Thirteen years ago I was blissfully sailing through my first job in nonprofit development after leaving a comfortable position with a private family foundation.
It was in many ways an ideal situation.
I had complete autonomy. And I got results.
In less than two short years:
- foundation grant funding was increased by more than 90%
- I’d increased community awareness through a regular column in our weekly community newspaper,
- I’d taught myself html and delivered a website, complete with online giving (and this in 2001)
- I’d spearheaded the founding of a nonprofit roundtable with the local Chamber of Commerce,
- Together with volunteers, we’d launched a local health initiative
- I’d organized several successful community events,
- and established relationships with the Rotary and area businesses.
Even better? Through careful segmentation, and developing a donor-focused appeal, our organization’s once disastrous membership campaign had grown by leaps and bounds
All bases covered.
The icing on the cake was that I loved my coworkers, I loved our volunteers and I loved my work. It was the dream fundraising job.
So, what happened? Why did I leave the ideal job?
For almost two years I had experienced virtual autonomy with an executive director who was thrilled to defer the fundraising aspect of the organization to someone who knew what they were doing. The board of directors asked questions and were thoughtful and attentive during meetings – but they didn’t interfere. What’s more they dutifully put in appearances at events and helped when asked.
And then it happened.
A new executive director arrived on the scene.
One who didn’t take kindly to the P.S.’s in my annual appeal letters or the handwritten notes scribbled into the margins. One who insisted on reverting back to “nonprofit jargon speak” in our communications, because my writing wasn’t “professional.” A woman who was all in my face about the extra costs of segmenting and personalizing our mailings and wanted to know why one “dear friend” letter couldn’t suffice for all.
This despite the, frankly, awesome results.
Since I’d already picked up a few consulting clients, I packed my bags.
Unfortunately, this ED’s thinking is not unique. I have seen it in too many organizations entrenched in the old school, “monkey-see, monkey-do” common in nonprofits. Monkey-see, monkey do is a way of maintaining status quo, blending in with other organizations in the industry. Not making any waves.
Think about it – why try something bold and different and risk ridicule? All you have to do is stay in line with what everybody else is doing and you’ll be safe.
What’s that you say? “What about results?”
Well, not everyone is driven by results (even though they may claim they are…actions speak louder than words!).
I can hear you now: “Not want results? But of course I want results!”
But do you really?
Or are you more concerned about the possibility of your organization’s image being “tarnished” by something a board member might consider undignified?
Are you more content to stay within the confines of what passes as nonprofit marketing for the masses? Are you content with “monkey-see, monkey-do?”