Today, every direct mail letter, every video, every tweet, every status update, every event script, every message (basically), is expected to have relevance to the happenings of the moment. We can’t talk about what our institution did last year, or even last fall. Those messages have already been heard. The world seems to be in fast-forward with respect to communications. The expectation is that our messages are crisp, compelling, and especially current. It’s about what our institutions are doing today and what we are planning to do tomorrow.
This expectation of communications simultaneity is difficult enough. Added to it, though, is the reality of our every message being archived. Most everything we write, print, video, tweet, update, etc., is now being captured for future reference. Our every computer key stroke is captured by some software program somewhere. This is why we tell our young people that any message they send today could come back to haunt them 10 years later during a job interview.
While we are expected to communicate regularly about especially current outcomes of our institution’s work, we also have to live with the fact that all our communications will live on in perpetuity. So that nothing comes back to haunt our advancement efforts, we have to be fast, incredible accurate and especially prescient.
Caught between the pressure to be instantaneous and the archive-happy world in which yesterday’s mistakes live on forever, our advancement programs have to behave differently. We have to be even more strategic in creating our priorities so that our communications have lasting accuracy and value. In other words, we need to base our fundraising priorities on a solid, long-term, comprehensive institutional strategic plan – something that articulates priorities that won’t shift or be supplanted from one meeting to the next.
Strategic plans that animate compelling fundraising priorities have always been a foundation of strong development programs. In today’s world of instant and archived communications, they are even more important. If what we say are our priorities today change tomorrow, we run a similar risk as the young person who posts the pictures of his 21st birthday party on facebook – it could come back to haunt us.