Alert. Agile. Astute

I had the good fortune to attend “Dateline: Washington - Election Insiders” hosted by the Kansas City Public Library this week. (Another incredible example of that institution’s commitment to “Knowledge for All,” by the way.)

Former Politico writer Mike Allen and TIME magazine Editor-at-Large (& Kansas Citian) David Von Drehle shared their insights and observations about the current election season. While they focused on the political landscape, I was struck by two observations that apply just as soundly to the nonprofit sector.

1. Technology changes are game changers.

This election cycle is different. One campaign is relying on traditional, linear political party and structures. The other has used social media and popular culture to eliminate those intermediaries, going directly to the voter. No matter which side you’re on, this change will not be undone; future campaigns will rely even more heavily on direct connections.

What does that mean to you? 

While nonprofits don’t suffer the same interference from intermediaries as political or retail organizations, they DO need to connect with supporters. The organizations that can most quickly adopt and implement new technologies that help establish and strengthen these connections will be the organizations most likely to succeed.

2. Popular culture (entertainment) is driving people’s perceptions.

Where are the ratings: news shows or reality shows? Consumers today don’t seek out hard-core, “objective” information; they want - even expect - to be entertained.

Again, what does that mean to you?

Building a brand is no longer a matter of trying to dictate how you want to be perceived. People build their own perceptions. Now, you not only have to provide information/content that makes the case for how you want to be perceived, you must ensure that information is available where and how people want to access it.

Those are two tall orders. To succeed, you must be alert, agile and astute in your response.

The good news, of course, is it can be done!

(And, for those of you disappointed that I didn’t offer the political detail you had hoped for, The Kansas City Library was kind enough to post the entire session.)