Wednesday, April 17, 2013

BIG’s Blog: To Accomplish the Mission

An old protestant pastor relates the story of his wife never feeling like she could wear a new dress because the expectation of a pastor’s wife was that they lived simply and hand-to-mouth. Where did that perception come from?

The expectation for people who work in nonprofit charitable organizations is that they are paid below market wages because a charitable organization can’t be funding the staff’s lifestyle. And, oh, they are expected to wear many hats because, after all ….
After all… what??
Where did this thinking come from?
If I walk into Best Buy to shop for a big screen TV or a computer, do I sneer at the store manager or the geek on the floor because I think their price is too high and I don’t want to subsidize their lifestyle? No, if they want more than I think it is worth, I don’t buy from them.
If I support a charitable institution and their outcomes don’t match my expectation, do I say they are paying their staff too much? My main concern is that they are actually accomplishing the goal for which my money is given. I really do want to see that they are accomplishing the mission. That pretty much sums up the philanthropic attitude of the Boomer generation.
I’m a Baby Boomer. Do you think attitudes of Boomers differ from their parents and grandparents? Judging from the way racial attitudes – as one prominent example - have changed over the last 30 years as the Boomers have aged, I would say, “Yes.”
So then do you think – maybe – attitudes about philanthropy might have changed as well? Do you think that shift has been along generational lines? Answer… yes.
Is that a bad thing?
I think not, and here is why. It allows a fresh start. We can throw out some really stupid and ignorant attitudes about how a person must dress or what they get paid merely on their choice of occupation in the charitable world. Or, in the case of the pastor’s wife, merely being married to someone in the charitable world. Really stupid!
What matters are outcomes.
When you build processes – for example fundraising – around erroneous and stupid  expectations and perceptions from generations past, it skews the whole of the organization and reinforces mediocrity of outcomes in fundraising… but also in mission. This is really stupid.
If you are talking to Boomers, explain the mission and the value of the work, then ask for their support. Then, if you are transparent and accountable AND you are producing good outcomes… Boomer money keeps flowing.
Does your charitable organization do this? If so, then by now the preponderance of your supporters are Boomers… right?
They’re not?
My friend Michael Wick says, “It is time to move from wearing hats to hiring heads.” He gets it… but he also gets the generational change and its implications and expectations on charitable organizations.
Seriously, is your organization still operating with perceptions and expectations that were built for my parents or grandparents? Do they harken back to “White Only” drinking fountains?
You may be repulsed by that … as well you should be … but that only proves you are aligned with the Baby Boomer mindset. It also means you are probably a Boomer yourself and you understand what I am saying. But if that’s the case… where are your Boomer supporters? Boomers today are 25% of the U.S. population, or about 80 million out of 300 million. This year Boomers are age 49 to 67. By now, they should be the majority of your donor file.
So if your donor file isn’t majority Baby Boomers… something is definitely wrong. And if you don’t realign your organization, including your Development organization to connect with Boomers, you won’t be accomplishing the mission for long.
Join us.
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