In week two of SIB, Richard Banfield, CEO of Fresh Tilled Soil, led a session about designing your a career to align with your passions and values. When it came to defining your true passions, Rich recommended reflecting on what you liked to do as a young child. It’s interesting to contemplate that there might be a correlation between the activities you naturally gravitated towards as a child and the passions you should design your career around.
After reflecting on this question, I couldn’t seem to derive any useful insights from my childhood. So I called my mom, told her about the session, and asked for her input. Her response was immediate, “You liked building things.” She reminded me of a carnival set with intricate little pieces that I would spend hours building, just to take down and start over. My preschool had a woodshop (weird and pretty unsafe sounding, I know), and I spent weeks working with my teacher to build a small table and two chairs. I loved that project. My mom hit the nail on the head (no pun intended), I do like to build things.
How does this relate to my career trajectory? Well, I did quit my job with the goal of joining a startup because I want to be part of building a company from the ground up. I guess I never really lost my desire to build, but I’ve found that what I love building now is relationships and communities.
As a major gifts fundraiser for a political advocacy organization, I learned the importance of building strong communities to strengthen donor relationships. Donors that have a continuous relationship with an organization are more likely to continue their support, but with our donors scattered across the country, keeping them engaged throughout the year was an ongoing challenge. Thus, we established Leadership Councils in Chicago and DC. Donors that joined these localized groups committed to attending quarterly events and agreed to fundraise for our yearly gala in their respective cities.
These donors formed relationships with one another and became brand ambassadors for NARAL Pro-Choice America. They leveraged their network to grow revenue for the organization and felt stronger ties to the organization due to their increased involvement. By establishing a community, we were able to cultivate relationships with these donors year-round in a way that would not have been possible on an individual basis. Generally, donors that joined Leadership Councils increased their giving. The benefits of dedicating time and resources to building donor communities were abundantly clear.
Forming strong communities is equally important in the business world. In fact, there is a whole profession dedicated to it: community management. I’ve been researching this field and networking with community managers for the past few weeks, and I’m learning that the tactics used are similar to the tactics applied when managing a donor community.
It’s the community manager’s job to foster relationships and give customers an avenue to engage with the brand on a consistent basis. A strong customer community can add value to both the company and the customer. It will provide more efficient customer support through peer -sharing, as customers will engage with one another to share best practices and answer simple “how to” questions. The community will provide constant feedback loops as they reveal current pain points and provide insight to the type of product they want, thus improving the innovation cycle. Finally, you will be able to identify and connect happy customers with prospects considering your product. There is no better marketing tactic than highlighting customers that are already using and willing to champion your brand.