Over the summer, I did something that really showed me how relationship building works to serve your nonprofit and why it is at least as important as the work you do for your community.
Here in sunny Florida, it takes work to have beautiful, picturesque landscaping. My grass would not stay alive without lots of water and chemicals – neither of which are great for the bank account or environment. So, I planned a landscaping project to reduce the environmental detriment and create a beautiful yard. Being an archaeologist in a past life (we’ll save that story for another day), I am no stranger to playing in the dirt and working outside. I could not wait!
Implementing My Plan
I hired a landscape company to create a design and assist with the “heavy lifting” like removing and hauling away the existing grass, weeds, and shrubs, moving the irrigation line, and planting new sod. The design included creating a large plant and flower bed in an area that was intended to be a nice grass lawn but was nearly all weeds, and even those were dead.
To save money, I decided to have the mulch delivered and spread it myself; 15 cubic yards (or approximately 20 tons) of mulch to be exact (pictured above). When it was delivered, the pile was waaay bigger than I imagined. So, I put a post on social media inviting anyone locally to come on over for some Saturday fun with a promise of lunch and laughs included. You’ll never guess what happened….
My posts got lots of likes, loves, “go girl!” etc. but not a single person took me up on the offer.
SHOCKING I know. One neighbor did stop by and help for about 45 minutes, and I got my teenager and her friend to “help” for an hour or so. I worked for three solid days to spread the mulch.
Relationship Building – More Fun and Less Work
Now I admit, my offer left a lot to be desired. But even if my post said, “Come to a party with free mimosas and brunch,” with no mention of the mulch pile, I doubt that many people would have stopped by. Maybe creating an event on Facebook and sharing it once or twice would have brought a few.
But, when you throw a party, how do you really get people to come? I’m sure you start with inviting people you know, face to face or with a direct text. You knock on your neighbors’ doors and talk it up to people you pass by in the hallway at work. You call people from out of town and ask your friends to tell their friends that this great thing is happening. Then, you follow up to make sure they are coming. In short, getting people to your party relies on cultivating relationships that you have and expanding from there.
Moving a mountain of mulch is more akin to what nonprofits are asking people to do though, but guess what? The same actions will get you help. You start with who you know and build from there. All I had to do was call some friends ahead of time. Even better if they love being outside or would do anything for a slice of pizza and a beer. I have plenty of those friends! And, they have similar friends. I could have had enough people to move the mulch pile in a single morning. It would have morphed into a mulch moving party with great comradery, lots of laughs, and the joy of accomplishment as a team.
Moral of this story…Relationship Building is The Foundation of Growing Your Good Work
Did the mulch get moved? Yes, it did! But it took longer, and as a result, there were things that did not get done. This blog, for one, is just getting written and posted over two months later. I missed the opportunity to go with my kids to the beach that beautiful weekend. It is only 15 minutes away after all; it rained for the next week. And, I lost a chance to make memories and connect with friends through achieving a shared goal.
It takes more work than just social media posts and websites to build donor or client relationships. Spending the time to build relationships – regular communication about the things they care about, visiting them in person when possible, providing them with a way to connect with you and others, and expressing gratitude in multiple ways – will help you get and keep the resources your nonprofit needs to move its “mulch piles.” Check out these 5 Relationship Building Hacks by classy.org for more about building relationships in nonprofits.
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