Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.
In a recent post, John talked about the importance of “selling problems,” and he wasn’t referencing issues that sales teams experience. He literally meant taking your organization’s problems / challenges and selling them as things that must be solved.
A few weeks ago, I attended Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Midwest Regional Conference as an exhibitor and trainer. One of the sessions I presented was “Transformation: Driving Lasting Change at Your Club“. In that training, I shared with participants a six stage process for leading change that I learned at a change leadership training offered by Linkage Inc.
Here are the six stages to that change model:
- Make the case for change
- Enlist stakeholders to develop vision & strategy
- Communicate the vision and strategy
- Remove barriers
- Set milestones & acknowledge progress
- Reinforce the change
If you click over and read John’s post and then click back here to the six stage change model, you will see the first three stages all deal with “selling the problem”.
Well, there is always that little thing called strategy development that if done incorrectly can lead your organization down a path towards bigger problems.
Let’s look at a real world example that many non-profit organizations deal with at one time or another. This is the issue of fundraising efficiency and productivity. Here is how I’ve seen this change initiative unfold too many times:
- The agency needs to do better with its fundraising program.
- The executive director sells the problem to the board. Facts, figures and charts all demonstrate the need.
- The executive director and board members sell the problem to donors, who generous agree to help with their pocketbooks.
- All of stakeholders agree that the strategy needs to be increased organizational capacity in the area of fundraising. The solution? Hire a fundraising professional! (or more fundraising professionals as the case may be)
- The new fundraising professional joins the team, and the problem doesn’t get better (in fact it sometimes gets a little worse).
Huh? What happened?
In many instances, I’ve seen the executive director take a victory lap and then wash their hands of their fundraising responsibilities. The board does a similar celebration and then disengages from the resource development program. Board members think: “Phew! Thank goodness we hired that person to do all of our fundraising. Now I can focus on other things.”
Oooops! Maybe the problem was deeper and more complex.
When leading change, the first order of business for the non-profit executive director is “selling the problem”. As John points out in his example, if you can make this a self-discovery process for key stakeholders, it will be that much more powerful.
Immediately, after you secure engagement, strategy and vision development becomes critical because selling the right problem with the wrong solutions will get you nowhere fast.
I don’t mean to imply that the aforementioned strategy of hiring a fundraising professional is a wrong solution. However, understanding cause-and-effect is important and anticipating potential scenarios will help you avoid some heartache. Additionally, understanding the entire problem and being comprehensive in your strategy development is key.
Has your agency ever solved a problem without engaging key stakeholders in what the problem was in the first place? What was the result? Have you ever solved a problem and found yourself surprised that the solution didn’t solve the problem? What did you do? How did you correct course and change your change initiative? If you are a fundraising professional who has gone through what I just described, please share how you re-engaged your boss and the board and got things on track. Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and examples.
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC