Had an expiring plane ticket I needed to use by August 31, so I took a lightning trip to my home state and saw a handful of partners. I wasn’t trying to raise new support, just connect.
Those few appointments brought some unexpected OUCH moments. Over the last seven days, I heard three partners say some of the most dreaded words you can hear in partnership development:
“How are things going? I haven’t heard from you in a while!”
(Maybe those were not quite the words you expected, he he. But they certainly alarmed me because I have always viewed myself as a good communicator.)
I just checked my history log in TNT, and I see that I have sent four newsletters this year, which is a little less than my norm; I would normally be on my sixth about now (e.g., roughly every 6 weeks). Every organization has a different vibe on newsletters. Some are particular about “monthly”, while other organizations promote a quarterly cadence among their members. I would say as an overarching principle that the exact frequency is not as important as the consistency.
But for me to hear those words three times in seven days was unsettling.
Yes, I have been a little behind in my normal letters. But more importantly, it is possible that what I am writing is not connecting with them in some way. That is, it may not be standing out to them in the sea of inputs they receive. I am thinking that I need to do three things immediately:
- Write more frequently (as I had before),
- Be more consistent (same day each month, and better personal branding that is visible), and
- Improve the quality of my storytelling. I may have gotten a little sloppy.
Related to this, I’ve written in this blog before that my personal (unscientific) opinion as a PD coach is that, “The very best time of year to do partnership development is between Labor Day and November 15th.” As I am looking at my partners suggesting I’m not communicating as effectively as I could be AND going into what I feel is the best season for PD… I want to be particularly intentional these next eight weeks to actively reach out to my partners, not just by improved letters but by direct personal contact.
I write this post to share my own hiccup this year. But from the TntConnect perspective, what was really helpful was being able to use the History Log to see my Sent Newsletters for the past 20 years. It’s a bit telling (that is, honest) to see what I’ve actually done. Not what I wished had happened, but what actually happened in terms of my mass communications, which is the core of my communication strategy.
Without my history log, I’d just be guessing at what I had done. I may not like what I’ve seen this year, but at least it shows me the reality.
Full disclosure: In addition to newsletters, I do send a lot of handwritten notes. My goal is that each financial partner gets a touch at least 10 times per year. Those have been harder for some reason over the past 18 months, and combined with the fewer newsletters, it is easy to see why my partners feel disconnected. 😦
UPDATE: I completed this blog post and clicked Publish. But while it waited overnight to publish to the audience, I got yet another text from one of my top 3 partners. It said this: “Bob. I don’t hear much of anything about your ministry anymore. And I get concerned when I don’t hear from missionaries we support. I have no idea if your traveling, sitting in the office , or whatever”. First, I called him immediately. And then I (a) determined to get a letter in Tuesday’s mail to all of my partners and (b) determined to over-communicate over the next 16 weeks, way more than I normally would in the fall of the year. Over the span of ten days, to have two of my partners reach out to me (their initiative) and two others say it in a face-to-face appointment is, honestly, probably the most painful experience I’ve had in ministry this year.