A stakeholder is nothing special–just everything

A stakeholder is nothing special–just everything


A stakeholder is nothing special–just everything. Photo by and uploaded to Flikr by Oakley Originals, accessed via Creative Commons Search. Thanks to all you gardeners and farmers who keep all my ag references real, and for indulging this soil-less gardener!

A stakeholder is nothing special–just everything

I was working with a soul-colleague. I asked her to identify her stakeholders in her business. She sounded uncertain.

Learning to think in terms of “stakeholders”

I realized how organic it is for me nowadays to think in terms of stakeholders. What helped me bridge to my soul-colleague was reaching back into my 20s when I was learning grassroots community organizing and grassroots (read: relationship) fundraising.

Back then, I thought maybe stakeholders were those things in the ground in the picture you see above!

“Stakeholders” are important if you’re trying to build something

A stakeholder is someone who shares your interests and aims. And wants to support your building!

Some talk about stakeholders like they are nothing special.

But when you really think about who in your life shares your interests and aims, it’s probably a pretty small list! And when you realize that to build anything, you need support–well, you quickly see how important a stakeholder is.

Interest = inter + est

We talk about shared interests as though they are nothing special either.

But the word interest contains a challenge.

That’s because my dissertation mentor in graduate school Isabelle Stengers showed me that an interest means “something that is between” you and someone else. Inter means “between” and est means “is.”

To interest someone means to get them to agree to put their attention where you have put yours.

Nothing special–and everything

Getting someone to put their interest and attention where you have put yours is something we take for granted, but in fact, it’s an achievement.

Think about it: you do this all the time. You agree to put your attention on stuff. It doesn’t just happen.

How do you decide to do that?

It’s worth asking.

How do you develop stakeholders?

Now how do you get others to agree to put their attention on your stuff–your project, your work, your nonprofit?


  • what makes me agree to give my attention to something?
  • what am I doing to get others to agree to do the same?
  • how can I make the second thing more effective? (assuming people are like me, which basically, they are)

Relationship-building: Nothing special and totally everything

Figuring this out is the heart of relationship-building.

Relationship-building is the heart of marketing, fundraising, and investment-raising.

Why should they care?

That’s what you must ask yourself.

If you care, there’s a good chance they should…but why do you care? and what helps others care?

That’s also what you must ask yourself.

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