Lately I’ve been with a number of people who are struggling with accountability in their life and work. Here are good people who say they want someone to hold them accountable to either their work or to an action they need to take to better themselves in some way… but then, when pressed to follow through, the help is rejected.

I know exactly how they feel. I don’t like to be held accountable either. I mean, how annoying is it to have someone ask you if you’ve done what you said you were going to do, right? Well, over the years I’ve learned to embrace accountability, because I know it helps me move forward and actually accomplish things.

Now, I’ll fully admit that it’s not easy to be held accountable. I usually fail when I’m afraid of something. “Will he get mad that I didn’t do what I said I was going to do?” “Will she think I’m a bad person because I did something other than what I promised?”

Then, I kind of go into hiding to avoid either a person or a situation. It’s not a good place. Have you been there? It really doesn’t feel good. But when I allow myself to uncover those fears, come into the light and allow someone to walk with me, I get things done and I do them with integrity.

In our major gift fundraising profession, you would think there is a lot of accountability. Surprisingly there is not. I mean, you have a goal. You have a plan. It should be easy for someone to manage all that, right?

But it’s NOT happening.

Richard and I believe that the primary reason that major gift programs fail is not because MGOs didn’t have the right strategy, but because they were not held accountable to stick with their plans.

Thousands of major gift programs are failing right now because no one is holding major gift officers or development directors accountable to their plans. This is sad, because there are so many truly great projects and programs run by wonderful non-profits that are not being funded.

And just as sad is the fact that there are thousands of donors who won’t have the joy of funding those projects and programs that can help change the world.

Why? Either we have a problem holding others accountable, or we don’t like to be held accountable. If this is you, you’ll appreciate these five reasons why accountability is essential:

  1. It keeps you focused on the right things. Having a manager or person hold you accountable to a goal forces you to focus on the strategy you have laid out. If you are being held accountable you will not allow yourself to veer off into a place that will not bear fruit.
  2. You will always move forward. If you have reasonable goals and a plan that inspires you, along with someone to ensure you are following that plan, you will always move forward. I’ve seen people who have a great plan and goals and they go nowhere, because they get lost without anyone to help them read the road map. This happens all the time.
  3. Accountability and focus actually allow you to be more creative. All good MGOs have structure built around them. Within that structure they can be wildly creative with their caseload. If there are no boundaries, an MGO is left to do anything that feels good, i.e., put on a special event, start chasing wealthy celebrities to support a cause, etc. That stuff gets you in trouble because it takes you away from your caseload. But if your structure and boundaries are centered on your caseload, it’s amazing how often you can meet your goals.
  4. You realize you don’t have to do it on your own. I’ve come to know many MGOs who essentially have been left on their own. “Here, take this list of donors and bring in a ton of money,” their boss says. If someone is there to help you focus your time and hold you accountable, that person is saying to you, “Hey, I’m here to work with you and help you succeed. You are not in this alone.” All of us need that.
  5. You will be successful. Hear me on this. Richard and I, along with all of the associates we’ve worked with, have always seen MGOs succeed when they had a solid plan, measurable goals and the ability to be held accountable on an ongoing basis. Everyone.

IF you will allow someone (who knows how to manage) to keep you accountable and focused on your plan and goals, you simply cannot fail. Will it be easy? No. Will you have to let go of your own ego? Yes. But I guarantee you, if you can let go, you will feel free, and you will succeed.

Jeff

A version of this post was originally published in August 2012.

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