How should you spend your time: Building your list, or building relationships?

Graphic by attivitoso on Flickr

Graphic by attivitoso on Flickr

I came across an article on Lifehacker today about applying the "80/20 rule" to networking.

The general premise is that you should spend 20 percent of your time cultivating new contacts, and 80 percent of your time strengthening the relationships you already have.

How many of us do this in the nonprofit sector? 

Which metrics do you value? 

Many of our metrics seem to weigh heavily on the side of acquiring new donors, new names for the list, new event attendees. As a result, I feel like there's often not enough appreciation, and therefore not enough time devoted to, building relationships with those who are already on our lists.  (This can vary, depending on the culture of your organization, of course.)

What happens when you add social data to the mix? 

This is one of the reasons social data is so valuable.  Trying to deepen relationships with people en masse is nigh-impossible, but by adding data from people's public social media accounts to your database, you can better segment and target your communications in a way that makes the person feel closer to your organization.

For instance, if you run an animal rescue-focused nonprofit, knowing that someone on your list is a "dog person" or a "cat person" is useful when determining which graphic should appear at the top of your e-newsletter for that person. (PETA does this, and it works well.) If you work for a university, and you know which people on your list are parents with kids living at home, having your subject line focus on "the next generation" and "making the university great for your kids" for that group is something to experiment with.  Little tweaks focused on personalizing your content can deepen a person's investment in your organization over time.

And when it comes to major donors, having a better idea of who the person is before you pick up the phone or meet them for lunch will accelerate the process of strengthening that relationship.  For example, if you knew from someone's Twitter feed that they have a small child at home, you might opt not to call them in the later evening, when the child is being put to bed. You might also tailor your conversation, when you do ultimately talk with them, to focus on how your nonprofit will improve the lives of the next generation.

Finally, if you're planning an event, knowing who on your list is both deeply invested in your cause and a rockstar on social media can help you build a small group of stakeholders, whom you can arm with specific messaging for getting the word out and encouraging others to participate.

How does your organization focus on relationship-building, whether through segmenting your list or through one-on-one interactions?