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Dating as a Metaphor

"Dating means two things: Disillusionment or a racing heart." -Mae West.

I’m always reminded of the sweet and cruel dating game when I think of supporter stewardship. The initial attraction - which may be so fleeting that it results in just a warm feeling, a smile and nothing else. A first correspondence - trying to understand if it’s worth a little bit of time to learn more. A first date - putting your best foot forward but also sussing out whether there’s real connection. Early dating - the constant determination of whether compatibility is there, whether it’s fun and exciting, whether it feels right. Ongoing dating - settling into a give and take, sure there’s something valuable but without the certainty it might be better somewhere else.

When we’re building relationships with donors, members, supporters, customers, clients and any other relationship we might have, it comes down to one key thing - trying to understand them and trying to be understood. What do I value, what do they value, and where do those align and converge? Importantly as well, where do they diverge?

When we’re dating we painfully go through relationship building one person at a time (usually); we spend lots of time and energy learning about the other person and deciding at what point to give more of ourselves. This is also true when we are building relationships with high value donors, corporate partnerships or big clients.

In the world of mass market stewardship, it’s a lot harder to figure out what your general donor base thinks, feels and wants from you. But there are ways to learn from many, in a deeply qualitative way, to come to an understanding of the general needs of people, so that we can be better at maintaining these relationships we so desperately need to grow our organizations.

So the next time you’re thinking about what wording to choose, what event to run, how to connect with your audience, ask yourself - does this inspire a racing heart?


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