cheesecake! I didn’t say no.
What did not work
Short answer – nothing! My approach was to speak and engage as many who would give me the opportunity. Starting out in a new community and trying to revitalize the nonprofit, outreach in any capacity was the goal. I did not know what would grow or who would become engaged with the nonprofit.
- Time management – wearing multiple hats meant that I still had a full plate of ‘things’ to do.
- Outreach is not 9 to 5 – I would go grocery shopping on my days off. That meant that I was talking to people outside of my 40 hour work week. I made a personal choice to continue connecting with people no matter what day or hour.
- Be proactive – ask about giving a presentation, approach people.
- Listen and share too! – My ears were open. Open to what people said about themselves and things they were saying about the community. When I saw an opportunity to share about myself or the nonprofit I jumped right in.
The take away
- No matter what hat or how many hats you wear, I found it extremely beneficial to always wear an outreach hat. I was planting seeds all the time and many of them grew into great connections for the nonprofit.
- It’s a small world! Even though my example is in a small community, this can be applied to any community. If it’s a big city, start in your neighborhood. Plant your seeds and watch what grows.