With all the excitement around Google+ and the circles feature it reminded me of the circle strategy being used by the social sector as a way to manage advocates and advisers.  So often, large advisory boards or councils are created as a place to keep those who are important, influential, philanthropic towards ones cause but may not be ready, willing, able to serve on the board.  As the names and influence grow these councils can become challenging to steer, especially when there was dissension about organizational strategies.  I have watched founders and key supporters on advisory councils that were inactive suddenly leap into action to ‘save’ an organization from a decision they deemed harmful or inappropriate.  This can cause a lot of anxiety and diplomacy for a Board Chair and CEO.

One way to address the adviser role is to create circles.  For example, there might be President’s Circle.  Individuals the President can call upon to seek advice and council.  Communication and engagement does not need to be scheduled but if the request for input is sincere and meaningful, the advisers stay connected.  Usually this is a group that requires a meaningful touches and communication but may not meet as a formal body.  Board Chair Circle, Development Circle, Marketing Circle, Volunteer Circle, Community Cirles are some common examples.  Appropriate staff or board leadership can facilitate these circles.  It also provides a nice vehicle to connect to advocates who have specific talents and are willing to be a resource for the cause.

What circles are you formally or informally managing?

Not Satisfied

How satisfied are your clients and members?  What type of scores do they give your organization when you performs a satisfaction survey?  Are they somewhat satisfied, mostly satisfied, extremely satisfied?  What if I told you that there is zero correlation between the results of a satisfaction survey and predicting the future growth of your organization?  Said differently, just because a customer is satisfied with your cause does not mean they will patronize your organization next week, month, or year.  Tracking satisfaction provides no value when predicting future growth.  In my consulting practice we have stopped performing satisfaction assessments.

What is useful?  We are measuring advocates.  Ultimately we are looking for individuals who will risk their reputation to recommend an organization or cause.  An advocate is an individual who believes strongly enough in a brand to put their personal stamp of approval on the anticipated future experience a friend or colleague will experience.

Real world example- list five or more local eating establishments you have dined at in the past year or less.  How may of these dining places would you mark as at least satisfied if I surveyed you today?  Now, if I came to your community and I asked you which restaurants I you would recommend, how many from your satisfied list would you include?  How many would you recommend with a qualifying statement?  What is the difference between the satisfaction list and the recommendation list?  Usually there is are significantly fewer establishments an individuals is willing to recommend than those that they are satisfied with.  Satisfaction is an easy statement we use to cover a lot of situations (it can be a polite way to say I am never coming back or I am a fan of your enterprise).

If you knew who your enterprise’s advocates were what would you do differently?

A True Advocate

Do you have a true advocate who advances your organization’s message? Somebody who embodies the brand. That person when you see them in public you immediately think of the cause. This person is a walking bill board.

I have a friend who owns a pro-bike shop, Durance Cycleworks. Richard Feldman carries high-end road and mountain bikes. His services are customized to a specific clientele. His greatest advocate is not all the people riding all over the state and nation in his shop’s cycling kit (shorts, jersey, socks) but rather a local realtor who will tell anyone who listens to go to Durance. He tells then what they need to purchase or checkout while they are there. Every race, every ride, every moment Durance has an unpaid advocate who is preaching the great things happening at the store. He is a customer and a friend of Richard’s but most importantly he is genuine in his passion.

Another friend, Pete Vordenberg is currently the Head Coach for the US Nordic Team (cross-country skiing). He created a movement and web page that promotes the journey and dedication of these Olympic athletes. Due to limited coverage of the sport in the main-stream media and very limited coverage of streaming video since most of the races are held in international locations Pete has taken his photography abilities to the World Cup. He will post great images of everything from the scenery to the chaos happening behind the scenes on race day. His Team Today is a portal into the world of elite ski racing. Pete is more than a coach, he inspires, educates, shares, and champions the sport.

Who is the advocate for your organization? How do you support their efforts? Can you find more than one?