Once upon a time (actually about 25 years ago) in a Midwestern state, there was a wide eyed, twenty something, wet behind the ears, purveyor of technology. He was fresh from four successful years of priming himself to help introduce a revolutionary form of technology to the business marketplace. This energetic lad had glimpsed into the future thru numerous months of research and presentations of this technology.
This breakthrough technology was supposed to change forever many of the present day methods of business. Imagine a whole new form of communication, that could rival postal communications, allow contracts to be executed in real time and provide a path directly into the heart of every office. As the statewide director responsible for selling this new technology, he would literally march from law firm to CPA firm to government agency to Fortune 1000 office with his team spreading the gospel.
He recalled presenting this new product to a senior partner of one of the nation?s largest law firms. Upon extolling the magic of this product, he concluded his demonstration by presenting a business card and proclaiming that very soon every business card and letterhead in America would have a new number right below the telephone number. Yes, this magical new technology was the FAX machine. Upon this crescendo of all summaries ever, the senior legal partner swiftly stated “Not in my lifetime young man!”
As you know the rest is history. There IS a fax number on virtually every business card and letterhead printed today. Not only do we execute contracts and business agreements in such a rapid manner, we even order our sub sandwiches and pizzas in the same way!
I recall this story often as I discuss the future of communications in the charity world. Even a year or two ago I got the “Not in my lifetime!” retorts from many sector leaders when I went way “out on a limb” and stated email may change all major donor/funder/board member/staff communications forever. Now as I speak about technology/communications around the country, especially if it is a luncheon, and I see a few folks glancing at their watches, I ask the following question:
Upon your return to the office what will you do first?
A. Look at the U.S. Mail
B. Check Voice Mail
C. Check Email
The overwhelming response is “C.” Just two years ago it was somewhat split with email winning, but not like it is now, where 90+% shout out “check email.”
Which one is it for you upon returning from lunch? How about for your staff, board members, major donors, funders. What do you think they do first upon returning from lunch?
Why? You may have a different answer, but I submit that it is because most communications in this age needs to be rapid (as in instant) and email does not interrupt the other party like a phone call. In addition, there is a record of the communication that is taking place and perhaps most of all it is virtually universally accepted as the standard to use!
Many of us in this sector are quite thankful for the email usage research compiled by Michael Gilbert and the Gilbert Group of Seattle. www.gilbert.org
Part Two of this article will explore several of the facets of this research and the ramifications on revolutionizing communications in the charity sector. The chart below will be discussed next week. I think you will find the other data points fascinating to compare with your nonprofit office. Here is just one of the questions from the survey conducted late last year…
(Full details of the research can be found at http://research.gilbert.org/nes/disconnected)