By Andrew Robinson, Petrus President
Recently, my family and I stayed in an Airbnb. I had an interesting encounter with an appliance that illustrates a problem that a lot of nonprofit leaders struggle with.
Your dishwasher can actually dry your dishes...
You’re probably wondering why this was so profound. I mean…all dishwashers dry dishes, correct?
Truth is, our home dishwasher does not. We turn on the settings to dry the dishes, but we ALWAYS unload soaking wet cups, plates and silverware. I just figured this was how all dishwashers work. It sort of dries them but they’re always going to be wet.
Hmmm. Weird, right?
You see, sometimes we think something is normal but without context with which to properly evaluate our beliefs, we can actually be dead wrong.
I see this all the time with nonprofits.
“Our fundraiser works really hard but doesn’t actually close many gifts…but I guess that's normal, right?”
“Our events are tons of fun but they really don’t introduce us to new prospects…but that’s how all events are, right?”
“Our database is super frustrating and costs us an arm and a leg…but that’s just how databases are, right?”
See what I mean? Without context, we can form beliefs that may or may not be accurate.
So, what’s a nonprofit leader to do?
- First, ask questions and don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom.
- Second, build a network of other leaders who you can ask questions of and learn from.
- Third, educate yourself on basic fundraising fundamentals so you’re not just taking the word of your staff.
- Fourth, engage a coach or consultant to assess your situation and give you context on the world outside your organization.
It can be scary to probe into the inner workings of your development operation (or your programs, finances, budget process, etc), but that’s how organizations get better.
Be the one to challenge the status quo; and the hundreds, thousands, or millions of beneficiaries that your organization is serving 10 years from now will have you to thank.