‘Everyone is a channel’ is not another channel

When I explain that “everyone is now a channel” I see some people respond by thinking and saying, “Ah it’s peer to peer“. Then they switch off. They’ve put that thought in a box.


Everyone is a channel is not peer to peer. It’s not “network marketing“. It’s not another channel.

Everyone is a channel changes the rules of communication. Your charity is a channel. Each of your staff is a channel. Your supporters, and the people you target, are now a channel. This changes everything.

Here’s how.

1. The Consequence now that everyone is a channel

Response driven fundraising that seeks to get your attention by interrupting is no longer effective. Why? We live in a world of abundance of information because … everyone is now a channel. So much so, we are drowning in information and as a consequence attention is scarce. Hence, for example, your direct marketing will suffer if you don’t start to adopt a different mindset. Yes you can ramp up the volume (do more and shout louder), but you’ll find that just puts people’s backs up. You now need to build an audience connecting with communities who share what you believe in, rather than seeking to interrupt people. Which brings me to the opportunity …

2. The Opportunity now that everyone is a channel

Your story is stronger coming from others. It feels more authentic and leverages the ‘social capital’ they have with their network of family, friends and followers. Moreover, in this connected world you just don’t know who people know. So activities that may have a low return on investment but are high on engagement and get people inspired about your story, such as events, or areas of fundraising that involve people, for instance community fundraising, can open up doors to other sources, such as foundations, major gifts or corporate partnerships. Simply investing in providing a great supporter care to deliver a better experience that people talk about is now strategic – not just a nice thing to do. And remember it’s not just your supporters who are a channel, so are your staff, and so are you. Are you enabling your staff to spread your story in a way that sets them loose? For example can they do their own blog? Your charity is a channel too. It probably has a YouTube channel, and a Facebook page.  What media are you creating to build your audience?

Applying this approach, which helps spread your story, can go way beyond raising money and can enable people to help you deliver on your mission, providing you are clear what that mission is, which brings me to the implications …

3. The Implications now that everyone is a channel

To make the most of everyone being a channel you should use a story that is consistent. One that spreads from ALL your channels. And the only place you’ll find that is in your core purpose – your mission – your WHY. Then your fundraising starts to cross boundaries far more easily. Sounds simple but many charities seem lost in WHAT they do and not WHY they do what they do. ‘WHAT WE DO’ is always a header on the website isn’t it?  Here is a quick test – ask 10 people across your organisation what your purpose is and see if they come up with the same answer in different words. If they don’t you need to clarify your purpose or mission, because if your staff don’t know your WHY how are your supporters going to be clear what it is? Is it emotional as well as memorable; will people care enough to help spread it? Your WHY has always been important and the concept is not new (pioneered by Simon Sinek’s amazing TED-X Talk) – but now, to tell a consistent story and so leverage the fact that everyone is a channel, knowing your WHY is critical.

And you now need to be ready to respond when those lovely inbound leads arise, because that’s clearly when you have someone’s attention – when they take the trouble to contact you. And remember attention is now scarce, because everyone is now a channel, so value it when you have it!

Don’t just carry on

If you just carry on and view people as another channel you are not realising the consequences, you will be missing the real opportunity and you will fail to act on the implications of what you now need to do.

Which means you will remain stuck in a response based approach, which pushes you to stick to a variety of stories that get the best response for that channel, or that area of fundraising, rather than find one core story that unites all your fundraising and communications around your true mission, and benefits your entire fundraising programme and enables it to connect together.

The rules of the game have changed because everyone is now a channel – when you understand this you can begin to play the new game and unleash the new rules to your advantage.

If you ‘get it’, spread the word.  ‘Everyone is a channel’ is not another channel.

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