Several years ago I was blissfully sailing through my first job in nonprofit development after leaving the cushy offices of a private family foundation.
It was ideal in that I had autonomy as long as I got results…and I GOT RESULTS!
In less than two short years I had increased foundation grant funding by more than 90%, developed a regular column in our weekly community newspaper, single-handedly learned Dreamweaver and gotten our website up and running, spearheaded the founding of a nonprofit roundtable with the local Chamber of Commerce, launched a local health initiative, held several successful community events, and established relationships with the Rotary and area businesses.
Even better? Our organization’s once disastrous membership campaign had grown by huge leaps and bounds.
All bases covered.
The icing on the cake was I loved my coworkers, I loved our volunteers and I loved my work. It was all perfect.
So, what happened? Why did I leave the ideal job?
For almost two years I had experienced virtual autonomy with an executive director who was thrilled to defer the fundraising aspect of the organization to someone who knew what they were doing. The board of directors asked questions and were thoughtful and attentive during meetings – but they didn’t interfere. What’s more they dutifully put in appearances at events and helped when asked.
And then it happened.
A new executive director arrived on the scene.
One who didn’t take kindly to the P.S.’s in my annual appeal letters or the handwritten notes scribbled into the margins. Someone who didn’t understand the concept of persuasive copy. One who insisted on eliminating contractions, along any type of writing that she termed “salesy.” A lady who was all in my face about the extra costs of segmenting and personalizing our mailings and wanted to know why one “dear friend” letter couldn’t suffice for all.
This despite the, frankly, awesome results.
I can handle constructive criticism. What I can’t handle is someone who was clueless telling me how to do my job.
Since I’d already picked up a few consulting clients, I packed my bags.
Unfortunately, this ED’s “thinking” is not unique. I have seen it in too many organizations entrenched in the old school, “monkey-see, monkey-do” that seems even more common in nonprofits. Monkey-see, monkey do is a way of maintaining status quo, blending with other organizations in the industry and not making any waves.
Think about it – why try something bold and different and risk ridicule? All you have to do is stay in line with what everybody else is doing and you’ll be safe.
What’s that you say? “What about results?”
Well, not everyone is driven by results (even though they may claim they are…actions speak louder than words!).
I can hear you now: “Not want results? But of course I want results!”
But do you really?
Or are you more concerned about the possibility of your organization’s image being “tarnished” by something a board member might consider undignified?
Are you more content to stay within the confines of what passes as nonprofit marketing for the masses? Are you content with “monkey-see, monkey-do?”