by Meg Gammage-Tucker
I recently read a entertaining—and timely—blog called the “The Silo Mentality—Coping to Collaborating,” by a great colleague, fundraiser, and educator, Lilya Wagner. It started my mental juices flowing about how many of my clients and colleagues over the past two and a half decades have had serious problems communicating and how many—either formally or informally—preferred putting up walls and preventing communication.
Some reasons that individuals and departments do not effectively communicate include, but are certainly not limited to:
- The silo systems that organizations have developed over time—it simply goes against the cultural grain to help another department out.
- The insecurity of leadership—these individuals control the flow of information and access to resources as a formal strategy for to assure their own program or personal success.
- A true inability to communicate (or play well) with others.
- Lack of direction, guidance, and/or understanding that sometimes one plus one can make three.Or,
- A truly unfortunate one, the human ego—the more I know and others don’t, the more important I am.
The message that I have historically shared with colleagues— and continue to emphasize with our clients— is that effective communication is vital to the success of their organizations and the relationships upon which they are built. Nonprofits are about engaging individuals in the fulfillment of missions. It is as basic as that. If you can’t effectively communicate, you cannot engage your colleagues, your clients, or your supporters—either donor or volunteer—in your activities and you are literally undermining the ability of your organization to fulfill its mission.
It may be difficult to change the culture of your organization or get past the negative influence of a fellow staff member whose ego or behavior encumbers the communication process. But if you truly want your organization to succeed, you must take steps—no matter how small they may be—to open the channels of communication. Your organization and the relationships that are necessary for its success will all be the better for it.