When to use your inside or outside voice
Have you ever heard a parent ask a young child to use their “inside voice”? Usually, that’s a nice way of saying “be quiet, please!”
We have inside and outside voices, too.
|Donor segments||All donors matter|
|Program specific jargon||Simple language|
|Meeting or event prep panic||Serene confidence|
|Department tug of war||We’re all in this together|
|Stories shared with compassion||Shared with compassion and privacy|
|Celebrate staff achievements||Share the credit|
Inside talk is useful
Inside talk is the shorthand we use with colleagues. To those in the know, these words make perfect sense. We understand each other and our intentions.
Jargon falls into this. But so do terms that would sound impolite used outside. “Major donors”, for instance. Do you think a donor wants to be thought of as “minor”?
Inside talk has its uses. It saves time. Everyone knows what you mean, so it works.
The problems emerge when we confuse inside and outside talk.
Keeping your cool in public
And it goes beyond the words we use. There are situations where people whose work intersects with the public – with donors, specifically – need to put on their serene face, while inside, panic abounds. Some things are inside problems.
Here’s an example. You have prepared for a dinner event for special donors. You have carefully seated each table so that the right board member is seated next to the right prospect. (<— inside term)
Then four people who never responded show up at the door.
Inside, you’re probably mumbling a few choice words. And perhaps you’re feeling a bit of panic. But these are people you have been trying to cultivate. And they’re here now, regardless of how that happened. So you put on a smile, quickly reseat a few other tables, and talk to the wait staff about extra place settings. All while trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Later, with colleagues, you can decompress. Inside talk will happen. But while you’re dealing with the situation, your job is to remain calm and welcoming. You do not want these unexpected guests to feel unwelcome.
Silos hurt outside relationships as well as inside ones
Another example is letting internal silos slip out into external behavior or language.
Your donors do not care whether marketing or development crafted the message they got. They do care whether the message seems crafted for them. That won’t work unless the inside stuff gets hammered out. Silos are bad news.
Watch your words
It’s easy to slide when it comes to language. Do you refer to people publicly as “LYBUNTS“? You care whether they gave this fiscal year. Your donors likely don’t know what your fiscal year is, or care. Donors are more than the money they give you. They see themselves as complex, interesting, human beings. You should, too.
Is your moves management showing? Inside, you may have strategized terrific donor journeys. (I hope you have!) But when you’re dealing with donors, you should be thinking “relationships” not “prospecting”.
You really want donors to feel they matter. And they all do.
But the example of inside bleeding into outside I see most often is how organizations celebrate success.
Want more supporters? Share the credit generously
Yes, you and your colleagues work your butts off. And inside, you all know how much work goes into every achievement your organization makes. The long days… that flow into the long nights. The headaches from too many hours with a spreadsheet. The endless phone calls. The Zoom meetings!
It’s hard work. And you absolutely deserve to acknowledge that and celebrate it. Together. Including every staff person – and volunteer – who helped.
But when that “well done, us!” slips onto your website, or your donor communications are full of the royal we? It’s time to remember your inside voice.
People are people
If you want partners, using the royal we in your communications is a great way to tell people they aren’t needed and don’t much matter. “We’re awesome! We do great work! So send us money.” That’s not the way you include people.
Instead, think about it all from a donor’s point of view.
Using your outside voice, you celebrate the people who helped you. You give them the credit. (Important to remember: credit is not a scarce commodity. You can create as much as you need.)
You thank them. You tell them what giving has accomplished. You share the spotlight – and then slip outside it, so your supporters can feel its warm glow.