When nonprofit client contacts change jobs.
After you’ve been in this business for a while, you start seeing your client contacts change. If you started in the nonprofit sector, much of this will be surprising. It is simply a fact that some job titles change more frequently than others. For example, direct service social workers might change more frequently, and so will a lot of the fundraising staff. As people grow into the organizational hierarchy, they tend to stay longer, but even they eventually move on. My observation is that the staff people who stay the longest, sometimes for decades, are those who serve in administrative positions, what we used to call secretaries. A lot of times there the real glue and institutional memory of the organization.
There’s a lot of implications of this for your business.
One is the maintenance of your database. Having contacts change means that you need to update your database on an ongoing basis. That takes time away from your primary consulting work. If you’re able to connect with people through a social media site, such as LinkedIn, you might be able to keep track of this easier, but LinkedIn will not automatically change most database programs (there are some exceptions, such as Salesforce and some Microsoft products, but these tend to be more expensive.)
Another implication of staff changes at your client is how you bridge that relationship to a new connection at the current client. Sometimes people in new positions want to “bring in their own people,” which not only means staffing changes but also vendor changes. Therefore, don’t simply get the new person’s contact information and expect to carry on as usual. You need to resell yourself and your services to what is, in essence, a new client. The new staff person might see you as a valuable outside resource that brings continuity to their operation or sees you as their predecessors “person” that is most easily disposed of. You might have a chance of maintaining your relationship with our client. However, don’t be surprised if you don’t even get a hearing, and are out right away.
Yet another is how you transfer with the person who has moved to build relationships at their new place of employment. This is actually one of the brighter spots in job churn for nonprofit organizations and your business. Assuming that your relationship was positive with this person at their last employer, there’s a good chance that you will “go with them” to their next. Make sure that you do everything you can to help them make their transition smooth, whether that means immediate income for you or not. Like any of us, your contact will be finding their way into a new organization with their new job. If you have contacts there or are able to help them navigate this transition, particularly as it relates to your product or services, your assistance can be rewarded with further business with this person and their new employer.
Unless somebody is a founder of a nonprofit, is likely that you’ll run into the circumstance eventually. It’s important that you keep up with changes in current clients, your past clients, and your database of potential clients. Maintaining your list, right up there with maintaining your relationships, is your most valuable asset as a business.
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