Wednesday, April 4, 2012

BIG’s Blog: It’s Not a Black Swan

The coming tsunami of destruction that is headed for the fundraising industry will not be a “black swan.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book, The Black Swan, explains the metaphor of the black swan as an event that is a surprise to the observer and has a major impact. He uses the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, and the September 11th attacks as examples.

Taleb’s point is that black swan events or inventions that seemingly come out of nowhere and catch us all by surprise are always rationalized in hindsight.

“I didn’t see it coming,” will be the first response by nonprofit fundraising leadership followed by, “but I should have seen it coming.”

Either way, anyone who lives in fundraising today – especially those organizations with large direct mail fundraising programs – cannot say, “I didn’t see it coming.” This is not going to be a black swan event in which we are all surprised.

Those of us over the age of 50 know that “today” the world moves much faster than when we began our careers. And it doesn’t just feel that way; it really is moving faster. And unfortunately this means that fundamental change comes at us much faster as well.  

I wish it were not so, but it is.

But there are small, medium-size, and large fundraising organizations who are already transforming the way they engage donors and potential donors. Their outlook on the future is upbeat and positive and they have no worry about the effects of the tsunami of change that is hitting the fundraising industry. They have been successful in the past and expect to be successful in the future. They know they have a strategy that will carry their organizations’ fundraising for the next twenty years.

I know because I work with them.

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