If You Don’t Have Passion – Get Ready to Die

You come to work lifeless.  Every employee  around you has that look in their eyes – a glaze that signals boredom, purposelessness, fatalism.

“What am I doing here?” you ask.  Good question.  What are you doing?   If you are a leader or manager in your organization and you see this zombie-like state amongst your colleagues, there is great cause for concern.  Something needs to be done.

Display of passion, energy and emotion is often frowned upon.  That’s interesting to me.  I am always intrigued by people (mostly men) who proudly (and defensively) announce that “they are in control of their emotions” or say “I never cry or express emotion”.  Hmmm.  Is that a strength or a weakness?  I think the latter.

But that lack of passion in an organization, in a major gift program, in life, is deadly.  And if you are in that kind of situation, run for the door.  Seriously.

Key Signs That Your Organization Lacks Passion

  1. The leader is really not excited about what the organization does. In fact, not many employees are either.  They are there more for the money than the cause.
  2. There is no clear mission or purpose.
  3. No one cares or talks about the person who ultimately benefits from what the organization does.  Instead they talk about themselves.
  4. Managers and leaders are more focused on process than they are about doing good.
  5. There is no overarching vision for the organization.
  6. There is a noticeable absence of flexibility and ambiguity.  Everything is in a nice little box and very predictable.  Out of the box thinking is discouraged.
  7. There is a lack of culture and personality, and fun is not promoted.
  8. There is a lot of turf protection and lack of cooperation.

Goodness, when I read this list I start to feel down.  What a restrictive air-sucking environment!  I can hardly breathe.  But let’s not stay there.  What can be done?  Here are some ideas:

10 Steps To Getting Passion Back Into Your Organization

  1. Take steps to fall back in love with the persons (or cause) helped by your organization.  Who are they?  What is their journey?  What do they care about?  How can you help more? Here is how you can get the people in your organization to get the focus off of themselves and back on the people you are organized to serve:
  • Once a week e-mail a story to the entire staff that shares a dilemma faced a person your organization serves.  This will most likely be a story that does not yet have resolution.  The purpose of this exercise is to keep employees focused on why your organization exists.
  • Once a week share a story of a person who has been helped by your organization, but this time, a success story.  This will cement in their minds that what you are doing is really working.
  • Once a month have an employee, in your company meeting, talk about the vision and mission of your organization and what it practically means to him or her.  This reminds employees that what they are doing is important.
  • Do everything possible to have the persons helped by your organization made present, whether featured prominently in the hallways (pictures of them),  in conversations (ask, “what does this have to do with the persons we are helping?”) or in the minds of your employees.  Remember, it is about them – your entire exercise is about them.  Nothing else matters very much.

2. Take steps to fall back in love with donors.  They are the true stakeholders in your organization.  It isn’t the board.  It isn’t the president.  It isn’t even you.  It is the donor who really owns the charity.  Why not start behaving that way.  Remind yourself and everyone else that after the person (cause) who is being helped by your charity, the next person who matters is the donor.  Here are some things you can do:

  • Regularly, like once a week, read donor letters to employees or pass along excerpts by email.  Especially focus on donor letters that express gratitude for being able to serve.
  • Have a donor come in and speak to employees in an organizational  meeting or department meeting.  Ask him why he is involved and why he stays involved.
  • Encourage employees to call or visit with donors to talk about their motivations for being involved.

3.  Celebrate out of the box thinking.  Encourage employees to think out of the box – to come up with solutions to problems or opportunities that are unconventional.  Organize brainstorming meetings that focus on problems or opportunities and allow employees to present solutions.  Sometimes it is best to eliminate authority figures from these meetings.  That will allow the free flow of thoughts and processes which gives birth to good ideas.

4.  Have fun.  Everyone knows what this means and what it looks like.  In the company I owned, it was practical jokes, randomly played.  It was strange sounds on the intercom.  It was games and competitions.  It was going out to eat together or just sitting around talking.  You can see fun when you see laughter and the celebration of work.

5. Publish your vision and mission.  Do employees actually know what your vision and mission are?  If not, it’s either because you don’t have them or you haven’t published them.  Get them out there.  Talk about them.  Explain how you came up with them.  Remember, THIS is why you are together.

6.  Create and publish your list of values.  Include fun and a focus on the people/causes and donors served.  You do have a set of values that you run the organization by.  If it is not written down, then it is informal.   Come up with a list and publish it.  Talk about it.  Ask employees to hold you and others accountable to live by it.

7.  Bring a person who is served by your organization into your environment.  There is nothing like looking into the eyes of one of the people who has been helped by your organization.  Bring them in, if possible, to sit right down in the middle of the sacred halls.  Have them  interrupt the process of running the organization.  Place them in a location (meeting) where everyone needs to focus back on the real thing that is going on here.  Talk to them about their journey.  How was it before your organization helped them? How is it now?  How do they feel?  Get in touch with all of these. Don’t be afraid of them.  Embrace them.

8.  Keep talking – always – about people served and donors.  I’ve mentioned it several times, but it is worth mentioning again. Remember, everything you do is about the people you serve and the donors.  It is important to keep that focus.

9.  Get away from your desk and regularly talk to others about how excited you are about the people/causes you serve and your donors.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the work and be stuck to your desk all day or in meetings.  Plan to be absent from your desk.  Put it on your calendar.  Get out of your office and be with people – for no reason but just to talk.  Spread around the joy you feel.  Talk about why you are here.  Share a story of how a person your organization helped really touched you. Talk about a donor and how encouraged you are about their help.  Get away from your office and desk.

10. Get emotional about things.  This isn’t just about plans, charts, grids, logic and the mind.  It is about people.  Allow your heart to be broken by the tragedies of life.  Celebrate the victories.  Get excited. Jump up and down.  Be human.  When your employees sense that you do have real blood running through those veins, that you can cry and laugh, that you are real – you will be on your way to getting passion back into the workplace.

These are just some of the ideas I have on getting passion back into your life and the workplace.  The fact is that real people (real women AND men) have and express passion.  Without it, you will live an empty depressing life and your organization is on a path toward extinction.

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!
This entry was posted in Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Mission, Non-Profits and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to If You Don’t Have Passion – Get Ready to Die

  1. Jeff & Rich-

    Thank you so much for the last few posts. It’s been as if you’re inside my brain! Today’s post was particularly relevant and offered great ideas for me to take back to my team.

  2. Richard Perry says:

    Thanks, Tina – good to hear we’re helping!

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