My local electricity provider does not advertise how to contact them for service.
They assume that if you want power you will “get in touch.” It’s not that they intentionally hide their contact information, they just don’t actively engage the community with the information.
The temptation that comes with offering a product or service that is extremely valuable is that you begin to expect people to come and find you.
When I lived in Cincinnati, I patroned a pizza company who always advertised their phone number in clever ways. The number was on all their print media – napkins, pizza boxes, flyers, billboards. Their commercials rehearsed the one number to call for pizza no matter where you lived in the city. They even put the phone number in their Twitter name.
The difference between the pizza company and the power company is the power company provides something so valuable they assume you will find them when you need them.
The same can be said for the mindset of many nonprofits. Nonprofits cultivate some of the most valuable services in the community. However, it is the value of that relationship which often leads nonprofits to assume people will find them.
Today nonprofits cannot operate like the local utility company. They have to operate like the local pizza company and actively become valuable members of the community.
The presence of the pizza company in Cincinnati went beyond their advertising they were a valuable member of the community. To imagine Cincinnati without this pizza is unthinkable.
Is it unthinkable to your community for your nonprofits doors to close? Would your community miss your organization? I know the members, the staff, and the volunteers would miss it, but would the broader community even notice if your nonprofit folded.
A local grocery store recently went out of business in my neighborhood. Every time I drive to the next-nearest grocery store I think about how nice it was when I had a grocery store in my own neighborhood. I hate the loss of value to my community now represented by an empty building.
If your nonprofit closed its doors tomorrow would people drive by and vaguely wonder, “What did that building use to be?” Or would they see your empty building and be reminded of how the community was better when your doors were open?