automate what’s important

I’ve become a fan of “automatic” and I think you should become one too. It wasn’t long ago that anything operating on “autopilot” or “automatic” was automatically bad in my mind. I would have said, “If it’s important, put your hands on it and make sure it happens right. Automate only the unimportant tasks.”

Well, I’ve had a complete change of heart. Here’s how that happened . . .

One of the things Oneicity works hard to do is to stay current on what the for-profit marketing, management and ad guys are doing. It’s one of our distinctives that pays huge dividends for our nonprofit and ministry clients’ fundraising strategies. Those “for-profit” companies are usually years ahead of nonprofits in terms of strategies, techniques and tools.

Anyway, I’ve been reviewing the offerings of a couple of online relationship management companies who provide powerful, slick tools. I know companies who are using this software and so I know results are excellent.

A key component of these tools is automation. Automating email exchanges. Automating surveys. Automating reporting. Automating call list generation. Automate. Automate. Automate.

The key in business is to watch for actions in your marketing process that are repeated over and over . . . and automate them.

Think about the number of tasks (reports, emails, lists) that you do over and over and over. What if you could automate only half of them? What if you spent time getting the words, process, format, strategy right just once and then it operated automatically?

Or if you could anticipate questions or follow-up and get to your supporters BEFORE they ask the questions?

My head’s spinning with possibilities for development officers, marketing VPs, PR people, volunteer coordinators . . .

And then (of course, you’re way ahead of me), you really have to be in front of your donors with their version of the “automate what’s important” message. At least online, give them the easy option of an automatic monthly gift on their credit card. Having given several online gifts in December, I’m talking about easy for the donor, not easy for the organization. (I hate having to create a login to give a gift — and I’m not alone.)

Acquiring monthly donors is easier to plan than to do. In my experience, most nonprofits can’t and won’t do the necessary processes to recruit and connect with donors who’ll make great monthly givers . . . but it’s worth it. Just don’t get fooled into thinking it’s easy; the process can be automatic, the conversion is not automatic.

But if a donor thinks your cause is worthy and they know you do great work on their behalf . . . then they MIGHT want to “automate what’s important” to them. Again, it’s not easy or simple, but worth it.

What do you think about “automating what’s important”? Do you automate in your professional life? I’d love to hear from you . . . and I’ll respond, maybe automatically.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Steve Thomas)
Find Steve on Instragram: oneicity_st

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

2 thoughts on “automate what’s important”

  1. As a person who has built a career on helping companies improve business processes, and integrate across divisions, automation is near and dear to my heart. You nailed this, Steve.

    Automation is not even about “important” versus “trivial”. Automation is about improving the current business experience. Now, that translates in a number of different levels. For instance, in many businesses, there are three reasons to automate: Increase Revenue (scale), Decrease Expenses (operations), Improve Efficiency (focus).

    I recently helped a startup that provides data reports to large pharmaceutical companies. One report took four people a month to prepare. Given that there were more than 100 companies wanting those reports, and the data was different for each, it’s not rocket surgery to figure out that automation was the ONLY way to scale that business. Definitely a case of scale. (Have you noticed that there are gray areas in the three reasons to automate? Yeah, often automation hits AT LEAST one of those. This case was both about increasing revenue and improving efficiency.)

    What you missed, though, is refactoring. Just because you automate a repeatable process does not mean you “Set it, and Forget It.” (Thank you, Ron Popeil) You have to re-evaluate your automated processes to make sure they still add value. For instance, if you send out a direct mailing, and get a 4% response, but then send out another mailing to the same donors/potentials, and get a 1% return…..and then a 0% return…..you should re-evaluate the process. Make sense?

    Automation requires governance. It can be great, or it can be a disaster.

  2. @Brad — Thank you, you’re right, I didn’t mean automate and forget, that does lead to disaster in many, many ways. I’m more concerned with automation, then review and iteration. My concern with the blog is moving myself and maybe some others to embrace more automation. The Jetsons this isn’t, but it doesn’t have to be the Flintstones either.

    (And thank you for the “rocket surgery” and Ron Popeil references, nice! ).

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