Monday, 2 February 2015

Engagements to Deepen Relationships

By Paul Born, President, Tamarack,  An Institute for Community Engagement

A museum has the ability to attract many visitors each year. Most of these visitors purchase a ticket, enjoy the museum collection, and leave.

What would it look like if we created a more robust approach, becoming more deliberate in deepening our client relationships?


Lucy shared with me the story of her museum. When the museum developed a loyalty program, everything changed. Not only were members recognized for their involvement, staff started to notice and think differently about those members who were most involved. The loyalty program made all those who were involved more loyal. Firs, members were recognized for the number of years they had been involved. Those that had been members for ten years or more were given a gold card. Members were also given credit for the number of visits they made each year, by simply placing a sticker on their seasons pas each time they came. Lastly the museum has an annual reception for those in the loyalty program, with awards and gifts. Deepening relationships is so often about doing the small things really well.

Top five ideas to consider:

1. Define your goals. Clearly identify what a deeper relationship would look like. At Tamarack, we have thousands of new ‘explorers’ who visit our website every year. Our first goal is to have them provide their e-mail addresses and grant us permission to send them information. Individuals or groups who achieve this stage of engagement are called ‘members’. Our desire is for our members to be as effective as possible and to sign up for one of the many workshops we provide. We consider people engaged at this level as ‘partners’, and develop special commitments with them. Lastly we encourage our partners to contribute their knowledge to the group, and in turn, create co-generative peer-learning. These contributing individuals are then called ‘associates’ and are invited to form communities of practice. What is your approach to deepening relationships with people who care about your work?

2. Keep current members informed. It sounds basic, but to give people who care about you the ability to stay in touch is the best way to deepen the relationship. The challenge is to find a way to tell your story so people will listen. At Tamarack we now send an e-magazine to all our members, we use twitter and Facebook for those inclined to follow our story that way, and as often as possible, we send personal notes. How do you keep those who care about your work informed?

3. Create opportunities for member involvement and evolution. People want to deepen their relationships with organization that they care about. We need to give them opportunities to do so. At Tamarack, we are now considering a loyalty type program in which members get specific discounts and people can “earn” higher status. We are trying to be intentional in recognizing a deepening relationship with people that care about us – what approach might you take?

4. Keep your friends. Your mother may have reminded you, when you had a falling out with a class mate, “It is easier to keep friends than make them”. The same is true with deepening relationships and growing your network of loyal supporters. Never take members for granted. At Tamarack we love to say thanks often - how do you thank those members that care about your work?

5. Thank your friends. Keeping friends is all about caring about them, and caring about them is the best way to say thank you.  The job of thanking friends is everyone’s in the organization – it is in all the staff and volunteers job description: to first thank each other, and then to thank those who support the good work we all care so much about.

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