How Does Listening Lead to Impact?

Man Listening
Image by Melvin Gaal

“We need to listen more,” Jeff Raikes, President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy when asked about 2012 New Year’s Resolutions for the nonprofit sector. “We should agree to work together as a sector to accelerate progress on measuring the impact of our work and using the results to make our work better. Together we can learn to use measurement, information, and data to continually improve our efforts to accelerate the change in the world we all seek.”

In 2012, how are you going to not only listen more–but listen better? Let’s discuss how we can accomplish this when it comes to social media.

How To Listen

With social media, the concept of listening is a basic one. Practitioners often preach “listening” as a core practice to social media success when it comes to communications and fundraising. For nonprofits, social media listening includes identifying:

  • –Who you’re listening to,
  • –What you’re listening for,
  • –When you’re going to listen,
  • –Where you listen, and
  • –Figuring out the best strategy on “how” to listen

People and organizations use a variety of free or paid listening tools combined with a strategic set of keywords to extract data and develop meaningful relationships. If you already have a listening strategy, you’re on the path to success. If you don’t, this worksheet can help get you started.

How to Listen Better

Once you have a listening strategy, the next step is figuring out how best to use the information and data you find to drive impact. This is an advanced type of listening and an increased challenge in connecting the dots that nonprofits face.

“2012 may, I hope, be the year of data,” Amy Sample Ward, membership director at the Nonprofit Technology Network said. “Not only do I see more organizations looking for ways to be data-driven in decision making, communications, campaigning, and marketing, but also a growing interest and understanding of the value in sharing data.”

Listening, data, information, donations, and relationships–individually, they don’t mean much. What our job is as fundraisers and world changers is to make them work together and create an impact. Impact, however, starts with listening:

Avoid “Influencer” Hype

In 2011, with the rise of Klout and tools that work to quantify the influence of people and organizations, we’ve gotten really good at judging a person or organization’s value based on numbers produced by man-made algorithms. Don’t fall into this trap.

Listen to those that touch your organization’s mission at all levels, work to build genuine relationships, and focus on making an impact. With that strategy, you can’t help but create a positive impact.

How will your listening lead to impact in 2012?