Making Non-Profits Click

Reading Time: 2 Minutes Beyond

We’ve all experienced the “click.” The feeling of being instantly attracted to and connected with another person. It’s almost as if we’ve known him or her forever when, in reality, we’ve just met. If we’re lucky, sometimes it happens more than once, with several different people throughout our life. This phenomenon of “clicking,” this immediate connection on a deep level with another person or becoming completely immersed in an activity, is described by brothers Ori and Rom Brafman in their book, Click: The Magic of Instant Connections (Broadway Books, 2010) which I recently read (I’m an avid bibliophile). There’s no distinction made here for this happening in a romantic/significant other type of context or in a workplace environment.

I think there are some interesting applications for our non-profit work.

“We wanted to understand the building blocks of quick-set intimacy – what the factors are that lead a person to click with someone else or become fully alive in a specific activity….What causes people to be fully engaged with the world around them? The most rewarding part of our research has been hearing the stories of people who have clicked. You can see the excitement in their eyes, the change in their voice as they tell you their story.” (pg. 186)

Now, I’m one of those people who believe that we meet the people we meet in life for a reason. There are just too many people in this world for us to be meeting the ones we meet for no good reason … hence the people we meet need to matter.  Call it karma, fate, providence, whatever you want.

But this clicking business … I always thought it was sort of serendipitous, a bit of magic. As it turns out, magic is actually part of it but there is more psychology involved than one might think.  What’s even more fascinating is that it is actually possible to create these moments because in almost every instance when we click with someone, the same five factors (or, “accelerators”) are generally at play.

To me, that’s magic for us in the non-profit business.

The Brafmans write about how magic intermingles with vulnerability (“our willingness to risk being vulnerable can deepen the quality of our relationships and make us more likely to connect with others”), proximity (“even the smallest distances that separate us from others play a major role in determining who we’re most likely to hit it off with”), resonance (“being fully present [can] help us create resonance, a quality that can draw others to us”), similarity (the more qualities that we have in common with someone, the better, because similarity “can help to create an in-group dynamic that brings people together. The more we can zero in on and accentuate the similarities we have with someone else, the more likely we are to hit it off with that person. This is especially useful in trying to connect with someone …from a different cultural background or a different profession or industry.”) and the environment (“overcoming challenges or adversity together can help to stimulate or encourage clicking, as can being  part of a shared, defined community.” (pg. 188-189)

While reading Click, I found myself thinking about the myriad of ways we as non-profit professionals can make these connections happen. We already do this, but how many of us do this with these principles behind our thinking?

So, the next time we pair up a volunteer with a staff member, or a veteran board member with a new recruit, or assign tables at a gala, it may be worth thinking further about the vulnerability and similarity factors as we continue building our “shared, defined community.”

This is just a start. What other ways can you see this clicking for non-profits?

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