Getting things done at a charity

Charities want to change the world, right? They do, but they want to do it carefully!

There are good reasons for this, of course, as anyone, who has winced as poorly thought-through legislation is whizzed through parliament, knows. There are always unintended consequences, even of well-thought through laws and changes. When you don't stop to think, perhaps more of these unintended consequences occur. But anyone who has sat through a seemingly never-ending internal meeting, as staff debate the possible content for another proposed meeting, whose date and venue are not even confirmed yet, it is possible to take this caution too far.

When I first entered the charity sector 15 years ago, I was astonished at how slow it was to get anything done. If someone had a great idea, it had to be sent up the chain to the powers that be. And of course you never got to see if the idea was ever actually discussed at senior level. And eventually down would come the message via the same channels that it was best to think these things through a bit more and that perhaps we were being a bit hasty.

Phrases like "let's not be hasty" or "Let's think this through more thoroughly" always remind me of the set phrases that Sir Humphrey Appleby in "Yes, Minister" used to convey his disapproval of ministerial ideas: "A splendid, novel, romantic, well-meaning, imaginative, do-gooding notion." meaning "I am going to use everything in my power to bury it!". There may be an innate human tendency to prefer the established method. I have seen it in the corporate world as well. How any times have you heard someone say something along the lines of: "This doesn't look like last year's template. Why haven't you used last year's?". If last year's template were perfect, then this would be a fantastic way to proceed, but it rarely is.

Is a new way of doing things really so frightening, or could this say something about the type of person who ends up working in a senior capacity at a charity? It can certainly seem that way as the internal "voice of the donor". As a fundraiser, you know that people give because they are desperate to see change. Now, obviously decisions need to be weighed and carefully thought through, but is it occasionally at the cost of getting things done?

Too often it seems to me, we chew on things for so long that the external environment has changed again since the question was first framed. Sometimes any decision would seem preferable to the delay which can be caused by overthinking things.

And if you are in that situation, itching to get things done, but coming up against those gently dismissive phrases, or feedback like "Why don't you go and write a paper about it for the next management meeting?" what can you actually do?

You have options:

You watch and wait as the skipping rope loops and slowly match your rhythm to the pace of the rope. That way you can time your jump to elegantly coincide with the rope swinging to its nadir and join in the slow looping manoeuvre.

Or you can leave the rope spinning and try your luck elsewhere.

Or you can try to push for what you know is needed internally. Kindly, firmly, insistently. Other staff will find you irritating sometimes. They will sigh at the hoops you are trying to make them jump through, the impact you are asking them to demonstrate. But in the long term they will thank you, as the money keeps flowing and their beloved projects can help more beneficiaries.

#charity #slowmoving #committee


Fundraising Tips


Ask why they would like to get involved



Thank them profusely and mean it.



Explain what their money is going to achieve.

© 2016 by Rachel Groves

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