It’s an amazing thing to watch so-called professionals who have “been in the business for years,” taking a stance that they have nothing to learn.
We run across them from time to time.
And they’re in all types of organizations, large and small.
The interesting thing is that every one of these folks can say they have nothing to learn – that they know it all – until they’re presented with the facts.
Here are some examples:
- The CEO who said that all he wanted from his MGOs was new money, – i.e. increased donations from current donors or new donors. He wasn’t interested in current donor value retention. When we tried to share our knowledge and experience on this topic, he put his hand up and said: “Look, I know all of that and I do not agree. New money is what’s important.” Then we showed him that his current major donors had given $5 million less over the last two years. He said: “There’s got to be something wrong with that analysis.” Arrogance.
- The prospect researcher from a major national organization who didn’t want to be bothered with the fact that only one in three donors who meet a major gift metric will actually want to relate and was very impatient with the qualification process we recommend because “all the great donors I’ve surfaced are just going to waste.” Then we pointed out that in every caseload this good person had helped “build,” two-thirds (sometimes more) of the donors were not responding. Arrogance.
- The finance director who had been in non-profit work for “years” and wasn’t supportive of helping MGOs and program staff create donor offers. “Look, these MGOs know what to present. I’ve been in a number of organizations over the years and we’ve been successful without them.” Not really, when you look at the history of those organizations. Arrogance.
- The leader of a national organization whose business model is failing – really failing. And who thinks that the solution to the problem has nothing to do with donors but systems and strategy. When we point out that a non-profit is, essentially about the donor and the cause, this person gets very impatient and doesn’t want to hear about it. Our analysis continues to point out to this leader that the revenue continues to drop. But it doesn’t seem to matter. Arrogance.
I could go on with hundreds of these stories. Hundreds. But you get the point. Jeff and I just wag our heads in disbelief when we hear them.
And the sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Since early in my career I’ve had an operating philosophy based on the ancient proverb: there is wisdom in counsel. A mentor of mine, in the early 80’s told me: “Richard, look for wisdom everywhere and from everyone. If you do, you will find it.” And it’s been true. Someone knows the way. The way that you need to know about.
In fact, Jeff and I, and our other partner feel so strongly about this point that it’s a key hiring and employment criteria for us. We want people on the team who seek counsel and take advice.
Why is all of this important for you as a MGO? If you are not the kind of person who takes advice…
- You won’t listen well to your donor. And that will be a problem.
- You won’t learn the unexpected things that will help you be a better MGO and a better employee.
- You won’t be all you can be as a human being.
There are always nuggets of truth lying around in strange places. Try your best to look for them and embrace them, no matter where you find them. (Tweet it!)
Best quote ever “There is wisdom in counsel.” This statement is so important and has led to much of our non-profit’s success. Thank you Richard!
Wonderful reminder, Richard. If we ever stop listening to our donors, we should just get out of the MG business.