Rock Star Engagement

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If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know that the opening act is in a tough position. Most of the crowd is impatient to see the main event and doesn’t know a single song. If the band doesn’t find a way to capture the attention of the sea of someone else’s fans standing in front of the stage, its set will just be background to pre-show conversations.

The one sure thing the band knows about the people it’s addressing: geographic location. Every opening act will use this most basic of facts to its advantage. It will give a shout-out (or 2 or 3) to the city in which the venue is located. Almost always the crowd will respond with cheers. And, if the band is worth its salt, it will capitalize on this fleeting engagement and keep the crowd listing and reacting to music it didn’t come to see. And, if the band is really good, people will download its album on the spot and tell their friends about the set.

The shout-out just goes to show that engaging people doesn’t need to be complicated. You can capture attention based on something as basic as, “I know where this building is located”. If you follow up with good content, people will spend money to support you. Fortunately, most nonprofits know a great deal more about their constituents than where they are located. Look at what information you have that you can use to segment your audience.

Who are my prospects?
Have they attended events? Which ones?
Do they have children?
Are they volunteers?
Are they donors?
How frequently to they give?
How much do they give?
In what way(s) do they prefer to be communicated with?

Once you have identified even basic information about a group of constituents, you are ready to give them a shout-out. Here are the fundamental components that will help you get the reaction you want:

1. Make sure that your communications, regardless of whether they are direct mail, email, or an online landing page, give an indication that you know something about the constituent who is viewing it.

2. Follow up with a strong message regarding your mission and a clear call to action that makes sense based on what you know about the constituent.

3. Track your results to make sure that you are appropriately engaging your target audience. If you don’t see the response you want/expect, modify your message.

4. When you do connect with constituents, be sure to say “thank you” and make it easy for them to proliferate your message via email, social media, etc.


Engagement doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. You can use just a single piece of known information to create a connection. One word of obvious caution: make sure you have that piece of information correct. You don’t want to be the band who shouts “How you feelin’ tonight, Boston!!!!”…when the venue is in New York.