Dec 6, 2010

Reach Out and Touch Someone

I realize I am dating myself by invoking the well known slogan AT&T (then Bell) launched in 1979. But after reading an excerpt from John Freeman’s book, “The Tyranny of E-Mail,” I am convinced we would do well to revisit this Madison Avenue mandate. For just a moment, consider these facts:

  • 247 billion emails are sent each day – that’s 2.8 million a minute.
  • Information overload is calculated to cost the US economy $635 billion annually.
  • According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50% of the time the tone of emails is misunderstood.
  • The average corporate worker spends 40% or more of their time sending and receiving 200 messages daily.

Freeman likens this e-mail addiction to slot machines – you press the send/receive button like a gambler pulls down the lever, knowing you will get a reward (an email response) most of the time. The more you send, the more you can win. The impact of technology on humans, physically (our eyes are failing, our wrists are strained) and emotionally (the stress of facing a burgeoning inbox or finding time to tweet, post to your blog, and update your FB status) pales when we consider the continued rapid diminishment of human interaction and relationships. Freeman cautions, “Ironically, tools meant to connect us are enabling us to spend more time apart.” He goes on to write that, “By depriving ourselves of facial expressions and the tangible frisson of physical contact, we are facing a terrible loss of meaning in individual life. The difference between a smiley face and an actual smile is too large to calculate.”

This phenomenon has alarming implications for fundraising, or huge opportunities, depending upon how we respond. The more we utilize technology – email, YouTube, and Facebook – as the primary tools to cultivate, solicit and steward our donors, the more we risk losing that critical human connection. It is the impassioned plea aimed at stirring a donor’s emotions – “tugging at the heartstrings” – that can move someone to give generously. Sure, sending a quick email is efficient, especially if you can copy and paste it into multiple messages and check off multiple tasks on your to-do list. But does it bring the results you want? Does your donor feel more connected to you, to the school, and to the students? Do they feel appreciated and valued for their contribution? Does the fact that you didn’t make the time to personally call make a bigger statement than that email thank you that just landed in their inbox?

Think about it. Then pick up the phone and reach out and touch someone.  It will be worth the time, trust me.

~ Tracy

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