Often, we believe that spontaneity is a function of chance, however that is not the case. The better prepared you are, the greater the possibility that ‘spontaneity’ can effectively impact engagement. One definition of spontaneous is to “be produced by natural process.” I love that. It means there is no manipulation, but instead a plan or process that allows the emotion, and therefore the engagement, to be natural. Think of it like planning a surprise party. You do all the necessary planning to create a moment of spontaneous delight.
- Be prepared for spontaneity. I know this may sound like a contradiction, but when you are ready to receive new volunteers, donors or supporters, the time you have with them can be spent engaging in conversation, rather than searching for materials, brochures, or icebreakers. When you have a process to welcome visitors, you can then focus on getting to know them, hearing their stories and making personal connections. By being prepared you are able to freely invest in the conversation, make friends and therefore enhance engagement.
- Show and tell. Invite individuals on a tour of your facility. Show the impact of the work you do by sharing art work, projects, photographs or testimonials from participants. Stories are the glue that creates an emotional bond. Let people see and hear what you are up to. Allow them to experience what your clients experience. When volunteers or prospective supporters interact with the organization it creates spontaneous emotion because they are in the moment with you, having feelings and establishing personal relevance. When an organization can create an experience, ripe with authentic emotion, engagement increases. Whether it’s holding a chicken raised by young girls who are learning about empowerment, or hearing a powerful story of a victim of human trafficking getting her first real bed in a place she can call “home,” the emotional connection to the mission of an organization is palpable. Risk being vulnerable in order to connect with your audience and create a memorable experience for them.
- Be present to enhance an experience. It’s almost impossible not to engage when you are involved in a shared, positive experience. When you are talking with supporters, make sure you are connecting with them on a personal level. Listen to what they are saying to you; how they are answering your questions, and stay with them. I know you have a thousand things on your mind, and you may not think it matters to disconnect for a second, but it matters a lot. You can’t be available to answer questions or improve engagement if you don’t pay attention. If you drift away for even a moment, that opportunity for spontaneous emotion and engagement may be lost.
- Be real. It is so easy to slip into what we think people want us to be, and that is true for organizations as well. There may be times when you feel compelled to be something you aren’t for fear of that volunteer ‘slipping away’ or not ‘feeling’ your mission. Just be you. InspireHUB founder and CEO, Donald Clark says that you don’t have to have everyone love you, just the right ones. That is so true. Let your organization shine on its own merit and mission, and you will draw the right people to you. When you are real, people will know. Trust, rapport and relationships develop when are able to engage with one another authentically.
In conclusion, remember that even spontaneous emotion has been planned for by being prepared and by creating space where engagement can increase.