Technology and Nonprofit Sacred Spaces – Part 2

In her book, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle writes,

“As we instant-message, email, text, and Twitter, technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy and solitude…The new technology allows us to ‘dial down” human contact, to titrate its nature and content.”

For a nonprofit, fundraising professional, the last thing I want to do with my colleagues, volunteers, donors and leaders is “dial down” my human contact with them. Especially when another nonprofit it dialing up!

In the previous post, I talked about the use of technology in our relationships with Board members and at meetings. As a continuation of the theme, this post is about how technology is used (and abused) within our nonprofit offices and between our people.

As nonprofit leaders and fundraisers we are in the relationship business. I realize different people have different relationships and skills. But to truly engage and lead by example, our nonprofit organizations and staff must be able to communicate effectively, personally and well with each other, volunteers and donors.

There are so many stories of a leader asking a staff member to call a donor or Board member. This request loses something in translation and the call turns into an email that is not received in time and…well then there is some forthright communication going on! On a whole other level, communication is translated into, “This is how I communicate so I will not call but send an email – that will do the trick.” Quick, done, check it off my list of things to do.

I am so old school – before consulting I worked at the American Heart Association and Anti-Defamation League – LONG ago before email and mobile phones.  We had staff and department meetings in person, talked on the phone and in person with donors and volunteers. When we needed something, we stood in a doorway to ask a question.

Today – emails come from the cubicle on the other side of wall, staff wide emails fly like so much dust in the air and staff meetings are replete with ringing mobile phones or the taps of texting.

I am not too old to understand the new communication tools, but I do expect to be looked in the eye during a conversation and for staff to be fully present during a one on one or staff meeting.

What are the sacred spaces within your organization? Do you ban the use of mobile phones during work hours? (Shock and awe!) Have you written and distributed a policy of acceptable behavior, performance and communication for everyone on staff?

Sherry’s book takes a good look at the new generation and what they consider invasive (a phone call) and not sharing too much (email). This not giving of ones self, using the Internet or technology as a protective barrier, does not necessarily serve our nonprofit work.

Allowing this technology and behavior to take over our work doesn’t help. Remember when your Mom taught you to act like a lady, chew with your mouth closed, use a napkin? Well we need to set expectations at our workplace for communication, effective and appropriate communication, between staff and certainly to our constituents.

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