You Need to Do What Monty Python’s Eric Idle has Just Done

Eric Idle, a member of the legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python, knows something about social media that you might not. He has recently done something that you should be doing. If you follow his example, you’ll engage more supporters. This will result in increased loyalty and enhanced lifetime giving.

I understand that you might have doubts about whether a comedy genius can really teach you something that will benefit your nonprofit work. Well, let me explain.

I’ve been a Monty Python fan for decades after first seeing them on television. Later, I thoroughly enjoyed their films including Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Life of Brian. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched them. I’ve also seen Idle’s Spamalot on Broadway.

While I am a fan of each Python member, comedy legend Idle holds a special place in my heart. Five years ago, when I was facing a 14-hour life-saving cancer surgery, his irreverent but strangely uplifting song from The Life of Brian buoyed my spirits. The first verse of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” goes like this:

Some things in life are bad,

They can really make you mad,

Other things just make you swear and curse,

When you’re chewing life’s gristle,

Don’t grumble,

Give a whistle

And this’ll help things turn out for the best.


Always look on the bright side of life.”

You can listen to the full song by watching this clip from the film:

Because the song means so much to me, my eye was caught by a tweet from one of my Twitter-buddies, Ephraim Gopin. (By the way, Ephraim is a funny and sharp fundraising professional, a rare combination. Follow him.) His tweet included a GIF from the clip I shared above. He was thanking Idle for retweeting one of his previous messages.

I replied to both mentioning how the song helped me. That’s when I received a touching surprise.

Eric Idle, the Eric Idle, the comedy legend, the man who has made me laugh for decades, replied to me with a simple, uplifting message:

In addition to telling me to “fight on,” Idle participated in a brief twitter-conversation in subsequent tweets.

Idle’s tweet was meaningful to me. I’m even thinking of putting it on a coffee mug. I was a big fan already. Now, I’m a super-big fan. Actually, that doesn’t even express the sentiment. But, you get the idea.

I should probably mention that Idle has over 395,000 Twitter Followers. And, as you already know or as you’ve just learned from my brief description, he’s massively successful. He certainly did not need to engage me. But, he did. And I greatly appreciate it.

When it comes to fundraising work, building relationships is the key to success. Unfortunately, many charities overlook the fact that engagement is an essential part of developing relationships.

Recently, my wife and I visited a nonprofit cultural attraction. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit. So, I sent a tweet with a photo, and I encouraged others to also visit. The organization has 45,400 Followers.

What did I hear from the organization after my tweet promoting it? Did they reply to me to thank me? No. Did they retweet my tweet? No. Did they “like” my tweet? No. Did they Follow me back? No.

This was a lost opportunity for the organization. Rather than engaging me and reinforcing my positive feelings, they left me feeling disappointed. They also lost this and who knows how many other opportunities to share a positive, third-party message with their own Followers.

Eric Idle understands the power of heartfelt, personal engagement. Unfortunately, many charities don’t grasp that social media is meant to be SOCIAL. Yes, social media can be used to simply broadcast messages. However, organizations that limit themselves to that are not realizing the full value of social media.

Some nonprofits are better at using social media to engage. For example, when I tweeted about a play I saw at Theatre Horizon, they retweeted, liked my tweet, and thanked me.

If big-time celebrity Eric Idle and a small theater company with a limited staff can use social media to engage, any charity can. Here are just five helpful tips for you:

  1. Monitor your social media feeds.
  2. Avoid engaging with negative people unless you can solve a problem or express legitimate regret. Don’t argue with people.
  3. Engage with people who have positive feelings for your organization.
  4. Encourage engagement by seeking feedback, asking people to post relevant photos, posting a mini-survey, etc.
  5. Do not put an intern or poorly trained staff member in charge of managing your organization’s social media interactions. Social media presents a huge public relations opportunity that must be managed carefully.

Here are four related, older posts you might find helpful:

Now it’s your turn. What tips can you share about how we all can better leverage social media?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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