What the Wall Street Exec Said That Could Change The Non-Profit World

No doubt you have heard about the Op-Ed piece in the NY Times by the former executive of Goldman-Sachs, Greg Smith.

I was actually surprised at how many “talking heads” and bloggers condemned Greg for writing that piece.  Personally, I think it took courage to write it, knowing it could forever damage his career in the financial world.

However you feel about Greg Smith, there were some definite truths that you, working in the non-profit world can learn from his Op-Ed:

  1. Focusing on profit [the money] causes you to lose your way.
  2. Not focusing on clients [the donor] causes you to lose your way.
  3. Good companies [Non-Profit Organizations] can turn bad when they take their focus off their clients [donors] and their mission.

If you have been reading our blog for any length of time, you know that Richard and I have been hammering these points over and over.  Yeah, you’re probably sick of it, but the reason we talk about this so often is because it’s a HUGE problem in the non-profit world.

I mean, the only solace you can take from Mr. Smith’s Op-Ed piece is that it’s a huge problem EVERYWHERE!

And therein lies the opportunity.

Consumers have come to expect that institutions will provide bad service…government, for-profit, non-profit…you name it.  We’ve become so used to it that when we do get good customer service, we take notice.

This is where you can help your non-profit shine.  If you can remember that your mission is paramount, and your donors make that mission happen, you will be noticed…you will stand out.

Unfortunately, like Goldman-Sachs, many organizations have lost their way.

How do you know if your organization is “sick” and NOT donor-focused?

  1. No one in leadership is talking about the mission of the organization and getting exited about it.
  2. No one in the organization is talking about how a life was changed or how the planet was protected because you helped.
  3. No one is talking about a donor and what the donor’s vision is for changing the world.  Instead they are talking about what a huge gift that donor gave.
  4. Everyone is talking about how much the organization grew. Hardly anyone is talking about impact and what was accomplished.
  5. The majority of your day is stuck in your office with meetings.
  6. You’re having arguments with management about why you want to honor donors.
  7. Most of your communication with donors is about asking for money and not telling them how their gifts made a difference.
  8. There is not a culture of trying to build relationships with donors but rather one of just trying to get the gift.
  9. The conversations around the water cooler are not about donors or the work you do, but rather about the latest gossip or internal political maneuvering.
  10. You dread going into the office.
  11. At the end of the day, you’re drained and depressed.
  12. You’re not having fun.

You essentially have two choices if this is your organization.  One, you can champion change and help get your organization focused on your donors and mission, or two, you can leave that toxic environment and seek a place that gives you life.

Either way, you have to act.  Greg Smith did something.  He didn’t languish for another five years in a toxic environment and just put up with feeling miserable.

You have to be donor-centered.  There is no choice for you.  Really.  To choose to be sucked into anything else will only leave you depressed and your donors looking for another organization that will help them make a difference in the world.



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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One Response to What the Wall Street Exec Said That Could Change The Non-Profit World

  1. What you say is so true. I followed this story closely and had not applied it to our world as you so rightly do. Thank you for this reality check. As always, thank you for your astute observations and guidance.

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