I’m reading Beth Kanter and Alison Fine‘s great book “The Networked Non Profit” at the minute. In it the authors talk about an organisations social capital. They make a great point that we sometimes over-estimate our social capital (connections within and between social networks).
They give an example of someone who asks their friends to donate to a cause because they are doing something, let’s say a run for the cause. The donation is actually being made by you to your friend, the organisation or cause really is secondary. If you identify with it perhaps you may donate a higher amount.
Organisations see this person as a donor, which they are, but they are only lightly connected to the cause. So to start communicating with them in the same way you do with the person who is actually doing the run for your cause isn’t appropriate, the donor and organisation have no social capital. This can be built up over time, so the first step should be to build the ties.
I currently receive communications from two organisations in this way and I wish that my relationships with them had been built up, as a result of how the relationship has been developed I rarely click on their emails. I think this highlights the importance of a great database, know who your donor is, how they came to you and what kind of relationship you really have with them.