It’s not rocket science, but make sure you understand what they are thinking and feeling, and don’t assume that because they agree with the cause you support that they will back everything you do. When you try something new, get their feedback – and learn from it.
Co-create the future with them, not just for them. Working together will generate insight and help you build better relationships, iterate ideas more quickly and end up with better solutions. It will also help spread support for what could otherwise be unpopular changes.
This doesn’t mean sticking to old fashioned ideas or getting locked in the past, but it does mean thinking long term and not just being opportunistic. Be wary of the hard-sell that customers dislike, even when they deliver results, unless you’re confident your ethos can support them.
As the world changes and the way that people interact with your brand evolves, make sure that they know what to expect, get a consistent experience and see the results. Don’t assume that people will give you the benefit of the doubt, work things out for themselves or forgive the mistakes you make – the world is increasingly critical and increasingly able to make its opinions felt.
While charities are becoming more professional, businesses are out there stealing your clothes. Increasingly they want to claim the moral high ground and be seen to be making a positive contribution to society. They are often better at innovating than the not-for-profit sector, so alongside adopting their business skills make sure you match their ability to be good at creative problem solving.
Remember you’ve got something that most business would love to acquire: your stakeholders are not just connected via your products and services, they are attached on a deeper emotional level. By supporting you they are making themselves feel better. This sense of reciprocity gives you permission to ask for their support, even demand it. But while you embrace reciprocity, manage it carefully to make sure that it is fair and doesn’t benefit one side over the other.