Does your non-profit agency pass “The Marshmallow Test”?

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 something called The Marshmallow Test, which is a real life academic study related to impulse control. You probably know this by other names and expressions such as “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush“.

John poses the question, “What happens when the environment is perceived to shift a bit?” Both he and the academic study conclude, “The promise of a second marshmallow holds no sway, if the promise is perceived as unreliable.”

So, I thought I’d ask a very simple question on this Friday morning . . . Does your non-profit agency pass “The Marshmallow Test”?

Confused? Let me give you a few examples to get you started:

  • If your organization doesn’t invest in and value professional development (e.g. very little training, no professional development plans embedded in performance management plans, few promotion opportunities, etc), then how does that impact your employees’ behavior in the workplace? Do they still strive for improvement or do they settle into the status quo?
  • If your organization doesn’t measure the impact of its programming, then how does that impact donor behavior? Does it influence how your fundraising professionals do their jobs?
  • If your organization doesn’t value the importance of planning and fails to involve board volunteers in strategic planning, then will that have a “disengaging” effect on board members? Does it impact what they’re willing to do on behalf of your mission?

Yes, today was intentionally a short post because John’s Marshmallow Test post really said it all, and I wanted to provoke you to think about your specific non-profit agency rather than share a fun non-profit story from my past.

So, have you given this question any thought? Does your agency pass the test? On what level were you considering this question (e.g. operations, human resources, resource development, etc)? Is your organizational structure designed to engage employees, volunteers and donors and result in them having some impulse control?

Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your answer. If you still don’t have an answer, please weigh-in on any thoughts this might have spurred. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


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