Last week I watched a meet-and-greet between the board of a non-profit and their members. The board isn’t popular, so maybe that’s why they looked tense and wary during the Q&A. It’s hard to appear receptive and inviting when you feel on the defensive. If so, they could have faked it better if they’d followed some basic rules of meeting with volunteers, members or donors.
- Smile when you call on people. Preferably a smile that you would give to a friend walking into your house, not the kind the crocodile gave to Captain Hook. Make them feel that their comments and they themselves are welcome.
- Don’t just answer a person’s question and then move on. Ask for clarification or more details so the person believes that you value their opinion or validate their concerns. You want them to know that you heard their specific concerns and aren’t just parroting a stock answer.
- After you answer their question, check that your answer adequately addressed their concerns.
- If someone offers help, express your appreciation and sound like you will genuinely consider the offer – whether or not you will. Take their information and make sure someone follows up, even if it’s just to say no thanks.
If you’re in a position of authority, you need to worry about more than getting your facts right. You need to care about how you deliver them. Good will is one of a non-profit’s greatest resources. Being right doesn’t matter if you’ve ticked off your constituency or made them distrustful. Every face-to-face encounter is a chance to convey that the people running a non-profit are receptive, responsive and responsible. Whether or not you feel that way, it’s your job to look like you care.