How do you make good decisions inside your organization? It begins with knowing exactly what constitutes a good decision. Without specific criteria, due diligence and a clear method of measurement, a seemingly smart group of people can collectively allow critical decisions to be ruled by their feelings, personal agenda, distractions, pet projects, and external demands. That pretty much sums up how staff, volunteers and Board members behave inside non profits. It takes sheer will and tenacity to make good decisions.
Think back over the past 1-3 years. And then look back over the past five years. How many good decisions have you made? The criteria for that is – have the decisions you made, moved you to a new place, a new level, and bigger wins? It’s unlikely, as most nonprofit leaders are mired in juggling the same three balls: people, programs, and money. How does it show up in your organization? It shows up in what you talk about.
People. Have you talked with colleagues or volunteers lately and had the topic of “social” come up? It’s a hot button and everyone pushes it. However, social isn’t social. It’s consumerism. Add more posts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram – but how are you investing in those channels? A “like” takes less commitment that flicking a hair off your sweater. Are you expanding your mission with all your time on social, or are you counting “likes”? Is that a good decision?
Programs. Every nonprofit has a purpose. The pursuit of a cure, a doorway to skills, a shelf with necessities, a mentor to advocate, a safe place for the homeless. These are the gaps in society and nonprofits fill these gaps. You work or volunteer to fill the gap. And somewhere along the way, it unravels. A disconnect shows up. You have incredible proven programs – yet year after year, you trim them back because there’s not enough money. The mission, the root of the nonprofit, lives on financial fumes. Well intentioned people, both Board members and staff, accept the reasons why programs don’t flourish year after year. No growth. No breakthroughs. No wins. It’s like a cloud of “can’t do” floats into the organization and hangs over everyone’s head. Is that a good decision?
Money. Does a reluctance for fundraising prevent your organization from achieving it’s goals? For too many, fundraising feels like a necessary evil of nonprofit work. How does it show up? Program staff work in silos far away from conversations about raising money. Board members meet month after month accepting that “it’s just the way it is“. And the biggest way it shows up is when the Executive Director does not see themselves as the chief fundraiser. Is that a good decision?
Daily you are faced with lots of decisions. Not all of them are easy. Some are downright unfair. And that’s your job. You have to decide.
Here are some tips:
1. Admit that it’s tough and you wish you weren’t in this spot. It’s not what you hoped for. You can come back to this often and replay it, and you have to move.
2. Forget the pebbles. The little things (and the big things) you did up until now, how hard you worked, how far out on a limb you went, how much you invested until now, how promising everything seemed. It’s over. Forget those pebbles. The big rock, the big mountain is right in front of you. Don’t let the pebbles trip you up. You need to decide. Make the right decision.
3. Outline your options. None of them are easy. None are perfect. You’ll be uncomfortable. Do it anyway.
4. Deal with the future. The past is in the rear view mirror and it’s clear. Ignore it. Refocus and look at the impact. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. What is the right thing for the right reason? Do it. Make the decision.
You can be a victim of change or an agent of change.
Which one do you choose as you walk into the New Year?