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How Does the ATM Feel About That?


Do you have a favorite ATM machine?  I know it sounds a little crazy, but think about it.  Is there an ATM machine that you tend to stop by more than others.  Maybe it’s convenient, near your home, job, or a common route you take.  If you’re like most people there probably is a favorite ATM in your life.  Let me ask you a question.  Do you ever stop by to check on that ATM machine when you DON’T need money from it?  You just want to stop by and make sure the display screen is clean, it’s plugged in, and hasn’t be vandalized.  When’s the last time you stopped by just to check on the ATM machine when you didn’t need anything from it?  Again, if you’re like most people you haven’t.

So how do you think the ATM machine feels about that?  I mean after all it does for you,  you never check on it just to check on it.  Of course, the ATM doesn’t feel anything – It’s just wires, plastic, and computer chips – the ATM doesn’t care and we don’t care because the ATM is there to serve us at our convenience.   It’s perfectly acceptable to treat an ATM machine this way isn’t it?  Sure it is.

Let me ask you something – Is it acceptable to treat people this way?  No it’s not.  Do we treat people this way? For some of us, yes we do.  If the only time  donors,  customers,  volunteers, funders, board members, partner agencies, and key stakeholders hear from you is when you want something, then you’re treating them like an ATM machine.

What’s the lesson?

  1. Talk to people when you don’t need anything.
  2. Build relationships based upon a healthy appreciation for each other, not your needs.
  3. Have a plan to keep key stakeholders informed, during good times and bad.
  4. Some of your most fruitful conversations will take place when you remove the pressure of  “needing something”.
  5. Strive for mutually beneficial relationships.  What value do you bring to the other person?

People aren’t ATM machines, they have feelings, and it’s disrespectful and insulting to think they’re just sitting around waiting for you to come push a button when you need something.

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