Reasons Non-Profits Fail: Reason #3-Getting Things Done Is Better Than Doing The Right Things

“Here comes the boss!  Look busy!”  Have you ever had that experience? I have.  I distinctly remember being in a boring job and, lacking the motivation to do much of anything, I simply let the hours pass by, keeping busy, but not getting much done.  This particular behavior was mostly about lacking motivation.

And lack of motivation is a core reason why many people stray from doing the right things.

But another reason we don’t do the right things is that we don’t regularly pause to assess what we are currently doing and ask ourselves if it is right.

One of the things I do to counter this behavior in my life is to, once a month, (yes, that frequently) look back on all the things I’ve done in the previous 30 days and ask myself,  “Is this what you want to be doing with your time, Richard?  Is this emphasis getting to your objectives?”

These questions presume I have written some objectives, which I have.  And I regularly review them against how I use my time to achieve them.

What I find, every single time I review this – every time – is that I am always off track.  I am very, very busy doing things – but I am off point in doing the RIGHT things.

Why does this happen?  In my opinion, it’s because we, as humans, if left to our own desires and needs, have a strong tendency to do what WE want vs. what needs to be done (the right things).  And, over time, we will migrate away from what we are supposed to do, to a different place.

Proof of this in the workplace is in comparing a person’s job description when she was hired to what she is doing today.  Most often there will be a gap between what she signed on for, and the categories of work she is performing today.  Granted, the reason may be that her boss asked her to do this other stuff, but often it is also that she just migrated by herself to include other activities.

In fact, take a moment right now and pull out your job description.  Compare it to what you are doing today.  Is it the same?  If different, how much of what you are doing today is because your manager added the responsibility?  How much is because you added things?  It’s an interesting exercise.

Do this personally as well.  How much of where you are in life today, in terms of reaching your personal objectives, is on point?  Or are you off track?  Why?

I have rarely seen a situation where this dynamic is not present in the workplace. Why?  Because it takes a lot of discipline and time on the part of all of us (leaders, managers and employees) to stay on track and do the right things.

And, here’s the big point.  If you take this kind of behavior in the aggregate – i.e., all the employees in the non-profit – and you combine it with a leader or manager who is not managing this trend, then the organization will, over time,  move from a place of being effective, to simply being busy.  And just being busy is the first sign that the organization is on a track toward failure and ineffectiveness.

 

You would think the annual planning exercise, if you have one, would take care of this.  But it doesn’t because leaders and managers very rarely stop to ask, “Are we doing the right things?”  Instead, they are obsessed with getting the plan and budget accomplished.

So, what does this have to do with you in the major gift field?  Two things:

  1. Are you doing the right things in your job?  Stop and take an inventory right now.  Remember that your job is to manage a qualified list of donors.  Are you spending most of your time doing that – at least 80% of your time?  Or, are you doing admin work or other work that is taking you off this point?  If so, examine why and get back on track.
  2. Are you doing the right things with your donors?  This is critical.  It is so easy to fall into managing a donor or group of donors in a mindless way, i.e. sending them the newsletter, doing an email, calling them up, visiting them, sending them a project report.  In other words, doing things, but not really engaging your mind to ask, “Am I doing the right thing with this donor?  Or am I just doing a major gift formula and being busy?”  Some of the most effective MGO’s are those who are constantly asking this question.  They regularly go back to the baseline, look the donor in the eye (figuratively) and ask,  “What can I do for you?  What can I do to fulfill your desires and wants in this great cause we are involved in?”  And then, they set about doing it.  The result is that they are way more effective than the folks who are not taking this inventory.

If I were you, I would be asking myself these two questions every month.  It will help you stay on point in your job and with your good donors.

And, what about the question of an organization that is off point?  What can you, as a MGO, do about that?  Well, don’t do what I have observed one MGO doing….and that is making a complete nuisance of himself with the leaders and managers in his workplace.  It is an amazing thing to watch.  I have no doubt that this good person is sincerely wanting to know what the right things are. (OK, some of it is personal ambition and positioning.)  But the execution of his quest is irritating and off-putting to management.  He is constantly speaking up in MGO meetings and other group settings forcing himself into conversations and topics and, essentially, causing everyone present to wonder when he is going to just shut up.

So, don’t do that.  Instead, talk to your manager about this in private.  Ask if he or she thinks you all are doing the right things.  Tell him about what you are doing to stay on point with your caseload and in your job.  And, show, by example, how you are doing the right things vs. just getting things done.  A good manager will pick up the message you are sending and it will find its way up-line.

It’s difficult to stay on point when there are so many distractions.  But, it is also satisfying to reach a destination.  And, when it comes to the good donors you are relating to, there is nothing better than to have helped each one of them find their way in your organization.  Nothing.

Richard

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About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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