by Ted Grossnickle
A couple of weeks ago, JGA hosted Dan Pallotta after his very engaging and thought provoking discussion at Indiana AFP Philanthropy Day. Dan met and talked with many friends and colleagues of JGA who are engaged in our common work of advancement and grant making.
For me, Dan’s book Uncharitable and his central messages are both an eye opener and call to action. For years, I have tried to encourage colleagues and clients to respect and engage in measurement of results for fundraising but also to aim for real impact.
What Dan helped me understand, however, is that I have been, for far too long, focused more on the former than the latter. Or perhaps it’s more precise to say I’ve allowed clients to focus on the former to the detriment of the latter.
I have allowed boards of directors of too many clients to have conversations about the cost to raise a dollar or the return on investment when I should have also been helping them focus upon and ask some much larger, much tougher questions.
I have almost always allowed a board discussion to spend much more time talking about results as a return on investment in terms of dollars. And I’ve seldom asked them the much more dangerous yet uplifting question “what will be different here and in the world if you accomplish this?”
For example, in addition to being reasonably efficient in their fundraising process, why have I not called on them to think about what additional investment in people and program might lead them to accomplish?
Instead of allowing them to believe that they are being good stewards of precious resources by monitoring each expenditure and result, why not ask them what they really want to happen? What would make them believe their organization has truly made a difference? What about outcomes rather than outputs?
To be sure, this is more about an “and” than an “or.” But it means that the real focus has to be on whether real change is happening as a result of the organization’s efforts. It’s no longer good enough to say: “we ran an efficient campaign.”
With this holiday season soon transitioning to a New Year, I resolve to change – beginning right now - the way I engage our clients in thinking about real, larger, longer term impact. What might happen if they really invest resources in fundraising in new and more substantial ways? What will be the real indicators for success for the organization – well beyond the question of whether they have run a campaign in an efficient and effective manner?
Our society needs to make faster and better progress on many issues. Nonprofits are still the best hope for making that progress occur- but only if we untie their hands and make sure the resources are there to really have a chance of making MAJOR progress occur.
If you’d like to learn more, please visit the www.charitydefensecouncil.org.
It’s time we change the paradigm…