What Matters? How To Use Your Mission To Gain Key Insights Into Your Stakeholders
Before we dive in, what is a stakeholder and why should we care about them? The Oxford dictionary defines a stakeholder as a person with an interest or concern in something, especially a business or organisation.
So, in short, they are your people. The folks who support your work, attend your events, and buy your things. They are also the folks who will have something to say if you don't deliver on what you are promising.
Stakeholders are the key to your successes and your failures and you should know how they feel about your work at any given time.
Over the past few years I have seen a marked increase in the amount, and quality, of platforms and tools that support stakeholder management. This is, in my estimation, largely due to increased requirements for consultation and community engagement that industry and development corporations must now comply with.
Many of these new tools, while extremely expensive, do a truly excellent job of helping these corporations to collect, collate, analyze, and report on the success of their stakeholder engagement strategies. Using AI and automation to create robust stakeholder profiles with ease and as part of the regular ongoing work they are doing.
They use standardized tools to collect standardized metrics about their stakeholders, in a universally accessible, centralized location. And most industry leaders will pay a premium to ensure that they are very good at knowing exactly what is happening in all segments of their stakeholders.
While it is true that in most cases these corporations use this data for truly Bond-movie like villainy (I'm looking at you TMX!). It is essential that businesses and organisations in the business of doing good, start to harness and use these powers for good. Because, this approach to stakeholder engagement is essential to scaling your impact and expanding your audience.
Your stakeholder data is your single greatest asset.
It is a compass you can use to pull you back to your organizational true north when you find yourself off track. It can give you insights into your present-day effectiveness and can help you navigate changeable waters.
It is more important to your success than anything else. And tragically, most small businesses, organizations, and activist groups don’t have a clear picture of their stakeholders. Leaving the stories of their impact untold, and their champions untapped. Which significantly limits their ability to scale their impact and effectiveness.
So, what do you know about your stakeholders?
Who is invested in your success? Where are they located? What was the last interaction they had with your organization? Are they happy with your current programming/offerings? Are they sharing your work with others?
If these are challenging questions to answer, you likely need to improve your stakeholder management.
Thankfully, you have likely already done some of the work to get there! Your foundational brand/org development work can point you in the right direction. Better still if you have done any strategic planning, you will be well on your way!
First, you need to know what to track. What stakeholder information is important to you? Tracking everything is not the answer. Be focused. Less is more here.
You don’t want to drown in data that is not useful.
You should track your stakeholder interactions that mark a change in your relationship and gather as much information as possible through these interactions. For instance, say you produce events. You will want to gather as much information that is relevant to your mission during the registration transaction as you can.
How does that look exactly? Here’s another example:
A local food security organisation is working to distribute native seeds to local farmers and support them to produce these native plants.
The change = Local farmer gets seed from the organisation.
Mission = Supporting local farmers to grow native plants
Uses a form in their central fundraising/stakeholder database for farmers to fill out to sign-up for seed
Collects geographic and other relevant demographic information as part of the registration process
Registration form also asks if they would like to connect with other farmers to share best practices and/or tools.
Based on insights from this data collection, the org creates a mid-year strategic program to create a knowledge and best practice sharing community group in regions with high concentrations of registrations.
Still not sure where to start. Try my M.A.T.T.R. Method:
Mission: Take a look at your mission and/or your strategic plan and pull out all of the objectives that relate to or include interacting with people in some way. Some examples are:
Raising public awareness about XYZ Issues
Provide products or services that align with XYZ Issues
Educating specific communities and policy makers about XYZ Issues
Engaging with and supporting XYZ Community Demographic
Actions: Write out what specific actions you are taking to fulfill all of these objectives.
Creating XYZ aligned products or services
Capacity development programming
Tasks: For each of those actions write out specifically how you will complete said activities including the software you will use. Eg
Monthly Newsletter - Mailchimp
Product/Service development - Asana
Education Events - registrations using Eventbrite
Capacity development workshops - applications over email, participants tracked using Excel
Tools: With a mind to centralizing your stakeholder data. Think about software tools can you use to better manage and track these interactions. E.g.
Using spreadsheets to manage your data? Consider using internal and external forms for data collection. Using standardized form responses (checkbox, multiselect, dropdown choices) will allow for cleaner and more reportable data.
Using Asana (or something else) to manage your work, but don't have any flow-through information about sales or client feedback? Consider using a tool like Zapier to bring this data into custom fields that you can develop reports for.
Reports: Your data is only as good as your reports. You want as much at-a-glance information as possible. Spend some time thinking through the following:
What information will best support your decision making? What indicators can you build your reporting around to help you increase your impact and effectiveness? In short what matters to you about these actions.
Once you have these KPIs in mind, experiment with the built-in reporting of all of your current tools.
What will give you the visualizations you need?
Can you automate the delivery of these reports? Are there widgets and dashboards you can set up to give yourself at-a-glance insights?
Rinse and Repeat: Go through the above steps for all of your people related objectives.