Is TSA friendlier than your nonprofit?

in Cultivation & Stewardship,Social Media

Is the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) better at building relationships through social media with the flying public than you are with donors?  I hope not.

Let me set the stage.

I don’t know about you, but flying commercial just isn’t fun.  And there was a point in time when it was, at least for me.  That says a lot given that I’m also a private pilot. 

And the non-fun begins with the journey through security.  Get herded through a network of barriers like cattle.  Jam all tiny containers of liquids, gels and creams into a quart bag. Empty your pockets.  Take off your shoes and walk on that pristine floor.  Toss everything into a plastic bin that has been handled by thousands and who knows how often it’s cleaned.  Prodded along by a TSA agent shouting out instructions and scolding less experienced travelers unfamiliar with the routine. Watching your personal items disappear along the conveyor into the x-ray cave.  Waiting for permission to walk through the metal detector and hoping you didn’t forget to strip off something that will trip it.  Then anxiously waiting for your stuff to roll out the other end of the conveyor.

Then it happens.  The conveyor belt stops and it’s your stuff they’re discussing.  Oh-oh.  The TSA agents start to look at you more closely and you’re feeling guilty for no apparent reason.  Fears and images of a complete strip search enter your mind. 

The TSA agent asks, “Is this your jacket?”  “Why, yes it is,” you ever-so-politely reply.  She then takes a special piece of paper from a machine and swipes it on the palms of your hands.  Puts it back in the machine to be analyzed.  Takes another strip of paper and swipes it on the outer edges of the jacket pockets and puts that paper in the machine to be analyzed.  They were testing for explosives.  And what triggered (oops, maybe not the best choice of words) this scrutiny? 

Two bananas were in the pocket of the jacket.  No kidding.  That’s exactly what happened to my husband on a trip we took last week.  Moral of the story?  Don’t travel with healthy food.

Perhaps I should send in a question to TSA’s blog and ask them why bananas were such a great concern? 

Anyway, TSA is using social media to answer questions from the traveling public.  And it’s working.  I mean, let’s face it.  Most TSA agents aren’t too friendly.  When one exhibits a bit of warm personality it’s noteworthy.  And they don’t have the most desirable job in the world either.  So with much of the public viewing them with disdain, their move to social media is a wise one.

It’s good public relations (PR).  They’re building positive relationships with the public.

They have one full-time blogger (Blogger Bob) with others as back-up and to help with questions he may not know the answer to.  And there are few criticisms coming in.  Mostly there are questions such as,

“Why do I have to take off my shoes?”
“Why do I have to take out my laptop?”
“Why are bananas so dangerous?”  (Sorry.  I added that one)

The benefits to using social media are rolling in. 

  • They’re building stronger relationships with the public
  • They’re educating the public on how these procedures help keep them safe
  • TSA says it’s smoothing the process and helps people to both get through the checkpoint quicker
  • It’s helped TSA improve security
  • And some of the questions have also influenced changes in policy

TSA views social media (they’re now adding Twitter) as a way to have a conversation with the public.  It can certainly be a way for you to have a conversation with your donors too. 

I believe it’s important for donors to have more than one easy way (i.e., easy for the donors) to send your nonprofit questions, comments, praise and suggestions.  Blogs, tweets, email, phone calls, etc. are all ways to have a two-way conversation. 

Use social media to build stronger relationships with donors.  Keep them informed with very timely updates.  Get them engaged and build loyalty to your nonprofit.  It will pay you dividends in the way of higher retention rates and higher life-time donor value.

I’m confident you can be as successful – and friendlier – at social media as the TSA is.